At least 26 Texans are dead after a week of historically low temperatures. Since Feb. 11, millions living in the Lone Star state have been without power and left searching for food and water.
On Monday, Dallas dropped to five degrees Fahrenheit – the coldest temperature the city had seen since 1989. For the first time in over 30 years, Austin and San Antonio saw single-digit temperatures.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) – a grid operator that controls roughly 90% of the state’s electric load – announced it was experiencing a “record-breaking electric demand.”
Many Texas residents took to bundling up and staying in their cars, as state leaders opened about 135 warming centers and deployed the National Guard to conduct welfare checks.
By Tuesday, over four million state residents were without power. “[ERCOT] has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said.
While Texans tried to stay warm, officials reported a rising death toll, with fatalities linked to both the frigid temperatures and carbon monoxide poisoning.
By Wednesday morning, about 3.4 million customers were still without power in the state of Texas, leading Gov. Abbott to look into an investigation of ERCOT.
ERCOT CEO Bill Magness stated that the issue was primarily a lack of energy supply as low temperatures closed power facilities. According to Magness, the controlled power outages helped prevent the system’s collapse.
“If we had waited, and not done outages, not reduced demand to reflect what was going on, on the overall system, we could have drifted towards a blackout,” Magness said. “People feel like what we’re seeing [is] a blackout, but the blackout that [could have occurred] could last months.”
Meanwhile, Texas Senator Ted Cruz arrived at Cancun International Airport shortly before 8 pm on Wed. Cruz was met with backlash online from Liberals and Conservatives alike.
As the airport photos circulated on social media, Cruz’s team quickly released a statement.
“Like millions of Texans, our family lost heat and power too,” Cruz wrote. “With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon.”
Cruz went on to say he and his staff “are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas.” The explanation sparked further controversy, as many criticized Cruz for seemingly placing the blame on his children.
Shortly after noon on Thursday, Edward Russell, who works as the lead airlines reporter at Skift, revealed the senator had rebooked his flight back to Houston that morning. He had not been scheduled to return from Cancun until Sat.
On Thursday evening, text messages between Cruz’s wife, Heidi Cruz and her friends surfaced. “Our house is FREEZING,” Heidi Cruz wrote, going on to say their family “couldn’t stand it anymore,” before sending information on flights out of Houston.
By Thursday, nearly 290,000 people were without power, a substantial improvement from the millions affected by outages earlier in the week. However, the low temperatures continued, delaying a full recovery.
About 13.5 million Texans dealt with water disruption, as roughly 800 water systems reported problems such as broken or frozen pipes.
As bottled water became difficult to find in stores, some businesses began giving it out for free. Senator Cruz took to social media to share pictures of himself passing out water.
By Friday, Texas had seen little improvement, with almost half of the state’s population still experiencing water service disruptions. Approximately 190,000 homes and businesses remained without power.
Hospitals were heavily impacted by the week’s events. President and CEO of Houston Methodist Dr. Marc Bloom, who oversees seven hospitals around the city of Houston told CNN two facilities did not have water at all for days.
On Saturday, as 85,000 Texas homes were without power and water disruptions and decreasing supplies remained a threat, President Biden approved a major disaster declaration, which provides more federal resources to the state.
Power has now been restored in many areas of the state, but residents are still struggling to get clean water. President Joe Biden is set to travel to Houston, Texas on Friday, Feb. 26. He will be accompanied by first lady Dr. Jill Biden.
The past week has left many wondering what steps Texas should take to be prepared for severe winter weather in the future.
“Texas has to invest far more in basic infrastructure, that clearly is missing,” said Derick Hulme, Professor of Political Science. “And there has to be a commitment by the state to move forward aggressively [with renewable energy].”