by Emma Mathew ’22 and Arshia Mathur ’22
Published Mar. 15, 2021
The recent Texas snowstorm has everyone wondering: How could such a forecast occur in a warm state like Texas? The answer: global warming. According to research about Arctic amplification, increasing temperatures can cause atmospheric patterns that produce snowfall. Moreover, global warming leads to increased evaporation, which ultimately results in increased precipitation. When the temperatures are cold enough, this precipitation is snow. This phenomenon is likely the explanation for the snowstorm in Texas.
On the first day of the snowstorm, Monday, temperatures were at an all-time low. Dallas had dipped to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, the lowest the city has seen since 1989. Many people lost power and had to duck tape their doors and windows, and due to the blackout, many residents had to seek shelter in their cars, hoping to stay warm and charge their electronics.
On Tuesday, this problem worsened as four million residents had lost power. Furthermore, officials reported a growing death toll. People suffered from hypothermia, house fires, drownings, car crashes, and carbon monoxide poisoning. Water leaks prompted San Angelo city officials to issue a boil-water and advise residents to drip their faucets to prevent frozen pipes.
On Wednesday, at least 3.4 million residents were still out of power. Meanwhile, San Antonio authorities stated that they had to refill oxygen bottles at homes as residents were quickly running out of supplies. Bursting pipes in unheated homes were also hampering water plants. Consequently, at McMurry University, students had to use water from their campus swimming pool to flush their toilets.
By Thursday, the number of residents without power significantly decreased to 290,000. However, 13.5 million people still experienced water disruptions, with several people turning to snow to use as drinking water. Grocery stores also reported food shortages, their shelves practically empty.
Due to food shortages, more than 500 cars lined up on Friday morning at the San Antonio Food Bank. Its headquarters distributed bread, peanut butter, cakes, potatoes, onions, and other fresh produce to those who entered. However, there were still 190,000 homes and businesses without power. Water disruptions also persisted, with hospitals using rainwater to flush their toilets and people melting snow to use in their bathtubs. Furthermore, Austin lost 325 million gallons of water because of burst pipes.
On Saturday, the number of homes left without power decreased to 85,000. Biden also approved the federal emergency declaration, which offered more resources to the state. However, the number of people experiencing water disruptions escalated from 13.5 million to 15 million, about half of Texas’s population.
The devastating winter storm left millions without power, heat, food, and water. The storm also had detrimental effects on COVID-19 relief efforts, disrupting food banks and vaccine shipments. Arguably the greatest disaster in Texas’s history, the storm left the Lone Star State shivering in the cold.