The Lone Star State is seeing record-breaking low temperatures, leaving millions without power, heat and water, and at least 17 deaths. The entire state has been placed under a winter storm warning, something that has never occurred in Texas’ history. Over 3.1 million Texans have lost electricity due to the freezing temperatures, according to PowerOutage.us.
Students currently taking classes remotely in Texas are affected by the winter storm, as power outages knock out internet service. Berkeley Bearden, a student at Texas Christian University TCU in Fort Worth, has no power, making attending classes more difficult than ever before.
“We couldn’t do school, so that was kind of stressful for us, because it wasn’t automatically canceled. It was kind of up to the discretion of teachers, and we couldn’t get on [online],” said Bearden. “My computer was dead. My phone was about to die. So I was like, ‘What do I do?’”
Bill Magness, the President and CEO of Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the power grid for 90% of the state of Texas, spoke at a news conference about the rolling outages.
“We are experiencing record-breaking electric demand due to the extreme cold temperatures that have gripped Texas,” said Magness to reporters on Feb. 14. “At the same time, we are dealing with higher-than-normal generation outages due to frozen wind turbines and limited natural gas supplies available to generating units.”
In response to the massive power outage, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared an investigation and legislative reform regarding ERCOT, to prevent any outage from happening again.
USC junior environmental studies major Jackson Fitzgerald is from Dallas and is currently home during the winter storm. Fitzgerald has not lost power in his apartment but he remains prepared in case of a power outage.
“I have been really religious about making sure that all of my things are plugged in. So at least I’ll have access to my phone to dial into Zoom if necessary,” said Fitzgerald. “I’m trying to make sure that I know where the flashlight, candles and blankets are in case it gets cold. My apartment building seems like it really wasn’t built to deal with these temperatures.”
The loss of power across the state is not the only concern Texans are facing. Ice has frozen over roads and interstates after large amounts of snowfall and below-freezing temperatures, making driving dangerous. On Feb. 11, the freezing temperatures caused a 133-car pile-up in Fort Worth, which left six dead and dozens injured.
Jason Sugavanam, a junior studying business administration at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said most aren’t driving because of the ice, and no rideshare services like Uber are available.
“If anybody does need to drive, if anybody has a bigger car with four-wheel drive, we’ll go pick them up or something, and just drive slowly,” Sugavanam told Annenberg Media.
TCU art studies junior Elizabeth Smith expressed her disappointment in the school’s alert system.
“[University officials] have just been kind of emailing us alerts as soon as they find them out, but it’s very spur of the moment,” said Smith.
For students across Texas facing power outages that have canceled class, there is not much to do aside from wait for the weather to improve and power to return, Sugavanam said.
“We’re kind of just hanging out. I mean, it’s kind of nice having no school because of snow, and we’ve never had this before,” said Sugavanam. “So, it’s pretty fun. We’re gonna hopefully make the most of it the next couple days.”