Fixes and flaws: What one Texas storm exposed


On Thursday, Feb. 18, a snowstorm like no other hit the South and Midwest. Two days later, my mother showed me a picture on WhatsApp of stalactite-looking icicles hanging from the ceiling fan of a Texas home. Yes, sunny Texas had been hit by a snowstorm. A storm that caused power outages all over the state and led to the deaths of dozens of citizens. The storm did not only wreak havoc within Texas, but it also exposed some alarming realities regarding both government infrastructure and our world as a whole.  

It was no surprise that many parts of Texas were not prepared for a snowstorm of this caliber. Unlike New England, they have no snowplows, no sloping roofs and no infrastructure built around the beautiful monster that is snow. Many parts of Texas have not seen snow in decades. For example, in San Angelo, the winter storm that brought 10.1 inches of snow topped the city’s 50-year-old record of 2.5 inches in 1971. The case was very similar for very many other cities in the South and Midwest areas. But this is no excuse, as some areas had experienced this cold before and there were ways the effect could have been mitigated.  

In the same ways the United States was unprepared for the coronavirus, Texas was unprepared for a chilly natural disaster. Their pipes were not designed for winter weather and freezing temperatures, causing them to burst. This is a  problem that could’ve been remedied by winterizing said pipes — A decision that yes, would’ve cost more money in the short-term, but also would have saved millions from freezing in their homes and provided them with a supply of energy even after the storm. Winterizing these pipes and preparing for disaster might have prevented nearly 3.5 million people from losing power for an extended period of time. However this would only have fixed a fragment of the problem, as even with working pipes, the demand for power has risen quickly above the amount  Texas factories can produce. And the cause of this unpreparedness? That answer may be rooted in many things: not wanting to spend money on preventing a potential future, among other factors. But the more likely source can be found in ignorance of climate change.  

It seems, however, nature itself gave us a solution. Compared to the common, carbon-emitting form of generating power, renewable energy fared much better after the storm. In an interview done by NPR, Professor James Marshall Shepherd discusses the ways states can prepare for such disasters — ways routed in a shift in the way we obtain energy. The same renewable energy can lend to preparedness for when a spike in energy occurs again. As Professor Shephard states, renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines, have been used in colder places than Texas. And such sources could greatly lend a hand in increasing power, along with other improvements, should this happen again.  

And it will happen again.  

These cold fronts are hitting Texas more frequently than in the past, which experts like Professor Shephard have partially contributed to climate change. Whether or not politicians choose to believe in climate change, it is evident that something must be done. And with the options so clear, it gives leaders no option other than to be prepared. If they don’t, nature will strike again and a preventable tragedy will once again grace the screens of TVs and WhatsApp threads.  

Thumbnail photo courtesy of LM Otero File / AP Photo.

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