Despite starting to move away from the metaphorical storm that was the year 2020, the new year 2021 has brought a whole new concern to climate change, as a terrifying winter storm covered the United States from coast to coast. From February 12 to 16, a blanket snow-draped the country for a solid week, with the most damaging snowfall in the South, Midwest, and Northeast.
While many areas in the Northeast have lived through various snowstorms in the past decades, century-long records were broken in the South. According to the Weather Channel, Austin, Texas, received 6.4 inches of snow, the heaviest snowfall since 1949. On top of that, from the same record since 72 years ago, Texas reached similar drops of minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit, close to the record of minus 8 degrees.
Hurricane Harvey, which decimated Texas's Gulf Coast region, still cost $125 billion to repair damages in 2017. Winter Storm Uri could potentially surpass those costs, having touched every Texas region in comparison to only one. Millions of Texans were left without power or water for several days to weeks, along with dozens of casualties and deaths.
Since Monday, February 22, a total of $100 million has been spent on the storm for specifically emergency costs between state agencies and local governments. The cost of damage is still unknown to the public.
Texas was completely unprepared for the sudden storm that shook the nation, its citizens, and its economic growth. An arid, warm region that Texas usually holds is perfect for yielding crops annually, but Uri destroyed crops by freezing them for several days over. In horticulturist Juan Anciso's perspective, the state lost not just a large amount of vegetables but also citrus trees, which will take years to recover from the frostbite.
How are Texans holding up in their own homes? Kellie, a Texan who has lived in Houston, Texas, has never experienced a winter storm like Uri for almost nine years. "The first day of the winter, right? It was around Monday morning, around 2am," Kellie said. "I was expecting them to bring the power around in the morning … but this time … a lot of people were out of power … we didn't have candles, we didn't have any heater … everything was electric in the house, and it was so so cold."
Kellie's apartment did not have good insulation, nor would they necessarily need good insulation in a typical Texas climate. "The apartment… it was like as cold as it was outside," Kellie said. "I might as well be sleeping outside, to be honest."
From Monday to Saturday, it took six days for Kellie to receive power back in her apartment. She described that there were times where the power flickered on for 30 minutes but then would disappear for the rest of the night. "Texas is not meant for winter," Kellie expressed. "You wouldn't think to have gas, or a heater, or something that doesn't use electricity."
Whether or not this weather has anything to do with climate change, the speculation is in the air. "I just feel like everything is connected … it might be leaning towards global warming," Kellie said. "I hope the government will learn from this incident. Anything is possible … keep that 1% and prepare for it when it does happen."
It feels like 2020 continues into the new year with these catastrophic events, but we can only hope that this is just the end and not the beginning.