TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Power outages, frozen pipes and stranded cars: East Texans experienced it all one year ago when the winter storm hit our state.

“It test our equipment, vehicles, uniforms, it’s just not something you see on a day to day basis,” said Rusk police chief Jeremy Black.  

Many were experiencing weather like that for the first time.

“I literally got on google and was like how to get like snow off your windshield, like I didn’t know,” said Julia Duke, a former TJC student.

Once the snow started piling up, it became obvious this was severe winter weather.

“It started to dawn on us that we might be in for more than what we bargained for,” said dialysis nurse Stacy Ham.

Despite the warnings from meteorologists, many East Texans ignored the advice, leaving them unprepared to face one of the worst winter storms in Texas history. 

“Even though the weatherman was telling us what was coming, I mean how many people in Texas really believed that you know that it was gonna snow and then ice over,” said executive director of East Texas Crisis Center, Lana Peacock.

Even those who were prepared were left in the freezing dark when the Texas power grid collapsed.

“We had so many people in our neighborhood they literally didn’t eat for three or four days because they didn’t know how to even comprehend, I have no electricity, all I’ve got are canned goods, I don’t have any other way to be able to eat,” said East Texas mom of three, Jamie Mims.

We reached out to ERCOT for an interview.

They declined at this time but said ERCOT’s interim CEO, Brad Jones, expressed confidence in their preparedness for winter.

This is what Jones said in a previous sit-down after the freeze,

“I will not say there’s not a possibility that there are some outages and that we will manage those outages in a much better way than what we did this last time around. We’ll be able to keep customers from being off for more than an hour at a time for example,” said Jones.

This time around East Texans said they learned from last year’s experiences.

Mims said she now knows to have a plan when it comes to using the fireplace for cooking.

She said last year, she invested in a cast-iron skillet and recommends everyone do the same.

“After ‘snowmageddon’ I said I saw a lot of people investing in generators for their houses,” said Longview Police Department’s public information officer Brandon Thornton.

Ham, a nurse at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances, said her lesson was road-related when she realized her Nissan wouldn’t get her to work in the storm.

“I drove a Nissan Juke and it would not even clear the drifts because we accumulated that much snow,” recalls Ham.

She had to rely on others for a ride to the hospital.

She remembers walking through snow past her ankles.  

“Since then we’ve learned to modify our vehicles or to purchase new ones like I did,” added Ham.

Ham now owns a Jeep and said she feels safer knowing her new car can handle the ice and snow.

East Texas first responders also invested in all-wheel drive vehicles to make sure they can reach you in an emergency no matter the weather.

“When the snow happens we have all-wheel drive vehicles, we’ve invested in some extra snow chains in keeping those around just in case we have another bad snowstorm for our two wheel drive vehicles so we could still utilize our fleet,” added Thornton.

These new vehicles come after the freeze challenged our emergency workers in more ways than one.

“We were actually having to follow some of the ambulances with some of our four wheel drive vehicles because ambulances weren’t able to make it to the house to the call emergency,” said Longview Fire Marshall Kevin May.

Our East Texas Heroes offer this advice for storm preparation:

“Try to keep your gas tank on your vehicles full. That means don’t wait until it gets to a quarter tank. Fill it up when it gets to half a tank because if you get stranded on the interstate or anywhere and you run out of gas, you’re not going to be able to run your heater in your vehicle either,” said May.

“Have a plan and not only have a plan for yourself but have a plan for those loved ones and your neighbor who may need something and may need to reach out,” added Black.

Ready to face any future winter storms after learning valuable lessons from the last.