Winter storm Uri hits southwestern U.S.

ELLA BRIGHT
STAFF WRITER

Turbulent weather ripping across the Southeastern United States, the cause of the Winter Storm Uri, is likely a result of climate change further heating up the Arctic, say some environmental scientists.

In Texas alone, more than 30 individuals have died because of the harsh snowstorms and cold weather that have left many Texas residents without power and heat. As record-low temperatures moved throughout states like Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio and Oregon, power grids overwhelmed by high demand for heat implemented rolling blackouts to ease the strain.

Since Wednesday, Feb. 17 more than 1.6 million homes and businesses in Texas remained without power, and some also lost water service. Texas officials ordered 7 million people, which is a quarter of the population of Texas, the United States’ second-largest state, to boil their tap water before drinking it. The entirety of Austin, Texas is under a water boil notice, city officials announced that Wednesday night.

Many residents of Texas are frustrated with the power outages, wondering when they’ll be through with relying on huddling under blankets as their only source of warmth.

“We have zero confidence in ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) and Austin Energy caring about us or doing anything,” said Josh Sklar, a resident of northwest Austin, in an interview with USA Today.

“We are very angry,” said Amber Nichols, another Texas resident, in the same interview. “I was checking on my neighbor, she’s angry, too. We’re all angry because there is no reason to leave entire neighborhoods freezing to death. This is a complete bungle.”

Texas isn’t the only state in the United States being slammed with extreme weather conditions. On Monday, Feb. 15, residents of a coastal North Carolina community were struck with a tornado, which ripped through killing three residents and injuring 10.

The tornado reached wind speeds of up to 160 mph and several homes were destroyed, with several others left “severely” damaged. In total, at least 50 homes were affected and damaged in the tornado, according to a news release from Brunswick County Emergency Services.

There were four reports of tornadoes on Monday, Feb. 15, caused by the major Winter Storm Uri. Tornadoes also raged on and tore through homes and other structures, leaving at least four people injured in Florida and Georgia.

All in all, the damages from Winter Storm Uri in Texas alone will cost businesses billions of dollars.

Environmental scientists attribute it to the warming of the Arctic. Polar vortexes caused by a warming Arctic aren’t an abnormal occurrence, but they are usually more contained, the vortex and acting as a “lasso” of sorts, according to CBS News, and it keeps the cold air trapped inside. But the warmer the Arctic gets, weaker and longer the jet stream becomes, which allows the cold air to plunge south.

“Growing up in Texas, you’re often taught that Texas is the state that would be most likely to secede due to the fact that they have their own isolated power grid,” said Wiley Delisa (‘24). Delisa was raised in Texas, and more recently, has called Georgia his home.

“The problem with [Texas’ independence] is that now that they’re having a climate change induced extreme winter weather event, there is no way for them to handle their entire power grid going down and there’s not a lot that the federal government can do because they’re on an isolated power grid that was built in the 50s and 60s. There’s also the fact that they have senators who don’t care about them.”

As Texans and all those across the southeast wonder if there’s an end in sight, without power, it seems like hoping is unfortunately all they can do.

“I think this situation shows a lot about the values that we have in our country today, especially how we don’t care about each other,” said Delisa. “I think capitalism has bred this kind of environment where it’s every man for himself, and “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” extends to updating dangerously outdated technology.”

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