Support Intelligent, In-Depth, Trustworthy Journalism.
An unprecedented winter storm and unprepared electrical grid has left millions of Texans without reliable power and water and has killed at least 20 people since Monday. Rolling blackouts stretched into days, with more than 400,000 households still without power Feb. 18 as another storm looms Thursday.
The incoming storm is expected to have devastating effects, particularly in counties southwest of San Antonio where COVID-19 cases are already spreading significantly. About seven million people were told to boil water or stop using it entirely as pipes and water mains burst in the frigid temperatures.
Texas is the only state in the lower 48 with its own power grid, and it provides electricity to the vast majority of Texans, excluding El Paso, the upper panhandle and part of East Texas. It’s run by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and operates outside of the Federal Energy Regulatory Council’s jurisdiction. The council announced Tuesday that it opened a joint-inquiry with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation into the ERCOT grid’s failure
WATCH: Americans grapple with historic weather
Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republican lawmakers have blamed renewable energy for the blackouts, but the Houston Chronicle found that the grid failed because Texas electricity generators did not want to cut profits by building resilient equipment.
Those most vulnerable to COVID-19 are similarly vulnerable to succumbing to the freeze, including the elderly, people experiencing homelessness, people with lower incomes and people of color. Colonias, Latino communities near the southern border, are especially vulnerable as many households already did not have access to reliable energy, water and housing.
To stay warm without power, experts recommend people unplug any nonessential appliances, wear thin warm layers, and use duct tape to insulate windows and drafts. They caution people not to sit in a running car inside a closed garage or use a generator within 30 feet of a wall to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
For more tips and to find warming centers, visit this guide, call 2-1-1 or visit tdem.texas.gov/warm.
With millions without reliable electricity, heat and water in frigid temperatures, local organizing groups and nonprofits across the state are working to help those who need it most. Mutual aid organizations, groups formed by community members to support one another, are also collecting money through Venmo.
Here’s how you can help:
Note: We verified organizations to the best of our ability. If you aren’t sure about the legitimacy of a charitable organization, visit Charity Navigator.
Chloe Jones is the Roy W. Howard fellow for the PBS NewsHour. Connect with her at email@example.com or on Twitter @chloeleejones.
Support Provided By:
Support PBS NewsHour:
Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.