Sixth-grader Cristian Pavon Pineda had a blast seeing snow for the first time on Sunday at his home in Conroe, Texas. But that joy took a tragic turn Monday afternoon, when the 11-year-old died in his family’s mobile home after the power went out overnight amid a once-in-a-generation storm and dangerously low temperatures.
Pineda is among the more than 30 people who have died in Texas this week in connection with the extreme weather crisis that’s wreaked havoc across the Lone Star state, The Washington Post reports. In Abilene, an 86-year-old woman was found dead in her backyard Friday amid the brutal deep freeze, authorities said, while three others died earlier this week. In San Antonio, a 78-year-old man left home for a doctor’s appointment only to be found unresponsive outside his home nearly two hours later. Authorities suspect the cold may have contributed to his death.
With millions of Texas residents still without access to clean drinking water and around 165,000 households without power, the full toll of this week’s disaster is yet to become fully clear.
“There’s definitely that possibility that over the next week or two we could find some more that we don’t know about right now,” Taylor County Sheriff Ricky Bishop was quoted telling The Washington Post.
A spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services echoed that grim prognosis in comments to The Texas Tribune.
“It’s a slow process. We may have preliminary information in weeks, not days,” Chris Van Deusen said, adding that authorities were still in the process of trying to pinpoint the number of deaths across the state.
Harris County, home to Houston, reported 10 deaths from hypothermia and more than 600 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning as of Friday. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo shared the update on Twitter, writing, “This was a man-made disaster that has cut lives short. When the dust settles, people deserve answers and accountability.”
The deaths were brought on by extreme weather conditions and subsequent power outages that affected millions. By some estimates there have been as many as 58 deaths in the U.S. due to extreme weather just this week.
Pineda’s mom, Maria Elisa Pineda, said her son played outside on Sunday afternoon, as she snapped photos of him enjoying the snow.
“It was his first time [seeing snow]. That’s why he was excited outside,” she told The Houston Chronicle on Thursday. She and her son came to the U.S. from Honduras two years ago. “Everything was well. He was happy that day. He was not at all sick.”
But that night, the family lost power in their mobile home as the temperature dipped to 12 degrees. Cristian was sharing a bed with his step-brother, who is 3. But the next day, the 3-year-old woke up and his older brother didn’t, The Chronicle reported. An autopsy has yet to determine the official cause of death for the boy.
Maria Pineda said her son wanted to be a pilot when he grew up and loved living in the Houston area. A GoFundMe page made by Pineda’s sister-in-law has raised over $35,000 for the family in the day since it was set up.
“We are trying to raise funds to be able to transfer the body to Honduras,” the GoFundMe says. “His wish was to see his grandparents again and that is what the mother wants to fulfill.”
The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences reported seven deaths due to hypothermia on Friday after disclosing three on Thursday, The Houston Chronicle reported.
Of those who died, four were in apartments in Houston at the time, one was at an area hospital in the ER, and one was in a shed. The other two were indoors but it wasn’t clear exactly where.
President Joe Biden said he will make a major disaster declaration and is planning a visit to the state in the coming days. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said during a press conference Friday that the state had submitted a request for a major disaster declaration on Thursday evening.
The designation would allow Texans to apply directly to FEMA for assistance to repair damage from the storm.
“They’re working like the devil to take care of their folks,” Biden said Friday, according to The New York Times.
“If in fact it’s concluded that I can do it without creating a burden for the folks on the ground while they’re dealing with this crisis, I plan on going.”
Abbott insisted Friday afternoon that state and local officials were working “non-stop” to try to get resources to Texans. Three-hundred-and-sixty-nine warming centers are open in the state, and officials during the press conference promised to continue efforts to deliver water bottles to residents for as long as is necessary.
“Texans have faced enormous challenges and have always overcome challenges in the past and we will do so again this time,” Abbott said.