In recent weeks, the southern United States have been battered with freezing temperatures and winter storms. At least 35 people have died after millions of Texans have suffered from power outages and water shortages. A boil-water order was advised for approximately 13 million Texans throughout the state. Power outages have lasted days, and many were without heat during the cold winter weather. Pipes burst and roads were icy and dangerous, adding to the strain on the state’s infrastructure.
For Hope College students like junior Gracyn Carter, who is from Texas, the effects of the winter storms hit close to home. “I have heard several things from friends and family about the lack of infrastructure in my area around water and power distribution,” she said. “Several friends that live on the outskirts of the city of Fort Worth and Austin have to boil water before use and have even been told to fill up bathtubs in order to have water for the next two days. My family specifically is under a water outage advisory and has had to boil their water before every use for the past three days.”
Junior Abigail Pineda had a similar sentiment, saying, “My family and friends experienced great inconveniences but now more than ever, I am thankful that they are healthy and safe. It has been unsettling being away from home, and constant worry and anxiety has become a normal thing in my life, but there is hope that things will be better soon.”
The winter storm crisis in the pandemic has forced many Texans to wonder why officials were not better prepared for the harsh weather and temperatures. Power outages due to the storm were a result of the power grid failing, a problem unique to Texas due to its lack of connections to the greater U.S. power grid, a result of the state’s wanting to be free of federal regulations. Attempts to winterize valuable infrastructure also were largely unsuccessful due to concerns it would be too costly, adding to the vulnerability of the state’s utilities.
“In terms of power, I believe the state of Texas is on an independent system in which they can’t get power from other states if needed,” Carter said. “That’s never been something I’d know or paid attention to growing up, but I think it’s very representative of the way Texans value their autonomy over their resources.”
During the height of the winter storms, Texas Senator Ted Cruz was seen boarding a flight to Cancún, Mexico for a vacation while millions of Texans were still facing the winter storm crisis. After intense backlash on social media and across the state, the senator came back to address the situation, saying his daughters asked to take a trip since school was canceled for the week, and he agreed. This defense, however, seemed to only add to the criticism, and many have called for the senator to resign.
Many Texans are still struggling in the wake of the storm, and as a result government agencies and non-profit organizations are stepping in to help vulnerable communities. President Biden approved disaster funding, and FEMA aid is being offered to many Texas residents. Organizations such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and local food banks are also stepping up to provide much-needed support to Texans. “It is definitely concerning to hear about the ways homeless communities, communities of color and other marginalized groups are being hit by this crisis. I’d encourage people to look into ways to spread awareness about how to help those communities!” Carter said.
“In regards to how I feel about the response to what happened in Texas this past week, I grieve with the families that have been affected, but I also feel optimistic that there will be relief available to those who need it,” Pineda added. “I have been following the Dallas News and learned that President Biden made a disaster declaration that may provide aid. I was born and have lived in Texas my entire life and it was so unfortunate to see how the resources that we lack truly come at a cost.”