A Devastating Winter Freeze Hits Texas

Junior+Melanie+Charron+in+her+backyard+covered+in+snow

Junior Melanie Charron in her backyard covered in snow

Avian Munoz, Staff Writer

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It was the night after Valentine’s Day. Klein ISD announced that school would be canceled due to weather concerns, so senior Chloe Benson decided to stay up late when suddenly she got a call from her friend to look outside her window. To her surprise, she was pleasantly greeted with the rare sight of her Texas street completely covered in snow. But little did she know that this would be a very deceptive beginning to a very unfortunate week. 

“I knew that the weather was going to get colder than usual, but I was not expecting snow, much less a winter freeze that would shut down the entire state,” Benson said.

Millions of Texans woke up the next morning to 3-6 inches of snow blocking the streets as well as no power or water. This is a consequence of the government’s failure to properly ensure the state power grid would be ready for the winter storm. As a result, the energy companies ERCOT and CenterPoint made a last-minute decision to issue rolling power outages for all their customers. These rolling outages would end up leaving millions of Texans without power or electricity for days on end.

“This fundamental decision that was made in the middle of the night – at 1 a.m. Monday – to have the outages imposed was a wise decision by the operators we have here,” ERCOT President & CEO Bill Magness said during a virtual briefing on Wednesday, Feb. 17. 

That same day, grid operators reported that 2.7 million households were still without power three days into the initial outage. Many people have begun calling for investigation cases and lawsuits into ERCOT, Centerpoint, and the Texas government for allowing the power grid to fail at such a time of need. 

“For people getting these exorbitant electricity bills and having to pay to repair their homes, they should not have to bear the responsibility,” Houston Mayor Turner said during an interview on CBS. “Those exorbitant costs should be borne by the state of Texas and not the individual customers who did not cause the catastrophe this week.”

As of Mar. 1, the Houston Harris County Winter Storm Relief Fund has been able to approve $1.65M in emergency grants to help those in need with repairing their homes, providing essentials, or basic utilities.

“The fund will invest $1.65M in emergency grants to support vulnerable families and individuals in critical need of home repairs due to busted pipes, water damage, and prolonged power loss during the recent freezing temperatures,” Mayor Turner said in a press conference.

Low-income families have been hit especially hard by this unexpected weather as they typically live in neighborhoods with older homes and less reliable structures, along with weaker pipes and fewer food options. This makes it harder for those vulnerable populations to withstand the cold temperatures and power outages – especially if they’re sick, elderly, or caring for newborn babies. 

“It’s short of a nightmare,” Houston city council member Letitia Plummer said. In fact, sixty percent of homes and businesses in Houston had to go without power during the storm. “We are already poor and our communities are already devastated in many ways. … We are always at a disadvantage, so when one incident happens, it makes us fall so much harder.”