The Texas Deep Freeze and Power Grid Fiasco: We Have to Do Better

February 21, 2021

The Texas Deep Freeze and Power Grid Fiasco: We Have to Do Better

4 Comments

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.

Texas Tribune story by Shawn Mulcahy: Many Texans have died because of the winter storm. Just how many won’t be known for weeks or months. Photo Credit: Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune

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.

Why?

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?



4 thoughts on “The Texas Deep Freeze and Power Grid Fiasco: We Have to Do Better”

  • We do not realize how much we need our utilities, until we do not have them. At points last week, my Canadian city, 1,700 miles North of Dallas was at the same temperature as Dallas. The difference is, we are used to this type of weather and have long prepared for it. We have enough snow plows, our utilities are all part of a grid system and are hardened against temperature extremes. At points over the past 2 weeks, our temperatures dipped as low as -40F, but we all stayed warm, in our houses. While it is true, none of us can prepare for every eventuality, we must learn from past examples (your 2011) and take steps to make sure we can cope. Sometimes, profit margins get in the way and all lessons go by the wayside. Glad you are back in the warm weather. We are warm here now, as well. Not 71F, but 48F will do nicely in Feb. Stay well. Allan

    • All good points! We were definitely not prepared, at a state, local or individual level. I had hibiscus and roses blooming the day before the cold set in – isn’t that a strange juxtaposition? We didn’t even realize we had water pipes in the wall in the garage that weren’t insulated – til now. We are just not set up at all for this kind of weather – but we must embrace the fact that we need to take precautions.
      I’m sure 48F at this point in the winter is like a tropical heat wave for you, Allan! I just visited your blog and love the comment about the sunshine. A similar sentiment was in my head for the other post, the one I originally intended to write.
      Stay warm and well yourself, and thanks again.

  • Glad you are ok, and heartsick for those who aren’t. It’s similar to recommended preparations for a pandemic that never happened because those in power never believe it really will happen and, as your previous commenter says, profit margins get in the way.

    • Thank you, Anabel. The comparison to pandemic preparations (or lack thereof) is son on point. We had a big study in 2018 in the US that said we weren’t prepared – and of course, we weren’t. We need to be more like the squirrels that hide nuts for the cold winter than the grasshopper who dances and plays. Profit margins and head-in-the-sand attitudes got us here, and you could probably throw in a bit of depravity and callousness, too. Wow, that’s a dark statement. But, people have died – and that’s a dark reality.
      Well, now I need to post a rainbow or a sunset or something. Or just hop on over to your lovely blog and get my travel fix. 😊😊

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