A scene capturing the lengths some people in Austin, Texas had to go to for food in early February 2023 drew attention outside the state.
The footage quickly spread around Twitter, provoking fresh criticism for right-wing Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and capitalism as a whole:
George Morales, constable for the fourth precinct in Travis County, unwittingly added to the furor surrounding the footage in a Facebook post:
We had over 250 people fighting in the dumpsters because someone posted “Free Food!”
The food is rotten and spoiled, and is unsafe to eat. Our [Precinct 4] deputies and APD responded to roads that were grid locked because of this false post. The area was cleared by our office. If you know someone that got food, let them know it is not safe.
He later walked that description back adding, “When I say fighting it was not physically assaulting each other, but trying to gain access, I should use better metaphors. Our intent was to make the area safe for residents and the employees. The gridlock was my most important reason to clear the area.”
The disarray was captured in the aftermath of a winter storm that affected parts of Texas and other states. The Texas Tribune reported that February 1 2023 — 24 hours prior to the scene at H-E-B — more than 400,000 homes and businesses lost power, some for several days on end.
The Texas-based store chain said in a statement:
Due to a sustained power outage, the store was unable to keep certain perishable foods at proper temperatures. To adhere to strict food quality and safety standards, we are required to dispose of certain perishable foods when they are not properly temperature controlled, which also prevents us from donating the items to food pantries and food banks. H-E-B is a large donor to Texas food banks and donates more than 34 million pounds of food each year to support Texans in need.
But as NPR reported, Abbott minimized the damage:
In parts of North and Central Texas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth area, a little over 100,000 customers are without power, according to Oncor, which services the area.
And while hundreds of thousands of Texans struggle without power, Gov. Greg Abbott is telling residents that there is enough power in the state.
“The Texas power grid has maintained ample supply throughout the winter weather this entire week,” he tweeted. “Any outages are due to local issues like fallen trees and downed power lines.”
According to the story, as of February 5 2023, electricity had been restored in around 95 percent of Austin — but many households might still have to wait another week before they have power again:
Getting the power back on has been hindered by the sheer number of incidents crews are trying to fix. Improper pruning and drought may have contributed to the massive amount of damage to Austin’s urban tree canopy, which prompted many of the power outages.
The storm hit the state just under two years after a previous freeze left millions of Texas residents without electricity and nearly collapsed the state power grid, while Sen. Ted Cruz (R), who had warned residents to stay home, was caught abandoning the state for a trip to Cancun. He later claimed he was “dropping off” his family there.