This past week has given new meaning to “Houston, we have a problem.”
The Frigid Background
We had an extreme winter storm, which spawned a preventable crisis with our power grid.
It was cold, cold, cold here in Texas, a Canada or Colorado kind of cold, a bone-chilling, snowy, wet, forbidding cold, a disaster framed by tragic deaths and widespread misery because our power grid was so inadequate and unstable that parts of it had to be shut down to avoid a total and catastrophic failure.
Many Texans had no power for several days, with temperatures dipping into the single digits and teens. And then, there was – and still is – a water crisis, as treatment plants and individual homes’ plumbing went down because of frozen pipes. There are shortages of food, gas, propane and bottled water, and lines of people waiting for each wherever they are available. It has been somewhat like the aftermath of a hurricane, only frigid instead of sweltering.
How could this have happened? How can we prevent it from happening again? This isn’t just about comfort and the ability to go about our regular lives with power and water and all that these necessities enable, it’s about honoring the lives that were unnecessarily lost by improving our infrastructure and standards.
We have to do better.
It will take years to answer these and other questions, but it is clear that studies of previous events, such as one in 2011, provided a warning about the type of near-cataclysmic failure that occurred. Another Texas Tribune story highlights the situation: Texas leaders failed to heed warnings that left the state’s power grid vulnerable to winter extremes, experts say.
Now is the time for reckoning and reconsideration of our priorities as a people. There will be repercussions: lawsuits and hearings, accusations and resignations, and perhaps, at long last, legislation and regulations.
We have to do better.
What I Meant to Write About
As we move out of the week’s crisis mode into reflection, I had intended to share some random and humorous observations about things we learned this week. However, in thinking about what happened to summarize for my international readers, I got kind of mad. Not mad because we were cold all week, or still can’t take a hot shower, do laundry or wash dishes, but mad about the lives of the 22+ people in the Greater Houston area alone who lost their lives, and the many more across the state.
Rest in peace, my fellow Texans. If we change our system to protect citizens and prevent another PowerGridGate, you will not have died in vain.
I’ll share my more light-hearted reflections in another post, perhaps tomorrow. The plumber has arrived to see about our burst pipes, and, typical of Texas, our weather has changed: it’s a balmy 71°.
© 2021, Glover Gardens
Cover photo by David J. Phillip / AP, from this story: Texplainer: Why Does Texas Have Its Own Power Grid?