By Ian Klane
March 8th, 2021
A major winter storm has been battering Texas for weeks, revealing clear signs of unpreparedness from the state that is experiencing record-breaking sub-zero temperatures.
The frigid cold is all thanks to the polar vortex, a large area of low pressure located near the poles. Most years during the winter months, the polar vortex breaks down and spreads apart, sending cold air southward. This year, the polar vortex has weakened even more due to stratospheric warmings that occur about six times a decade. The polar vortex doesn’t just appear at random, which is why we knew from the sudden stratospheric warming on January 5, 2021, there would be a possible polar vortex approaching North America.
Due to the state’s incapability to handle the below-freezing temperatures, many problems arose, greatly affecting Texans. The brutal storm causing, as of now nearly 80 deaths, officials say it may take weeks or even months before the final death toll can be determined and may never be fully accurate.
In the United States, there are three major power grids. There is one covering the entirety of the west coast, another power grid covering the entirety of the east coast, and then there’s one tiny grid in the center of the two only covering the state of Texas. Due to this isolation and poor maintenance by ERCOT, the company that controls the power grid, Texas was utterly and completely unprepared for the incoming winter storm, causing nearly 4.5 million people to be without power on February 16. Now, with power conditions returned mostly back to normal, tens of thousands of Texans are still without power due to downed lines and other issues.
On top of the power outages in the state, many Texans had little to no access to water due to frozen or burst pipes, as well as reduced water pressure causing bacteria to accumulate in the pipes, causing 10 million Texans to be put on a boil water notice. A boil water notice means that they have to boil their water to be able to drink it safely. Many Texans as well had little access to food as most grocery stores and restaurants were shut down. The majority of roads closed also meant many could not leave their homes.
Meanwhile, amid the power crises, Texas Senator Ted Cruz was on vacation relaxing on the warm beaches of Cancún. After news of his trip had become public, Cruz released a statement attempting to cover up his selfish wrongdoing by explaining to the press that he was merely escorting his daughters on a vacation trip with their friends. In an apparent bid for sympathy, Cruz was quoted as saying, “like millions of other Texans, our family lost heat and water.” Texas GOP Rep. Michael McCall on Sunday, February 21, delivered a pointed rebuke of Sen. Ted Cruz saying, “Look when a crisis hits my state, I’m there. I’m not going to go on some vacation,” leaving no room for another excuse from Cruz defending his actions.
Comparatively, while an actual Texas senator provided practically zero assistance to Texans, a liberal representative with little to no stakes in Texas came to the rescue. U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in response to the disaster was able to raise nearly $5 million in Texas relief efforts. The congresswoman even flew to Houston to join Democratic Texas Rep. Sylvia Garcia to distribute supplies. During her stay, the progressive lawmaker and other Democrats visited food distribution centers, water delivery sites and toured the damage left behind from an unprecedented storm.