A Deadly Storm Could Kill Hundreds Of People This Winter

Matt Lillywhite

A deadly winter storm left two million Texan households without power for several days (or, in some cases, weeks) earlier this year. Sadly, 700 people died as a result of the freezing temperatures and harsh conditions. Now, some experts believe the local power grid is on the brink of collapse and that a future winter storm could be a lot more devastating than anything Texas has ever seen.

Here's Why The Texas Power Grid Is Vulnerable.

During the winter storm earlier this year, "185 generating units, including gas and coal-fired power plants, tripped offline during the brunt of the storm. Wind turbines in West Texas froze as well, and a nuclear unit near the Gulf of Mexico went down for more than 48 hours. Another problem emerged: Some power plants lost their pipeline supply of gas and couldn't generate electricity even if they wanted to capture the high prices," according to the Wall Street Journal.

Previous attempts to fix flaws in the state's enormous electric grid, which is separated from the rest of the country, have been ignored, rejected, or watered down by lawmakers and regulators, including the PUC and the business-friendly Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees the oil and gas sector. For example, a federal report found that electricity providers and natural gas producers had not adequately prepared their facilities for cold weather by neglecting to build additional insulation, windbreaks, and heaters.

"A significant percentage of these folks died due to lack of electricity. Some people literally froze to death," said Rich Glick, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman. "In this day and age, we have people who froze to death due to power outages. That's beyond acceptable."

Texas Is Woefully Unprepared For Another Winter Storm.

The Texas power grid could quickly collapse and millions of people could be left without electricity if major flaws aren't fixed before another winter storm arrives. "We are not ready for this winter," said Doug Lewin, head of Stoic Energy, an Austin-based consulting firm. He claims that natural gas companies, which generate roughly half of the electricity used in the state's system, can bypass some laws.

Lewin also added that regulators have the power to implement rules quickly. However, he says they haven't taken any concrete steps to fix many problems within the Texas power grid. "There was a failure in advance of last February. That failure, unfortunately, is being compounded by incompetence."

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