AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As an arctic front blankets nearly all of Texas Thursday night, 30 million people brace for the unique challenges it brings their corner of the state.
The front first hit Amarillo, bringing brutal wind chills plunging the temperature into double-digit negatives. Texas’ northernmost major city is used to it, though.
“When they say there’s problems on the Texas grid, they usually mean the ERCOT region. Don’t be panicked if you hear something about that,” said Xcel Energy spokesperson Wes Reeves to affiliate KAMR. “We feel like we are in a really good position in this region to handle winter weather.”
Just south, Lubbock faced what was likely the first infrastructure failures in the state. High winds blew down power lines Thursday morning, leaving about 1,300 people briefly without power. A water main break, likely caused by the single-digit temperatures, covered a major street in ice and slush.
The power problems continued southwest to the Permian Basin, where about 600 people lost power, mostly in Odessa.
But the city possibly facing the greatest challenges is El Paso. The Red Cross is assisting the city’s strained resources to provide warm cots to as many as possible.
“Initial capacity is being set up at a thousand. We have the room to expand. The reason we didn’t expand from the get-go is because we don’t know what the population is truly going to bring,” said El Paso Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino, referencing a makeshift shelter. “The best thing we can do to prepare for these weather emergencies is to make sure that fewer people are experiencing homelessness, that they are not out on the streets.”
As the border city waited for the cold to come from the north, they face thousands of people seeking asylum from the south.
“We are suffering,” said a man, who sought entrance into the U.S., to affiliate KTSM. “Because the weather is so difficult to stay here for more than a hour, and we have been here for more than almost 20 hours.”
Far from the border, farmers and ranchers near Tyler in east Texas are worried about protecting their livestock.
“We have to make sure the pipes feeding our troughs don’t freeze,” said one rancher to affiliate KETK.
In Brownsville, officials stress responsibility with heating methods, remembering a resident who died two years ago from using a barbecue grill indoors.
“Always use your generators outside the structure. Never put your generator inside the garage or near a home… [carbon monoxide] is the deadliest gas that’s out there,” a Harlingen firefighter said.
Winter Storm Uri resulted in almost 250 deaths in February 2021, at least 19 of them attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Texas officials maintain that, unlike in Uri, the grid will remain fully operational.