SAN ANTONIO – Editor’s note: ‘Power Grid Failure: What Went Wrong’ is a collaboration between KSAT Explains and the KSAT 12 Defenders that examines the February storm and its aftermath. You can watch the full special here.
It’s been six months since the deadly February winter storm left millions across the state without power for days, and many questions about what went wrong remain unanswered. The KSAT Explains team and the Defenders have been closely following the fallout of the storm.
Here are four things we’ve learned so far:
1. Organizations across the state were not prepared for the severity of the storm.
Locally, an Emergency Preparedness Committee, formed by Mayor Ron Nirenberg, found the City of San Antonio, CPS Energy and the San Antonio Water System did not anticipate how bad the winter storm would be and how long it would last, according to the report released in June. The city, CPS Energy and SAWS have committed to improving their communication with the public and among the three. They have also committed to improving emergency plans for the next significant weather events.
2. A winter storm of this magnitude will happen again, according to experts.
The question isn’t if another winter blast could hit our region but when. Andrew Dessler, climate change expert and Texas A&M professor, said he expects these types of events to happen “every 10 or 20 years into the near future.” He stressed that the state must “mandate that the grid be hardened against the kinds of power outages that we saw.”
3. The state legislature passed two new laws to improve our power grid, but the effectiveness remains to be seen.
Senate Bill 2, which changes the makeup of the board of directors for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, and Senate Bill 3, which requires power companies to upgrade their power plants and transmission lines to withstand more extreme weather, were both passed during the regular session of the 87th Texas Legislature. In June, Gov. Greg Abbott signed them into law, saying that “everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas.” Some experts believe more change is needed to solve the power grid crisis.
4. We may never know how many people truly died during the storm.
In July, the Texas Department of State Health Services released its latest data showing 210 people died between Feb. 11 and March 5. Fourteen of those deaths happened in Bexar County. The state said most of the deaths were associated with hypothermia. Some suspect the true number of deaths to be much higher. BuzzFeed News estimates that more than 700 people across the state died.