Texas has taken a winter storm wallop, and many are down for the count.
More than 4.2 million Texans are without power, with the hardest hit being here in Houston and in Galveston. Temperatures have hovered in the teens, unheard of in this section of the country.
Tarps and tents became a familiar sight over the weekend as Houstonians prepared their landscaping for snow, ice, and frigid temperatures. Having lost palm trees and tropical plants just a few years ago during that freeze, Texans were given ample warning to prepare a little better this time around.
However, the power companies could not anticipate the depth and length of this current cold front. Texas is the only state in the union that operates off of its own power grid. That’s good (no federal interference) but it also requires our local officials to work cooperatively with private companies to ensure that sustained power outages do not become a problem across the state.
Governor Greg Abbott spoke about these issues yesterday. He said that we typically don’t have any issues, and the last time we saw temperatures like these was over 100 years ago. According to Abbott, some power companies are literally frozen themselves. But he also placed blame on the private power companies and expressed great concern about finding a solution quickly, before more lives are lost.
Tragically, help has not come in time for a number of people. During the middle of the night, a grandmother and three children in Sugar Land were killed when the fire they were huddled around for warmth caused a house fire. Only the mother and one child escaped. In another home, a woman and girl were killed by carbon monoxide trying to stay warm in their garage. A 78-year-old man in San Antonio died after falling in the front yard and not being able to get back up. He died of hypothermia after lying in the snow for 2 hours.
Here in Houston, selective power outages are taking place all over the city. This process involves rotating power outages in order to relieve the stress on the power grid while providing segments of electricity to various neighborhoods. Friends, family, and neighbors are opening their homes to those who need to warm up or get water.
Another storm is passing through Houston later today, stretching the cold front at least one day beyond what was predicted. Black ice is covering roads, prompting emergency alerts to avoid driving and to stay indoors. Houstonians are encouraged to turn down their heat in order to provide electricity for a greater number of households. It is recommended to use your wood-burning fireplace for additional heat and wrap yourself in warm clothes and blankets.
Pipes should be wrapped to avoid bursting, and it’s advised to leave faucets on a minor drip. Since many pipes are in the attic, experts say to leave your attic access open so the heat will keep your pipes from freezing and bursting.
And of course, take care of yourself and the people you know. Check in on people, especially the elderly or those with small children. Pool resources and use this time to serve others and meet their needs.
The sun may be shining, but the frigid temperatures are remaining, at least for the next 24 hours. So be smart, stay indoors, and stay warm.