Winter Storm Blackouts Take Toll on Aledo

Furniture+and+equipment+line+the+halls+of+McAnally+Intermediate+following+flooding+caused+by+burst+pipes+during+last+week%27s+snow+storm.

Furniture and equipment line the halls of McAnally Intermediate following flooding caused by burst pipes during last week’s snow storm.

Olivia Caggiano and Brinklee Stegall

Last week, a severe snowstorm hit Texas, causing 4.5 million Texans to lose power and exposing major shortfalls in the state’s electricity grid. 

While the rest of the Lower 48 states operate on two nationwide grids, the Eastern Interconnection and the Western Interconnection, Texas operates on its own independent grid, ERCOT. ERCOT is run by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Texas avoided federal regulation on its grid in 1935 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Power Act. The act gave oversight of interstate electricity sales to the Federal Power Commission. Because Texas was not connected via electrical grid to any other state at the time, they avoided federal regulations. In order to stay clear of these regulations, Texas remained on its own grid until present day.

Because of the usually mild Texas climate, power companies across the state ignored numerous warnings, following the winter storms in 2011 and 2014, to winterize their facilities. 

When last week’s snowstorm hit, 46,000 megawatts of power were taken off the grid because of power-generating failures. Aledo was hit hard, with many residents losing power and water for anywhere from two days to a full week. 

Junior Kyla Stevens, who lives south of Stuard Elementary in Annetta, was left without power and water for 4 days. “We went and stayed with some friends for three days,” Stevens said. “But, we went back every day to check on our pets and make sure they were warm. It got down to 50 degrees inside our house.” Stevens’ family also made the drive to pick up groceries for the friends they stayed with.

Some neighborhoods fared worse than others. Walsh Ranch was without power for three full days, but the neighboring subdivision Morningstar only had power flickers.

Because of the lack of insulation in Texas homes and buildings, pipes froze quickly and burst as temperatures dropped. 

McAnally Intermediate, Aledo Middle School, and Vandagriff Elementary all had pipes burst, causing water damage, with the most severe being flooding at McAnally. School was canceled on Fri. Feb. 19 in order to give the maintenance, custodial, technology, police, and cafeteria staff time to assess and repair the damage so the students could come back and start learning again, as quickly and as safely as possible. 

This past week, power returned to almost everyone and temperatures climbed again, reaching 81 degrees. Despite the warm temperatures, the residents of Aledo continue to hold their breath as state legislators attempt to handle the crisis, hold electrical companies accountable, and prevent this from ever happening again.