Disaster in Texas


Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune

Snow falls on the capitol building in Austin, Texas

Just last month, on Friday, February 19th, one of the worst snowstorms in decades to hit Texas finally ended. But not after disastrous consequences. The storm, which put 150 million people under storm warnings, also left millions without electricity and heat. It’s aftermath could exceed the $125 billion in damage costs left by Hurricane Harvey, according to the Texas Tribune.

A timeline, produced by San Antonio’s ABC news affiliate KSAT, provides a walkthrough of the storm from Tuesday, February 9th to Wednesday, February 24th. The deadly car pile up in Fort Worth, Texas, which killed six people and injured dozens more, marked the beginning of the storm on Thursday, February 11th. On Monday, February 15th, residents of San Antonio and Austin woke up to 3-6.5 inches of snow. Thursday, February 18th marked the end of rolling power outages, which had caused millions of Texans to lose power. Temperatures on Friday, February 19th warmed up most areas of Texas, while San Antonio set a record low of 19 degrees. 

The storm also calls into question how vulnerable Texas’ power grid was prior to the frigid temperatures. In 2011 and 2014, Texas power plants struggled in freezing temperatures, bringing the grids to the brink of collapse. Lawmakers failed to pass recommended legislation that was provided in a federal report. The legislation would have added resilience to the Texas power grid and may have prevented problems that occurred in the 2021 disaster. Because Texas operates its own electric grid; however, it isn’t subject to oversight from FERC like the other lower 48 states. This may explain why El Paso’s grid did much better than the other major cities in Texas, as their power doesn’t come from Texas’ grid, but rather the Western Interconnection.

A winter storm in Texas may not seem like a result of global warming to many, but according to Time, this storm should come as a concern. Warming in the Arctic could result in a weakened jet stream which naturally keeps cold air in the northern hemisphere. Consistent climate crises like the snowstorm in Texas and the heatwave in California last summer will make it much harder to prepare for these events. In order to not suffer another crisis like this one, it is evident that change must happen not only in Texas, but also in other parts of the country as well.