By Hamsini Sivakumar (‘21)
As someone from Michigan, I’m used to watching snow pile up on sidewalks and roads every February, so I thought the recent winter storm in Texas would be harmless. However, instead of just the possibility of a snow day, Texans have been dealing with power outages, frozen pipes, and a lack of water. While cold weather has been affecting the entire country over the past week, the reason behind Texas’s particular issues can be traced to their energy system as a whole.
Texas uses natural gas as their main power source, but the plants have been unable to deal with the freezing temperatures of the storm. Up to “nearly half of the state’s natural gas production” was reportedly stopped by the storm, resulting in many people not getting heat. The power outages were caused by an overloading of power grids, which is “beyond the worst-case scenarios” they had been ready for. This prompted an examination of the defenses against detrimental impacts of extreme weather in the state. Additionally, the frigid temperatures have caused some water lines to freeze, preventing people from accessing them. In fact, Pipes have burst due to a lack of the insulation that prevents this from typically happening areas that often experience cold weather. The effects of the storm could be a sign that even warm weather areas should have structures built for the worst outcomes.
Though the crisis is slowly subsiding with warmer temperatures soon to come, President Biden has signed a “major disaster declaration” that will supply more federal help for Texans. The sudden shift from cold to warm adds new problems, though, as more pipes could rupture while defrosting.
Beyond the impact on the state, the weather has stalled COVID-19 vaccine distribution across America. An estimate of “six million doses” have been delayed due to the weather. Texas specifically has had to postpone over “400,000 first doses and 330,000 second doses” of vaccines, although fractions of those are still being shipped. Mail companies are attempting to make up for the loss by working an extra day on Saturday.
With wildfires and storms raging over the last several years, extreme weather is becoming increasingly frequent around the world. However, the massive impact on Texas indicates that we are underprepared for severe conditions, especially when the event israre in that specific place. While measures to prevent these kinds of occurrences may take years to implement, the most important thing now is to provide the necessary extreme weather protection measures to make the situations easier to bear.