Public health officials have been cautioning residents about hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning in recent days. Approximately 70 deaths have been attributed to the snow, ice and frigid temperatures nationwide, according to the Associated Press. More than a dozen were people –including an 11-year-old boy – who perished in homes that had lost their heat.
Most of the deaths were in Texas. But on Saturday, Louisiana health officials confirmed the deaths of two more people as a result of severe winter conditions, bringing the total number of deaths in the state to five.
ERCOT’s failure to recognize the gravity of the approaching extreme weather ensured Texas was going to rely on wind turbines to keep operating and supplying vital electricity to the Texas grid. It also meant back-up natural gas and coal power plants weren’t expecting and weren’t prepared to come online in case of wind turbine failure.
When the wind turbines froze, disaster quickly ensued. As many as 4.3 million people were soon left without power in deadly frigid temperatures. Rolling blackouts led to increased demand on the natural gas system, so much so that Texas shut off gas exports to Mexico, resulting in 4.7 million people without power there. ERCOT said the Texas grid was “seconds or minutes” away from a blackout that could have lasted months.
This tragedy was long in the making, foreseen, and avoidable.