Students face financial fallouts after winter storm

Fiza Kuzhiyil

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in The Daily Texan’s March 5 print edition.


A pipe burst, and water soaked into the hardwood floor. The power went out, and food began to rot in the fridge. This was the reality for Maria Henriquez and her Riverside apartment on Feb. 17.


Two weeks later, she sat on her friend’s bedroom floor attending Zoom classes, unable to focus on anything but the state of her apartment, which was under repair.


“I think it’s the most traumatic thing I’ve ever experienced in my life,” said Henriquez, a chemistry and mathematics junior.


Weeks after Winter Storm Uri hit Texas from Feb. 13-17, some students still face the financial fallouts of damaged apartments, spoiled groceries and lost work hours.


Without renters insurance, Henriquez said she can’t get money back for any of her lost items such as the $240 worth of food in her fridge and her roommate’s printer, which was damaged by water from the burst pipe. She estimated a total of $500 of her own money was lost due to the storm.


After moving from West Campus to Riverside in hopes of saving money on rent and having more funds for necessities, Henriquez struggled with the lack of campus aid during the storm. She said she’s moving back to West Campus where she can more easily access emergency campus resources.


“When I live in Riverside, I have disposable income,” Henriquez said. “If there was an emergency, I could buy something. Whereas (in) West Campus, one thing could break me.”


Architectural engineering sophomore Mariana Mercado said when four friends lost power and water, she invited them to stay at her apartment. She said she only stocked enough food and water for her and her roommate, and she had to ration food to feed four additional people.


“Cooking became very stressful as I tried to ration supplies while still being able to make meals that wouldn’t require digging into our limited water reserves,” Mercado said. “Making do without water was surprisingly arduous.”


Mercado said another financial burden was being out of a job. She said she works on campus and was without pay for a week and a half when the University closed.


Maryan Ali Naseer, an international relations and global studies freshman, said she estimates she lost $600 through the loss of work hours during the storm.


“I still have to pay rent,” Ali Naseer said. “I still have to pay those bills. I still have to pay for groceries … but I lost the hours that I was supposed to work and therefore, (and) I lost potential money I could have been making.”


Ali Naseer said replacing spoiled food in her refrigerator was also financially difficult. She said when she went to the grocery store on Feb. 22, the shelves were empty except the most expensive products. She said a gallon of milk cost her $6.


“I had to buy the more expensive items because all the cheap ones were gone,” Ali Naseer said. “Everybody was panic buying, so (I spent) around $100.”


Ali Naseer said she went to stay with her mom in Dallas the week after the storm to recover from the stress of worrying about food, water and shelter.


“It was an entire week’s worth of recovering from all of that stress,” Ali Nasser said. “It’s been tough, but it’s OK. We’re getting through it.”