Politics and false state pride caused the worst disaster in Texas history (Part I)

by Gus Mercado

Ice and snow blanket Texas cities | Screengrabbed by G. Mercado

Gus Mercado

The midnight scene was apocalyptic at the height of the shocking ice storm that blanketed most of Texas, a geographically more significant state than California, and usually seldom sees snow. There was dreadful silence as thick snow and ice covered the cities and fields. More than 4 million people were without power to light and heat homes at one time or another. Before they cut off the water supply, water pressure was low, making the water undrinkable. People struggled to survive, boiling water if they could find some. The 600-bed homeless shelter of the Salvation Army near downtown Dallas was full. Hospitals cannot function well, and prisons cannot flush their toilets. Many, including small children, had died from hypothermia. Of those who, in desperation, turned on their car’s engines to get some heat, some died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Others tore down wooden parts of their house and burned them in their fireplaces along with furniture and babies’ cribs for warmth.

The temperature in North, East, and Central Texas dipped to as low as 3 degrees Fahrenheit, which felt like minus 10 degrees, bursting pipes and sending roofs crashing from the sheer weight of solid ice. Forty people are reported dead. In Austin, my son Amiel, whose camper’s ingenuity helped him survive, did not have power for 45 hours and had to evacuate on the fourth day of the blizzard. There was no escape as the icy roads were treacherous, and many flights at the airports were grounded.

In terms of destruction, according to insurance companies’ estimates, the cost of this catastrophe may exceed the $125 billion worth of Hurricane Harvey as the worst natural disaster in Texas history. It was a double whammy for the beleaguered Texans, as the lone star state was still suffering from the pandemic when the ice storm nightmare came. The crisis also delayed the distribution of anti-COVID vaccines.

Politicians are to blame

“In the much-touted Energy Capital of the World, it was a massive embarrassment to the state officials for their private and unregulated state power grid to fail and cause so much suffering.”

They could not prevent unpredictable ice storms, and the reality of Climate Change has turned the earth upside down, raining ice, fires, hurricanes, and tornadoes in the most unlikely places. They could have prevented Texas’s destruction and suffering if the shameless and proud politicians had not bungled their jobs and abused their authority. In the much-touted Energy Capital of the World, it was a massive embarrassment to the state officials for their private and unregulated state power grid to fail and cause so much suffering.

The historic energy failure problem found its roots in the early 2000s when then-Governor Rick Perry was unsuccessfully running for President. In his swagger, Perry boasted that Texas was so independently prosperous and self-reliant that if it decided to secede from the Union, it would be more profitable and more powerful than the remaining states. The Texas constitution has a provision that it could secede from the Union if Texas citizens so decide. Be that as it may, doing so and declaring independence from the US would be foolhardy and may even be disastrous, as the last winter storm debacle has demonstrated. The phrase ‘no man is an island’ expresses the idea that human beings do not perform well when isolated from others and need to be part of a community to thrive, rings real here. No state can be autonomous and ignore the rest of the country and expect to succeed. The 50 united states have symbiotic relationships with one another, whether they like it or not.

“The proud and myopic creators of ERCOT never imagined that their system would fail. “How can the energy capital of the world fail?” bragged the state officials. Well, it did, and it failed miserably.”

Nonetheless, Rick Perry and the state Republicans managed to do things independently with sheer disregard and scorn for standard rules and regulations that naturally have to be coordinated by the Federal government. Perry even went further and proposed the abolition of the Energy Department. Thus, “to avoid and circumvent Federal guidelines and regulations,” they created Texas’ independent power grid called ERCOT (for Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

While two interdependent national grids power the rest of the country, interconnected to prevent significant failures in any state, the Texas grid stands on its own, unable to be backed up by the national grids when needed. The proud and myopic creators of ERCOT never imagined that their system would fail. “How can the energy capital of the world fail?” bragged the state officials. Well, it did, and it failed miserably. (To be continued)


About the Author: Gus Mercado is a 40-year resident of Texas and a well-known Fil-Am business and civic leader in Dallas, Texas. He founded the popular Filipino Leaders Coalition of North Texas (FILCON). He is a recipient of the Presidential BANAAG award for outstanding community service. Reactions to this article may be sent to gusmercadotx@gmail.com.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, and do not represent the views of the Philippine Daily Mirror. We reserve the right to exclude comments submitted in response to this article, which is inconsistent with our editorial standards.

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