Texas’ winter storm response displays more government ineptitude in times of crisis
The winter storm, unlike any seen before in the region of the country, has some residents feeling as if they’re living during an apocalypse.
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An unprecedented winter storm has brought bitter cold, snow and ice and left millions without power in Texas.
As of late in the evening on Monday, Feb. 15, more than 4 million households in the state are lacking power due to a catastrophic series of events that inhibited the state’s power grid.
Houston residents, Jael Sanchez and Randy Castillo told The Washington Post that they feel as though they are living through an apocalypse situation. They have no heat or working stove, and their 11-year old daughter has been attempting to keep warm through a makeshift fort made from nearly a dozen blankets.
Even so, the couple said they feel lucky to have access to camping gear like headlamps and portable cell phone charges to get them through one of the region’s coldest nights on record.
But many others in Houston find themselves literally in the dark, isolated from the outside world, barely getting by in poorly-insulated homes that weren’t built for these extreme weather conditions.
By Monday night, Feb. 15, law enforcement in Houston have already reported two deaths caused by the freezing temperatures.
Many people’s efforts to stay warm turned out to be quite dangerous. Some stayed in their cars overnight with the engines running, leading them to inhale toxic fumes.
One family in Houston tried to heat their apartment with a charcoal grill, resulting in carbon monoxide poisoning and hospitalization for the two adults and four children.
“I’m trying not to think about it, but there’s a chance we might find a lot of people dead in the next few days,” Sanchez told The Post.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbot announced late Monday that the Texas National Guard was being deployed to help people get to heating centers, and that state agencies are sending more resources and personnel to assist local officials in clearing roadways and helping essential workers.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), also announced on Monday that it was instituting rotating power blackouts to conserve energy, but for millions for Texans, the blackouts have not been rolling.
Many people have had outages lasting at least 24 hours.
Both Gov. Abbot and ERCOT have come under fire by Texas Democrats and social media users, wondering how such an epic failure could have occurred in the first place, especially during an ongoing pandemic.
“If Abbot cared more about doing his job than trying to scare oil and gas workers into voting for him, Texas should have been able to avoid this crisis,” said Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa.
“There’s no reason at all that Texas — a state that produces the most energy in the country — has millions of people without power,” he continued.
Social media was ablaze with reports that downtown areas like Austin, were completely lit up while neighboring suburbs, primarily made up of working-class Black and Brown residents, remained dark, cold and without proper resources to sustain themselves.
Austin Texas. One side is downtown Austin. The other side east Austin - where majority black and brown residents still live in spite of gentrification. I’ll let you guess which side is which. pic.twitter.com/aRftgWuhD0— Kandy Muse’s Thick Ass Tongue (@chulito_jotito) February 16, 2021
On Twitter, “Highland Park” has been trending, amassing over 10,000 tweets from Texas residents calling out the disparities between the wealthier areas that still have power and low-income areas that have been experiencing a lack of power in freezing temperatures for almost 24 hours.
4 bricks, a terracotta pot, and some candles will heat a room for anyone who needs it.— Amanda Harris (@_amanda_jean) February 16, 2021
It's so wild that this is how we're living in our minority-majority communities, but Highland Park, Uptown, Preston Hollow, and Farmers Branch never even lost power. #texaspoweroutage pic.twitter.com/mX7OaSC2Rc
Highland Park, a wealthy part of Dallas, has not lost power once throughout the storm. One Twitter user expressed their frustration this morning, saying that their power is back on, but the heater is broken and that the house is currently below 50 degrees.
“I woke up to news that they had the Dallas skyline lit up for Valentine’s Day. There’s so many people who need help. This feels so wrong,” they wrote.
One user even suggested that a class action lawsuit should be filed against the Texas government and power companies.
“It is insulting and dangerous that the Dallas skyline stayed lit along with these wealthy neighborhoods like Highland Park while the rest of us have been freezing for almost 24 hours,” they wrote.
For my non Texas mutuals. Basically we’re currently experiencing below freezing weather, with “controlled” power outages... but really it’s low income zip codes without power in freezing temperatures— chavez (@ChavezTheRapper) February 15, 2021