By McKenzie Collins
Residents throughout the state of Texas are experiencing blackouts, freezing temperatures and water shortages as a result of a large storm that hit the midwest and southern states particularly hard.
BBC reports that temperatures have dropped to 0 degrees fahrenheit (18 degrees below Celsius), the coldest for the area in more than 30 years. According to CBS News, nearly 3 million homes and businesses lost power and heat on Wednesday morning, leaving them to attempt recovery while a second storm smothers relief.
Due to pipe bursts, below freezing temperatures and a natural gas crisis, some parts of the state have been forced into stage 5 water restrictions. According to BBC, residents are being encouraged by the CDC to boil their tap water.
Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) left for Cancun, Mexico yesterday, only to be forced to rush back home due to public outrage. While he did not have a written obligation to stay in state throughout the storm, CNN noted that “natural disasters are often a time in which constituents often reach out to their elected officials for help and access to resources.”
In explanation, Cruz told CNN, “With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon.” However, he was also quoted telling others to “stay home” in an interview Monday night.
In an effort to advise residents, Houston mayor Sylvester Turner (D-TX) tweeted, “Water pressure is very low. Please do not run water to keep pipes from bursting. Turn off water if pipes have burst. Please contact us if you don’t know how to turn off water. Be conservative on water usage today. It is needed for hospitals and fires.”
According to NPR, many grocery stores in Texas are experiencing food shortages, further inhibiting residents from obtaining the necessary supplies. While many companies, such as popular grocery store HEB, have placed limits on items allowed per customer and refined their hours to maximize productivity, Texans are still finding food to be scarce.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) tweeted that the storm has left Texas in a condition, “worse than even the early days of the pandemic. Grocery store, fast food and gasoline lines are longer than ever. Many stores are closed, including pharmacies.”
CBS also reports that 17 Texans have died as a result of this storm, including a grandmother and three children who passed in a house fire, and a couple who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in their car trying to keep warm. The loss has left the political sphere, as well as those suffering as a result of the poor winter planning, questioning where they should place the blame.
The mayor of Colorado City, Tim Boyd (R-TX), resigned after writing a facebook post (that was quickly removed) in response to the crisis on Tuesday. On the authority of CBS News, he wrote, “No one owes you [or] your family anything; nor is it the local government's responsibility to support you during trying times like this! Sink or swim it's your choice! The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING! I'm sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout.”
On the other hand, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) has already taken steps to investigate the improvement of the power supply. On Tuesday he tweeted, “The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable of the past 48 hours.... I have issued an executive order adding an emergency legislative item to review the preparations and decisions by ERCOT so we can determine what caused this problem and find long-term solutions.”
In national response, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is currently supplying generators, diesel (for backup power), blankets and water to the state. White House press secretary Jen Psaki also urged citizens to listen to the officials charged with emergency management.
Psaki told The New York Times, “Our team and FEMA continue to monitor the situation in Texas, as well as other states in the storm’s path that might be impacted. We remain in close contact with states across the affected area to ensure any federal support requirements are met.”