TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures hit East Texas and the entire state in a way nobody imagined.

It was a time when families huddled for warmth as tens of thousands in our area were left without power.

Tyler mom of three, Jamie Mims, recalls the frigid 69 hours that her family spent without power.

“When it got to be about like 40 degrees in the house, even with the fireplace going 24 hours a day, it was just impossible to keep warm,” said Mims.

The February freeze shut down much of the Texas power grid, leaving millions freezing in the dark. Mims said in order to stay warm, her family had to get creative.

 “We used about 40 blankets that we spread throughout on the bed and we did the furniture in a way to where we weren’t gonna get a draft,” added Mims.

The intense cold caused damage to buildings that took crews months to rebuild.

Non-profits like the East Texas Crisis Center couldn’t house any families for four months after the storm.

“So many pipes had burst in the attic, that they had I mean burst with big holes in some of the pipes that it just caused the whole ceiling to cave in. Whatever area that happened, it just damaged everything in that given room,” said executive director of the East Texas Crisis Center, Lana Peacock. “And in one of our buildings we had the water was four to five inches deep. When we first opened the doors to the building, water was just pouring out.”

The center lost power and their generator failed, forcing them to shut down. The only way staff could see what was happening at the building was through their newly set-up security cameras they monitored from home.

East Texas Crisis Center staff said luckily there was a battery backup for the building’s alarm, phone and internet the cameras were connected to.

“Water started coming down through the ceiling,” said the center’s special event coordinator, Jeremy Flowers.

“One called the other one and she said you need to look, you need to look at this certain room and tell me what you hear, and she said, ‘I hear running water’ and that’s when we first knew that we had a real problem,” added Peacock.

Most of the damage was in the attic where plumbers discovered more than 100 busted pipes.

“In a couple hours they’d be coming back down and he would just say, it’s just catastrophic,” remembered Peacock.

Frozen and busted pipes were a problem East Texas families knew too well that week, when the demand for plumbers skyrocketed.

“It’s been quite busy and I’m sure every plumber right now is just going crazy as far as just fixing leaks,” said East Texas plumber Eric Adams in February 2021.

Businesses also took a hit during the storm when weather conditions forced employees to stay home.

“When we hit that week in February it was probably less than half of what we would normally do in a week,” said owner of Pet Supplies Plus on Old Jacksonville Highway, Charlie Right.

His store was one of the few open during the freeze.  

“When you’ve got pets and you’re running out of food, it doesn’t matter what the weather’s like, you know you need to be able to feed them and take care of them,” said Wright.

He said customers were surprised to see the business open, yet thankful it was.

“They said, ‘I’m so glad you’re here, we weren’t sure you were gonna be here.’ And I said, ‘look if you drive this far, we’re here for you, you come on in,’” added Wright.

Later in the week, his business lost power and the roads were becoming difficult to navigate. Wright said the first thing on his mind were the animals at the store. All he could do was hope the reptiles, fish, birds and small rodents would make it through the freeze.

“I told my wife I said Lynn, ‘This isn’t gonna work, we’re just gonna have to pray for our critters and just hope everything is alright,’” recalled Wright.

When they returned just one day later, all the animals survived except for the fish.

“Water was cold, it was not circulating, the oxygen levels had gone down, and of course it wasn’t cleaning the water because no electricity for 18 hours,” explained Wright.

It took the shop over a month to restock all their fish, but Wright said he is grateful that was the worst of their situation.

“It was great that we could be here despite of all that was going on,” added Wright with a smile.

The memories of that freezing week are forever ingrained in the minds of East Texans.