Texas is still facing electrical outages, food and water shortages and massive damage to infrastructure two weeks after winter storms hit the southern state.
Residents found themselves vastly underprepared and under-supported for the sheer impact of snow and ice that covered Texas nearly statewide for the first time in recent history. The coverage of the storm impacted cities that haven’t seen snow for decades.
Why Texas Wasn’t Ready
Texas Governor Greg Abbott told Texas residents to visit the state website or call 311 if they needed questions answered about how to deal with the storm. However, many Texans faced power outages and loss of Wi-Fi when they needed it most, to ask questions.
In various crises, a state is able to access the National Emergency Alert System that sends vital updates to anyone with a phone weather advisory warnings, boil water notices or updates on power outages. But according to residents, the Texas Division of Emergency Management failed to update residents on several occasions.
The state’s power grid, operated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), also continued to operate with raised prices to nearly 10 times the normal rate. The ERCOT provides power to nearly 26 million customers or about 90% of the state’s electric distribution. The storm took out nearly half of Texas’ power plants that provided heat, electricity and water.
Following the aftermath of the storm, many ERCOT Directors resigned.
Although the Texas Department of Emergency Management was not prepared to issue warnings, the temperatures should have been enough to kickstart a major effort said Dr. Irwin Redlener, a senior research scholar for Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness.
Telling people to Google it is not OK. It’s the result of non-imaginative or non-planning in general, and it’s very, very unfortunate,Dr. Irwin Redlener
Although Gov. Gregg Abbott expressed his support for fossil fuel and talked about the shortcomings of renewable energy on Fox News, records show that wind power was not what failed Texas. In fact, freezing temperatures stalled natural gas production.
How it Hurt
Along with damage to homes and businesses, the storm killed at least 31 people and halted vaccine distribution.
Millions of Texans were put under boil water advisory for over a week after the storm hit. Busted pipes also plagued thousands of homes that were not equipped for the sudden drops in temperature.
Reports by CNN stated more than 3,000 vehicles containing about 10,000 people showed up to a distribution event with pre-packaged water, meal kits lasting up to four days and other relief items.
Texas farmers and ranchers have lost an estimated $600 million to the storm. Crops like sweet onions, leafy greens, swiss chard and 14 million gallons of milk were unsalvageable after power outages and ice.
Mask Mandate Lifted in Texas
Gov. Abbott has also made the controversial decision to open Texas up to 100% starting March 10. The mask mandate will also be lifted even against the advice of health and safety officials. People will not be penalized for not wearing masks. Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky of the CDC says that we will lose “the hard-earned ground we have gained” against COVID-19 if Texas begins to operate as planned.
Health officials are worried that new variants may arise and render the vaccines being administered useless, creating even more hospitalizations and deaths.
As of March 6, 29.77 million people have been fully vaccinated according to the CDC.