Winter Storm Uri Freezes Time For Huntsvillians

Photographer: Leila De La Cruz

Winter Storm Uri ravaged Texas with freezing winds and snowfall in Texas on Feb. 15. Since the initial freeze that Monday morning, many questions have been floating around Texans’ heads about what happened.

“The current theory from meteorologists and climatologists is that these big kind of polar vortex arctic type storms are happening because there’s a weakness in something called the ‘jet stream’ or the flow of air that kind of runs a loopy pattern or kind of meandering pattern,” assistant professor and Environmental Science lead advisor Dr. Ross Guida said.

The jet stream sometimes moves the cold air from the United States and Canadian border south and sometimes pulls the warm air from Texas north. With the Arctic warming up, the boundary struggles to keep the cold air masses from traveling south.
With the traveling cold air, people traditionally start heating their houses for the first time in the year and with the increased use of energy and 90% of Texans on one power grid, it led to a complete crash.

On Feb. 16, Gov. Greg Abbott released a press release discussing the power grid crash.

“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas [ERCOT] has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” Abbott said. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable.”

On Feb. 23, Abbott made a statement on the resignation of ERCOT’s board members.

“When Texans were in desperate need of electricity, ERCOT failed to do its job and Texans were left shivering in their homes without power,” Abbott said. “ERCOT leadership made assurances that Texas’ power infrastructure was prepared for the winter storm, but those assurances proved to be devastatingly false. The lack of preparedness and transparency at ERCOT is unacceptable, and I welcome these resignations. The State of Texas will continue to investigate ERCOT and uncover the full picture of what went wrong, and we will ensure that the disastrous events of last week are never repeated.”

With the investigation into the power grid failure, Texans must also wonder what new preparation the power infrastructure will need.

“The idea is if you want to really be prepared for natural disasters and other things that climate change that we expect going forward, you may have to make some investments that are not always used 365 days a year,” Guida said. “So to ‘winterize’ the Texas grid basically or to make it more resilient to these types of Arctic Blasts coming south you have got to get the winterization kits for the windmills and you may have to figure out how to winterize some of these natural gas plants, which typically have their infrastructure outside, so that reduces the amount of overheating that could happen during the summer.”

While meteorologists and government officials debate the big picture, students recover from the stress and changes of the winter week.

Senior English major at Sam Houston State University Audrey Lack experienced power and water loss at Sterling Union throughout the week. On Wednesday, Lack and her friends moved to Lowman Student Center after the building became a warming station.

“We moved into the LSC for three days,” Lack said. “We just slept on couches in the LSC. They never turn the lights off. It was hard to sleep. It was kind of like a big slumber party, just the stress of it all was the weird part.”

Junior criminal justice major at SHSU Sydney Cisneros dealt with a loss of power at apartment. Eventually on Tuesday, Cisneros moved into another apartment that had electricity and seven people with three animals running around. With the power and water back on, Cisneros felt the apartments could have done a better job handling the transition back.

“I think I was a little disappointed in the fact that the places like the power and the water was not evenly distributed throughout the complex,” Cisneros said.

State agencies reported that local governments spent $49 million on emergency costs with only 75% expecting reimbursement from the federal government, according to Texas Tribune.

Insurance claims are flooding in across the state for both electricity and plumbing damages. A burst pipe insurance claim could cost an average of $10,000-20,000, while those without insurance can expect an even heavier bill to pay, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Leave a Reply