Why Was Texas Freezing & Powerless?

February 26, 2021

We’ve all heard of power failures due to storms, tornadoes, and wildfires, but can people lose electric power due to a snowstorm? Sure, if an unexpected cold spell means that people use a lot of energy to warm up their homes and stores!

Earlier this month, parts of Texas went for days without power, as families huddled in their living rooms without any electricity to power heaters, appliances, or devices. And as temperatures dipped below the usual winter levels, many parts of the state reported burst water pipes, as the water turned to ice and cracked open the pipes. The gushing water then damaged homes and buildings.

Dallas, Texas. Credit: Matthew T Rader, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

So what happened? For one, power companies didn’t anticipate such a big surge in power usage across homes. And a lot of people were really trying to warm up when temperatures across Dallas went down to -2 Fahrenheit—the lowest it’s been since 1989! Additionally, winterization (or the process used to make equipment winter-ready and able to handle the increased load) was inadequate. Power companies say they had to carry out these procedures remotely due to COVID-19. And finally, power in Texas is separate from the rest of the country, which means it can’t ‘borrow’ energy from other places easily. People are offering help to hard-hit communities, and others are supporting neighbors by running errands while the road conditions continue to be dangerous.