Following 2021 state-wide weather crisis, Texas prepares for another season of cold
Water rushes in quickly filling up the whole downstairs of then junior Kathryn Sullivan’s house. Forced to move to a hotel, the stressful event persists as the storm carries on throughout the whole week. As snow falls this year, memories like the ones from 2021 flood back.
Beginning with a cold front on Feb. 10, 2021, record low temperatures in Texas initiated a state-wide crisis that eventually left around 4.5 million people without power, according to the New York Times. In addition, the storm brought with it frozen and cracked pipes, road closures and much more. A year later on Feb. 3, 2022, Texas got up to five inches of snow in some areas, but the consequences were nowhere near as harsh as the year before.
“Although the storm was hard, my family and I got through it,” Sullivan said. “Hopefully it will never happen again.”
Texas’s major power grid is independent of the other two grids that cover the United States, meaning Texas is not able to exchange power with other states. In addition, Texas power plants are not required to be winterized. Both of these factors contributed to devastating outages that began on Feb. 14, 2021.
“The electric generating plants are basically designed for the heat,” middle school earth science teacher Scott Goetsch said. “When the cold weather came, nothing was insulated or enclosed. So the wellheads froze from the gas, and you didn’t have the gas flowing to the generators.”
The rolling blackouts began in order to reduce the effects of the outages. Though they were meant to help, people were left without electricity for long periods of time, even a whole week in some cases.
“They tried to minimize disaster by doing rolling blackouts. Then they never came back on, and they didn’t warn people ahead of time,” Goetsch said. “If people could have prepared by knowing that those blackouts were coming, fewer people would have died. The city could have set up warming stations and things like that for people.”
Many other problems continued to persist even after power was restored to homes, as pipes froze and burst. This resulted in flooded homes causing major damage and added additional hardship to already existing problems from the storm.
“I was in my house and I heard running water. I went downstairs and my entire downstairs was flooded,” Sullivan said. “I was living in a hotel for a little bit, so that was pretty hard. And I missed class a lot because of that.”
Governor Greg Abbot said in an interview with Fox News on Nov. 26, 2021 that this next year he can guarantee the lights will stay on. Back in June 2021, he signed multiple measures to ensure the state power grid will be more effective. According to Texas utility providers, the grids have 15 percent more power capacity.
“Last time, they could have been a lot more prepared, and they handled it irrationally and didn’t really know what to do,” Sullivan said. “It’s been really hot so there probably won’t be another storm, but if there is, I feel like they may handle it better this time.”
In preparation for the snow that arrived this past Feb. 3, people flocked to the stores to stock up on food and provisions. Tensions were high in households that were affected by the 2021 storm.
“This year we bought a lot of distilled water and essentials just in case our water went out again or we got snowed in,” Sullivan said.
Snow and ice came down across the state piling up to two inches in Dallas, but there were no major effects on the power grids. Although some people’s power went out, it didn’t come close to last year’s catastrophic blackouts.
“This year’s storm seemed pretty mild in comparison to last year’s damage,” Sullivan said. “I stayed at a friend’s this year but was checking in on my parents a lot to make sure nothing broke.”
Due to dangerous road conditions from ice, school was shut down on Thursday and Friday.Temperatures never got low enough or lingered for a long time to cause serious damage to the school or most homes.
“I was afraid that the freeze would cause more damage, not really that it would last longer,” Sullivan said. “If it had caused damage I was not looking forward to spending the next days at a hotel and [doing] online school.”
Last year’s storm brought hardship to many families across the state, and this year, many anticipated another crisis. But the snow that came only lasted a couple of days and there weren’t any major outages.
“My family kind of handled it the same. The freeze was just not as damaging,” Sullivan said. “I felt relieved that the snow lasted only a couple days just because I didn’t want there to be any damage like last time, but sad because it was a lot of fun to see and do things in.”