Rich in both fossil fuels and self-confidence, Texas has long been devoted to its singular power grid, rejecting federal electricity regulation and the kinds of shared high-voltage connections with neighboring states that can be found across most of the country.

Warnings over decades that confidence in the grid was misplaced were ignored by top officials, and largely as a result Texas is entering its fourth day with widespread power failures after a severe cold snap and snowstorm.

In 1989, punishing cold weather that caused power failures across the state led to a federal study that spelled out how to avoid such a disaster in the future, by winterizing equipment the way more northern power companies do.

In 2011, after Arctic weather caused a series of rolling blackouts, the Federal Electricity Regulatory Commission (FERC) produced another report that warned Texas power companies and regulators again that they had to winterize their equipment. “The single largest problem during the cold weather event was the freezing of instrumentation and equipment,” it said.

That report, like the earlier one, was largely ignored.

“I am extremely frustrated that 10 years later our electric grid remains so ill-equipped for these weather events,” said the state comptroller, Glenn Hegar (R), who as a state legislator sponsored a bill a decade ago to prod the electric companies into preparing for winter. The bill passed but had little effect.

“We must address why, after 10 years have passed, are we in a worse position today than in 2011.”

The regulatory recriminations are coming after cold and snow that blew in over the weekend led to a much sharper spike in demand than the state’s electricity dispatching agency had anticipated, and at the same time the cold caused the equipment needed to run power generators to freeze up. One power plant after another went offline, and utilities had to “shed load,” or cut off customers, to keep the whole system from crashing….


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When St. David’s South Austin Medical Center ran out of water and lost heat on Wednesday amid a historic cold burst in Texas, the hospital was forced to ask staffers to use trash bags to remove feces from toilets, KVUE reported.

That dire scene captured a growing crisis for hospitals in the state. As millions of Texans remain without power for what could be days, hospitals throughout Texas have now lost water and heat, leaving doctors scrambling to conserve resources and coronavirus vaccine shots while caring for vulnerable residents.

Some are now moving patients to other facilities for their safety — if they can find anywhere with the ability to take them amid an ongoing pandemic and power emergency.

“No one hospital currently has the capacity to accept transport of a large number of patients,” David Huffstutler, CEO of St. David’s HealthCare, told The Washington Post in a statement early Thursday….


top image…Credit…Mark Felix for The New York Times

bottom image…Ambulances are lined up to transport patients from St. David’s South Austin Medical Center to other area hospitals on Wednesday. The building began losing heat due to low water pressure. (Bronte Wittpenn/Austin American-Statesman/AP)