AUSTIN, Texas — Texans shivered under blankets as their electricity flashed off and temperatures inside their homes plummeted. Some awoke on Tuesday to seek out icicles had formed from dripping kitchen faucets.
As a winter storm forced the state’s power grid to the edge of collapse, millions of residents were submerged this week into darkness, bitter cold and a sense of anger over being stuck in uncomfortable; and even dangerous conditions. The strain revealed the vulnerabilities of a distressed system and set off a political fight as lawmakers called for hearings; and an inquiry into the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. The operator managing the flow of electricity to more than 26 million customers.
Record Breaking Cold Weather in Texas
Record-breaking cold weather encouraged residents to crank up their electric heaters and pushed the need for electricity beyond the worst-case scenarios planned for by grid operators.
A grandmother slept in her car. Parents who ran out of firewood burned belongings to keep their children warm. A Richardson resident watched the battery level of her partner’s oxygen machine drain away and desperately sought help to have it recharged.
Millions suffered through Monday night without power as a massive winter blitz sent temperatures plunging, shuttered grocery stores, and caused widespread outages. With little certainty of when power would be restored — and politicians angrily blaming the state’s grid operator — thousands were left facing another night in brutal, potentially life-threatening conditions. At least ten deaths have been linked to the disaster, and hundreds of people who live on the streets are being directed to seek life-saving refuge at shelters.
Texas residents said the storm and ensuing partial collapse of the state’s power system sapped what mental reserves they had left after eleven months of a global health crisis that has cost thousands of jobs and claimed more than 40,000 lives in the state.
Many faulted the government for not warning them that the power could be out for days while the state was swept by freezing temperatures. Blake, the mother of the 4-year-old and 7-year-old sons, said the past few days have been a “white knuckle, hang-on-tight” ordeal.
Sara Rushing said she and her family lost power in Channel view at 4 a. The local government could have done a better job; preparing residents for the storm, she said. Sergio Tristan said that the power went out in his Austin neighborhood; in the early hours of Monday. He said his family has recharged its phones in their car every 25 minutes.