The historic and record-breaking winter storms that have placed Texas in a state of emergency with rampant power outages and frigid temperatures are hitting historically marginalized communities in the Lone Star State especially hard, experts warn.
Back-to-back winter storms that rolled through Texas this week have blanketed the state with massive amounts of snow. Combined with frigid temperatures well below average Texas winters, the state has been hampered with multiple emergencies — rolling blackouts, dangerous road conditions, loss of emergency services in many areas and a lack of established infrastructure to address any of these issues.
And according to The New York Times’ James Dobbins and Hiroko Tabuchi, these issues are hitting poor and minority communities within the region dramatically.
“While the rolling blackouts in Texas have left some 4 million residents without power in brutally cold weather, experts and community groups say that many marginalized communities were the first to be hit with power outages, and if history serves as a guide, could be among the last to be reconnected,” they reported. “This is particularly perilous, [community members] say, given that low-income households can lack the financial resources to flee to safety or to rebound after the disruption.”
In addition to the current crisis (which includes potential frostbite, hypothermia and even loss of life for individuals forced to spend time outdoors), there are also water shortages due to frozen or broken water mains, food insecurity and loss of income from missed work. Elsewhere, experts also worry about the long-term financial effects of the storm; since electricity in Texas is deregulated and prices fluctuate based on demand, utility bills for many of those impacted by these storms could break budgets and lead to even more financial distress.
“Whether it’s flooding from severe weather events like hurricanes or it’s something like this severe cold, the history of our response to disasters is that these communities are hit first and have to suffer the longest,” Robert Bullard, a professor at Texas Southern University and an expert on wealth and racial disparities related to the environment, said in an interview with Dobbins and Tabuchi.
“These are [the same] communities that have already been hit hardest with Covid,” he added. “They’re the households working two minimum wage jobs, the essential workers who don’t get paid if they don’t go to work.”
Things will likely get worse before they get better too, unfortunately. As the region continues to deal with the recent storms that have ravaged the area, the National Weather Service has warned of more severe storms in the coming days, including more snow and continuing frigid temperatures.
D.I. Fast Facts
Percentage of U.S. currently covered by snow
People who have been killed by the most recent winter storm in Texas