NORTHEAST HARRIS COUNTY – When the vortex that generally encircles the Arctic wobbled down to touch the US/Canadian border, the state was smacked with paralyzing cold, and far more frost than the electrical infrastructure was able to handle.
Snow invaded like a foreign army on Sunday, Feb. 15. On Monday, northeast Harris County began losing power in a freezing rain that slicked up roadways. At about 6:00 p.m., the power went out throughout the area. Some locations, like Highlands, lost water soon thereafter, and by Wednesday, loss of water and burst water pipes were commonplace, with all the fixings of destroyed sheetrock and indoor furniture. This Tuesday, Highlands remained on a boil water notice.
Most municipal utility districts were not placed on a boil water vigil because their generators kept the power going. About 15 million Texans had to endure the boil drinking water warning. Some local communities still had no water on Friday, at least in isolated pockets due to pipe damage.
On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott said the situation was “unacceptable,” calling for ERCOT executives to resign. Some legislators announced plans to investigate what led to the loss of power.
On Wednesday, about 4 million folks in the greater Houston vicinity were without power. The answer may be that the electric grid was made for summer heat to be lowered about 30 degrees, while demand was to raise heat by 50 degrees or more for those homes using only electricity for heating.
The death toll seems to be about 80 for the state, according to the Associated Press. Locally, there were multiple deaths attributed to medical conditions by the coroner but may in fact be more about conditions and the cold. It will take some time before circumstances of death can be fully flushed out. Cases that were tagged for review as possibly freeze-related will be sent to state epidemiologists.
State officials are estimating the monetary damages at about $19 billion — what the state takes in from taxes annually.
The February 13 to 17 storm is being unofficially named Winter Storm Uri and is said to have reached into northern Mexico, with a dozen people known to have died from the frigid blast. The 2021 Texas Power Crisis is what they are calling the state’s condition.
About 75% of the continental United States was covered with snow by the storm. Temperatures reached as low as 7 degrees on several nights. Grocery store supplies were depleted of milk products and meats by the time the roads became usable for most.
Crosby’s ambulance crews attended patients on medical devices by finding power support or supplying oxygen. Some patients were transported to Dayton for dialysis, as Crosby at that time had no water, and private ambulances were unable to get them. Many patients were treated in their homes. Hospitals, in some cases, were unable to take patients due to power and water issues.