Residents in Houston are still dealing with the aftermath of a rare winter storm and low temperatures that hit the area last week. Even though the snow has melted away and temperatures are in the 60s and 70s this week, the impact of the winter weather event still lingers.
On Feb. 10 a winter storm on the Gulf Coast dumped snow, sleet and ice in Texas followed by another storm on Feb. 13. Temperatures dipped to 13˚F in Houston, the coldest since 1989. President Joe Biden issued a Federal Emergency Declaration for the Lone Star State on Feb. 14. He’s scheduled to visit the area on Friday, Feb. 26.
As a result of the bitterly cold weather, government officials said frozen wind turbines caused millions in Texas to lose power and heat for days. Other officials said frozen natural gas lines and instruments were the main cause of the outages. Nearly 90% of Texas’ electricity is run by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). Board members of ERCOT resigned this week over the situation.
“When Texans were in desperate need of electricity, ERCOT failed to do its job and Texans were left shivering in their homes without power,” said Texas Gov. Greg Abbot. “ERCOT leadership made assurances that Texas’ power infrastructure was prepared for the winter storm, but those assurances proved to be devastatingly false.”
As a result of pipes bursting and freezing, 12 million people in Texas were left without water and were asked to boil water due to a lack of electricity at water treatment plants. Grocery stores were also unable to keep up with the demand leaving store shelves bare and people hungry.
In an interview with the AmNews, Houston resident Bertram Scott said while the power and water are back on for him, a number of people are still having issues. During rolling blackouts his family went through periods with no electricity and having to sleep when it was 15˚F and also experienced water issues for several days.
“There were a lot of people who had it worse than me,” Scott said. “You couldn’t get gas, you couldn’t get money out of the ATM. The lines in the stores were long. I was in one line with over 50 people in front of me. There are about 100,000 people who are still without power. It’s just sad that they weren’t prepared for this. Hopefully they spend the money and do the right thing now.”
Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents Houston, has been distributing water and food to residents. She said her district was one the hardest hit by the crisis.
“I have begun to seek water from various states across the nation, working with my congressional colleagues,” Lee said Tuesday. “In addition to the FEMA water, we’re hoping to see water come from around the nation to help some of these very hard-hit neighborhoods and to be able to take the water into the neighborhoods where seniors, poor families and disabled.”
In the wake of the devastation in Texas, several New York City-based Black organizations have gone down to help residents recover. Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, Chivona Newsome, Movers & Shakers NYC and Black Opportunities are currently in Houston giving out water and boxes of food in Black neighborhoods.
“We’re working with local activists to do food drops in different neighborhoods,” BLM Greater New York chair Hawk Newsome told the AmNews. “We believe in our hearts that Black people have enough wealth to meet the needs of our people. When our people are in trouble we should be able to do our own rapid response for our people. When Black people are in need whether it’s because of a natural disaster, police brutality or white supremacy, it’s our job to meet that need.”
The organizations have created a GoFundMe page for the Peoples Food Program: Houston, Texas. The goal is to raise 25,000. To donate, go to https://gf.me/v/c/c9sg/peoples-food-program-houston-texas.