Never have we been so happy to see the sun. After nearly a week of snow, ice and bitter cold, we were ready to move past the winter storms of last week.
By now, most of the ice is melted and the snow is gone. Power is being restored to the last few homes without it. Life is picking up.
Last week, we added some brave folks to our list of heroes. First, the utility crews that literally worked around the clock to keep power flowing and to restore electricity to homes that had lost it. It was cold, hard, dangerous work, and we cannot begin to thank all of them for working so magnificently.
Of course, they could not solve the rolling blackouts that left so many Texans without power, some for several days. We all bear some responsibility for that. After a bitter winter storm in 2011, a government study examined the causes of the blackouts during that winter weather and made recommendations that our state’s energy sources — most of them privately owned — winterize their systems to prevent future blackout situations. The cost of that winterization was expensive in 2011, and certainly is much more expensive a decade later.
Unfortunately, while the study made several recommendations, there were no mandates attached to it. Lawmakers and governors were reluctant to order the upgrades or to offer any state assistance with the massive costs of making them. As deregulated energy industry providers competed to sell electricity at the lowest cost, the recommendations to winterize the system were forgotten — until last week.
Once again, Texas families paid the price for this neglect.
Further compounding the problem was the state’s resistance to federal regulation. To avoid that, the state set up ERCOT to manage electrical use completely within the Texas borders, away from federal reach. Much of the state is covered by ERCOT, which, unlike in other states, cannot reach out to other states for help with our energy needs in an emergency. Other states with multistate systems can reach out when help is needed. Many of them that experience regular winter storms have winterized their electric generating systems, and they rarely experience the blackouts we suffered last week.
As the weather outside continues to warm and the sun continues to shine, we must not forget the lessons of winter storm 2021. It is natural when disasters happen to push forward once they end, rebuild our lives and look to the future and not to the past. The lessons we learned quickly are forgotten — until the next disasters occurs.
Our lawmakers need to study what happened and its causes and to mandate requirements to prevent it from happening again. Texas power consumers must be willing to pay the additional cost for electricity to ensure we can avoid similar problems in the future.
And Texas must get over its fear of federal regulations so we can partner with other states to help in future disasters. Such reticence has stunted state growth, harming rather than helping Texans.
All that said, our power crews proved how much we rely on them day in and day out to keep electricity flowing to our homes and businesses.
Other heroes worked to keep our roads passable. Even though most Texans wisely stayed home if they could, some of us had to be out on the roads. Our road crews went above and beyond to ensure our roads were as safe as possible.
We have to take a moment to thank our Eagle staff for their hard work under extremely difficult circumstances. Despite several power outages, our staff soldiered on to provide a digital Eagle on time every day. And when power was consistent, The Eagle was able to print a paper again. The information The Eagle provided online and in print shows once again just how critical a newspaper is to the life of the community.
We also send praise and a thank you to Shel Winkley and his crew at KBTX-TV and Christopher Nunley and his crew at KAGS-TV. They, too, worked ’round the clock to keep the Brazos Valley up to date on the weather and what was to come.
Finally, we have to thank the good people of the Brazos Valley for doing what they could to minimize the dangers and discomfort of the winter storms. You simply are the best, and we are proud to serve in bad weather and good.