As Texas continues to thaw out after last week’s deep freeze, local leaders in the state are calling for investigations in the hopes of avoiding widespread disaster in the future.
Frigid temperatures and heavy snow and ice brought the state to a standstill last week, shutting off power to millions of homes and businesses and leaving some Texans to freeze to death.
The Associated Press reports that more than 70 people died last week across the country due to a treacherous winter storm. Many of those deaths occurred in Texas — reports indicate that some in the state died of hypothermia in their own homes, others died when they sparked fires in houses or ran cars in garages in an attempt to stay warm.
Temperatures in Houston reached into the 70s on Sunday, allowing southern Texas to thaw out for the first time since early last week. But the crisis is far from over.
Lack of power and freezing temperatures wreaked havoc with the state’s plumbing and sewer infrastructure, bursting pipes and cracking water mains. As of Sunday at 10 a.m. local time, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality reports that 12 million people in the state remain under orders to boil tap water before drinking.
President Joe Biden over the weekend declared a “major disaster” in Texas, making more emergency funds available to the state. He’s expected to visit the state later this week to view the damage.
Political leaders in the state have already begun pointing fingers at those who may be responsible for the disaster. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has placed the blame on the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ECROT), the operator of the state electrical grid.
"They said, five days before the winter storm hit, ERCOT assured that 'we are ready for the cold temperatures coming our way,'" Abbott said. "…the way ERCOT works, it's a complex entity that is a private entity that is in charge of managing power across the state and we have to rely upon these experts to advise us what must be done."
But Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, says the disaster was "foreseeable and preventable" and added that blame should extend beyond the ERCOT.
"ERCOT is an agency of the state, of Texas,” Turner told MSNBC on Thursday night. “What happened this week is a failure not just of ERCOT but of the statewide leadership, state representatives, state senators who didn't do enough to make the necessary structural changes to prevent what took place this week."