Millions in Texas remain without power as a massive winter storm drops temperatures, power grids fail and snow blankets the region, leaving residents struggling to stay warm and more bad weather expected in the coming days. Currently, at least 21 people have died.
Though there are a lot of unknowns about when the situation will be resolved, the blame game has already begun.
At time of publication, approximately 2.7 million Texas residents remain without power. It’s an improvement over the 3.7 million reported the day before.
“We know millions of people are suffering,” ERCOT (Electrical Reliability Council of Texas) President and CEO Bill Magness said. “We have no other priority than getting them back electricity. No other priority.”
ERCOT has been blamed for much of the situation, with The Washington Post claiming that power plant operators had failed to make any plans for the extremely cold temperatures that the state doesn’t normally experience.
“What has sent Texas reeling is not an engineering problem, nor is it the frozen wind turbines blamed by prominent Republicans. It is a financial structure for power generation that offers no incentives to power plant operators to prepare for winter. In the name of deregulation and free markets, critics say, Texas has created an electric grid that puts an emphasis on cheap prices over reliable service,” The Post argues.
An energy fellow at the University of Houston has stated his opinion that the electrical system of Texas is reminiscent of something out of Venezuela or the former Soviet Union.
Others, including Governor Greg Abbott, are blaming the state’s frozen wind turbines and the reliance on renewable energy sources.
“This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” Abbot said. “Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10% of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is the creator of the Green New Deal, responded via Twitter, “I go offline a few days and return to a GOP Gov blaming policies he hasn’t even implemented for his own failures. Gov. Abbott doesn’t seem to have a grasp on his state, so here’s a reminder: Texas runs 80-90% on fossil fuels. The real ‘deadly deal’ is his failed leadership.”
But while all of this arguing is going on, the people of Texas are suffering and it is unknown when power will be restored to all residents.
“In 48 hours, we had eight hours of electricity,” Elva Perez, who lives in an apartment complex home to many immigrants, said. “It was unimaginably physically difficult to take. It is such a critical situation for the vulnerable, the children, the babies and the old people. The system just isn’t equipped for this.”
There are also reports that hospitalizations are increasing due to hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning, which is the likely result of residents looking for innovative, though sometimes dangerous, ways to stay warm.
Overall, there have been approximately 300 suspected cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, and some remain without water or being advised to boil their water.
“We respond to about 13 or 14 calls per hour,” Matt Zavadsky with MedStar, an ambulance service, said. “The last two days, we’re averaging 24 to 25 calls per hour.”
Zavadsky also advised residents to leave their homes and heated location if the temperature feels like 50 degrees or cooler.
“It’s turning into a mini mass casualty event,” a Harris county doctor told The Houston Chronicle.
In addition to the numerous large-scale car accidents involving over 100 vehicles, four people died in a house fire. The suspected cause was burning candles. Two men were also found dead along the highway, with extreme cold as the likely cause of death.
It’s unknown when the power will be restored. In a recent press conference, Gov. Abbot said, “Every source of power the state of Texas has access to has been compromised because of the ultra-cold temperature or because of equipment failures.”
FEMA is currently on the ground in Texas offering generators, blankets and other emergency supplies.
Pray for the people of Texas.
Photo from Bronte Wittpenn/Austin American/REUTERS