Texas winter storm 2022: Residents fearful after last year’s outage disaster

U.S.
People wait in line to fill propane tanks Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Houston. Customers waited over an hour in the freezing rain to fill their tanks. Millions in Texas still had no power after a historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures created a surge of demand for electricity to warm up homes unaccustomed to such extreme lows, buckling the state's power grid and causing widespread blackouts. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

People wait in line to fill propane tanks Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Houston. Customers waited over an hour in the freezing rain to fill their tanks. Millions in Texas still had no power after a historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures created a surge of demand for electricity to warm up homes unaccustomed to such extreme lows, buckling the state’s power grid and causing widespread blackouts. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

(NEXSTAR) – As Texas braces for the lowest temperatures it’s seen since last February’s historic winter storm, the oncoming cold snap likely has many residents worried. Last year, millions of Texans were left without heat in freezing cold temperatures for days, resulting in hundreds of deaths. For many, this week’s storms are an unwelcome reminder of the trauma and anger they still living with.

Temperatures Thursday morning could be in the low 20s for some areas of the Lone Star State and a winter weather watch has been issued through Sunday. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) says it’s expecting Friday to be the second-highest power demand of the year – and says demand will hit around 73 gigawatts that day. The peak demand during last year’s storm was 77 gigawatts.

On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott – who’s been widely criticized for the mass power failures of the state’s power grid – met with leaders of ERCOT, the council that manages the vast majority of electricity in the state to discuss Texas’ preparedness this year.

In the wake of the outages, Abbott signed several laws requiring utilities to winterize and ERCOT to inspect facilities or face up to $1 million in penalties. Back in November, Abbott touted these changes, saying he could “guarantee” the lights would stay on this winter.

But some say Abbott walked back his guarantee, when he told reporters Tuesday, “No one can guarantee that there won’t be a ‘load shed event.’ But what we will work and strive to achieve and what we’re prepared to achieve is that the power is gonna stay on across the entire state.”

ERCOT says it doesn’t anticipate needing to ask Texans to conserve energy, while the Public Utility Commission says no rolling blackouts are currently expected, Nexstar Capitol Correspondent Maggie Glynn reported Wednesday.

But assurances from officials may do little to quell fears from last year’s disaster.

‘PTSD’

“If you weren’t aware, half of Texas is having one big PTSD episode this week,” tweeted @anr131. “All the news stations are doing side by side comparisons of now and last February to try and calm everyone down b/c everyone is having anxiety. Pray for us.”

Meteorologists at Nexstar’s KXAN in Austin say that while the storm won’t be as severe or as extended as last year’s, the icy conditions it’s expected to bring could still create “major disruptions.” With a high likelihood of freezing rain and sleet, icing over of roads and bridges should be expected – and avoided. But worries abound for many.

“I realize it won’t be as bad or last as long, but it’s normal to worry after what we went through last year. Especially since our grid has not been updated,” tweeted @ComHealthNurIns.

Meanwhile, @pennie_reese said:

“It really was a trauma. It was a disaster and we had to fight to survive.”

Twitter user @pennie_reese

“I don’t know about the rest of y’all but I’m really hoping ERCOT provides frequent and transparent updates today through this weekend,” tweeted NBC DFW Meteorologist Brian James. “I think a lot of us just want to know what’s going on this time around.”

In a Wednesday advisory, ERCOT says it’s “using all the tools available to manage the grid effectively this winter… with frozen precipitation, there is always a chance for local outages… these local outages are not related to the amount of available electricity generated and put on the grid.”

PUC also echoes ERCOT’s sentiments, saying local outages from events like downed tree branches are possible. ERCOT says it will keep updates frequent and comprehensive.

‘#AbbottFailedTexas’

The governor’s comments Tuesday re-ignited some Texans’ ongoing anger about the power grid, despite several assurances from Abbott that enough has been done to prevent another disaster.

Several hashtags and keywords related to Texas power grid, ERCOT and Abbott trended nationally Tuesday and Wednesday, including “#AbbottFailedTexas.”

“The Texas freeze is coming tonight. Wish my family and me luck – we’re right in the “significant” area. And [the] Governor can’t promise there won’t be power outages. Again,” tweeted @misanthropemike.

Meanwhile, current Texas gubernatorial Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke is slamming Abbott for what he says is inaction ahead of the storm.

“This is the energy capital of the world and you have far worse weather in other parts of America – you don’t see these kinds of outages,” O’Rourke told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes Tuesday. “You don’t see this many millions losing power and you certainly don’t see Americans freezing to death in their own homes or dying of carbon monoxide poisoning or starting fires in their own homes to keep warm and then burning to death as a result. The fact is, the governor was warned for years before 2021, that we had vulnerabilities in the grid, and he did nothing. And to add insult to injury, after this grid failure, he has done nothing to fix the major culprit in the power outage last year – which was the lack of winterization of the gas supply.”

O’Rourke continued, saying Abbott has received “millions of dollars” since last February from people in the gas and electric industry. “That explains the inexplicable: why haven’t we fixed the grid as we head into another winter?”

Abbott’s campaign said O’Rourke is “praying the lights go out” to reflect poorly on the governor.

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