Snowstorms Sweep the Nation as Millions Left Without Power

A+winter+storm+that+occurred+in+Austin%2C+Texas+in+recent+history.

David Kitto

A winter storm that occurred in Austin, Texas in recent history.

Evan Green, Staff Reporter

Starting around Feb. 13th, 2021, and continuing into this week, a brutal winter storm has battered its way across the United States, leaving millions without access to heat, water, and electricity. The snowstorms started in the Pacific Northwest, and quickly moved across the country, moving towards the Southern states before moving to the Midwest and the Northeastern United States. Southeastern portions of the country such as Florida and North Carolina dealt with a surge of tornadoes and extreme thunderstorms as a response to the weather system, one of which killed three people in Sunset Beach, North Carolina. In addition to the United States, multiple areas throughout North America including Mexico and Canada were also affected by the weather system.

Millions across the country still lack power as the storms sweep across the nation, causing many to survive without centralized heating despite the frigid temperatures. While much of the country was hit hard by the snow, with current estimates placing around 170 Americans under winter weather advisories, it’s undoubtedly true that the state hit the worst by this wave of poor weather was Texas. 

A multitude of different factors all combined together to create the disastrous situation currently taking place throughout the state of Texas. First, the power grid throughout the state was completely unprepared to survive temperatures of this level. This was partly caused by a lack of regulation on the companies that control the state’s power grid, as well as the fact that Texas’s power grid is mostly isolated from federal oversight. Because of this, over 325,000 Texans are still without power as of the writing of this article, and the death toll currently stands at 21 people. It is predicted that some relief will come for the State over the weekend, with an influx of more moderate temperatures, but it’s impossible to say how long it will take for power to be restored throughout the state. 

One way the majority-led Republican government of Texas has attempted to shift the blame on this issue is to attribute the power outages to the renewable energy sources throughout the state, primarily wind, with the Governor of Texas stating in an interview with Sean Hannity on Tuesday, “Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10% of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis,” The governor then continued on to say that this was an example of why the Green New Deal would be deadly. 

While it is true that the renewable energyf sources did produce significantly less power than was expected under sub-zero conditions, it is entirely misleading to insinuate that nonrenewable energy such as fossil fuels fared any better. More than two-thirds of Texas energy during the winter is provided by nonrenewable energy sources, and the cause of the power outages was not that these sources failed, but rather that there was not enough fuel to meet the increased power demand given the extreme temperatures.  

The situation in Texas intensified on Wednesday when reports came out that Texas Senator Ted Cruz had left his home state on a hastily planned vacation to Cancun, Mexico. Many Democratic pundits were outraged on social media when the news broke, claiming that the Senator abandoned his home. Sen. Cruz returned home early from the trip on Thursday, publicly stating that the trip was a mistake and that “in hindsight, he wouldn’t have done it.” Many Republicans, including popular political commentator Ben Shapiro, spoke in defense of the Senator, claiming that there was nothing he could do to help the state as a federal congressman.

Moving onto how this national snowstorm has impacted the weather of the Scioto County area, the storm first hit Southern Ohio at the start of the week and has consistently produced between 1-3 inches of snow and/or freezing rain. Some power outages throughout the county were reported, though exact numbers have not yet been reported. As the weekend quickly approaches, it seems as though the local weather will slowly warm to more moderate temperatures, reaching highs of over  degrees as the week progresses.

The latest updates from the Ohio Department of Transportation District 9 state that both state and U.S. roads are currently in good shape after responding well to being treated and plowed by local officials. At this time, it is still advised to be careful, especially when traveling on rural roads. 

It’s currently unclear how this storm will impact the country as we slowly move to more manageable temperatures. One area that has already been affected is vaccine distribution. President Joe Biden has already stated that delays in vaccine distribution and shipments are fairly likely. It’s impossible to say just how long and strenuous these delays will be during this critical time in the vaccination process. The President’s current vaccine goal is to reach 100 million doses within the first 100 days of his presidency, but no word has been given on whether or not this series of storms will prevent that goal from being met. 

In addition, very little is known as to whether or not the closing of some hospitals throughout the country has led to any otherwise avoidable deaths, either from the coronavirus pandemic or otherwise. Many hospitals have developed protocols for most inclement weather, so while some operations may have temporarily closed, many required functions will most likely be able to continue. 

It is also likely that some changes will take place in relation to the energy laws in Texas. Governor Greg Abbott has already demanded a winterization of Texas’s power system as well as calling out the Electric Reliability Council of Texas for their handling of the situation. Legislation related to the winterization of the Texas power grid was originally proposed in 2011 following Texas’s last major winter storm, but never passed. With any luck, the widespread media attention that the situation in Texas has received will help to push this legislation into the forefront, preventing a disastrous situation like this from happening again.  Many in Texas, including Neil Chatterjee, former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, have advocated removing the partisan, political aspects of this situation, and instead allow the engineers, scientists, and economists to decide how to best handle the situation in order to make sure the energy grid is best optimized to help the people of Texas through difficult weather conditions such as what happened this week.