North Texas Daily

Harsh Texas snowstorms continue to highlight the state’s unreadiness to face severe weather

Harsh Texas snowstorms continue to highlight the state’s unreadiness to face severe weather

Harsh Texas snowstorms continue to highlight the state’s unreadiness to face severe weather
February 16
13:00 2023

The ice storm that hit Texas over a week ago is just the first taste of the yearly freeze that has been sweeping over the state since Winter Storm Uri hit in February 2021. As temperatures remain cold, there is a chance Texas could receive more ice or snow. Is Texas adequately prepared to face a harsher winter after the effects the past snowstorms had on the state?

Although the recent storm was not as catastrophic as its predecessors, its impact was far from minimal. Businesses and roads were closed and many people remained at home during the week of Jan. 30. Across the state, seven people died as a result of icy road conditions. 

The latest storm’s conditions might seem better compared to the panicked state Texas was in during Winter Storm Uri, which caused a statewide power outage that left 2.7 million Texans without electricity and heat. Texas’ faulty energy systems were to blame for the outage. The power grids could safeguard against the extreme heat Texas endures during the summers, but were ill-prepared for the freezing temperatures it reached during Winter Storm Uri. These power plants and natural gas systems were unfit for freezing temperatures.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is the independent system operator for the state. When ERCOT’s power plants froze over, the entire power grid shut down, causing a state-wide blackout. An estimated 57 people died due to hypothermia, according to The Texas Tribune. Water disruptions also affected about 14 million Texans.

The independent nature of ERCOT’s power grid makes it difficult to import power during desperate situations, leaving its infrastructure vulnerable to severe weather conditions.

After the storms, Gov. Greg Abbott tried to make changes to the grid and claim “the lights will stay on” for the coming winter. After Winter Storm Uri, Abbott signed two bills into law to improve the power grid and the agency structure that monitors it. The first bill, Senate Bill 3, requires specific power generators to “implement measures to prepare to operate during a weather emergency.”

Senate Bill 2 focused on ERCOT’s governance structure, setting guidelines for who can serve as directors and join the committees that select them. Nearly eight months after Winter Storm Uri,  Texas Legislature attempted to better prepare plants for extreme weather by ordering electricity regulators. The Public Utility Commission of Texas, a state agency tasked to control water, telecommunication and electric utilities, ordered power plants to winterize. 

Despite these efforts to better the power grid, no one faced the consequences for the lack of preparedness during 2021’s winter storm. Abbott decided to place blame on the Green New Deal, claiming that leaning on renewable resources caused the power outage. Officials and experts concluded that fossil fuels were to blame for the outages. As of 2021, natural gas makes up for 42 percent of the state’s fuel sources while wind only accounts for 20 percent, according to Fiscal Notes

In a news conference during Winter Storm Uri, Gov. Abbott failed to acknowledge Texas’ lack of preparation despite several warning signs of worsening weather. Instead, he blamed ERCOT, calling them unreliable. All of this contributed to the disastrous effects of Winter Storm Uri. The Texas government’s inability to prevent and subdue the damage that occurred during the winter storm shows a lack of initiative from the state government.

This legislation should have been put in place long before the ice storms happened. Although the recent ice storm was less severe, 150,000 households in Austin, Texas still experienced power outages. Gov. Abbott, the Public Utility Commission, ERCOT and the Railroad Commission said this wasn’t an infrastructure issue and a more local issue caused by problems like ice on power lines.

Still, much more could have been done by the government to prevent these things. Ice and snow storms are now a yearly experience, and the state must be fully prepared to take on any level of storm and take every precaution to avoid another disaster.

With that being said, people should know how to adequately prepare for future storms. Having a “winter survival kit” in the house with an abundance of non-perishable foods and enough gallons of water per person is essential during severe storms. If the government is not prepared, at least individual households should be.  

Featured Illustration by Allie Garza

About Author

Melanie Hernandez

Melanie Hernandez

Related Articles


No Comments Yet!

There are no comments at the moment, do you want to add one?

Write a comment

Write a Comment

The Roundup

<script id="mcjs">!function(c,h,i,m,p){m=c.createElement(h),p=c.getElementsByTagName(h)[0],m.async=1,m.src=i,p.parentNode.insertBefore(m,p)}(document,"script","");</script>

Search Bar

Sidebar Thumbnails Ad

Sidebar Bottom Block Ad

Flytedesk Ad