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Freeze Brings Finger Pointing and Being Left Out

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The Texas Tribune

On Thursday, Texas lawmakers investigating this month’s devastating power outages during a massive winter storm grilled officials with the state’s power grid operator and questioned whether state regulators did enough. Officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas avoided taking full responsibility for the outages that left millions without power in subfreezing temperatures and disrupted water service for large swaths of the state. 

Energy executives, utility company bosses and a meteorologist were also among those who discussed the outages with lawmakers, who created the state’s electricity system. Watch today’s Texas House and Senate hearings here, starting at 9 a.m. Central. 

Rural counties endured the same storm as big cities, but many are currently not under President Joe Biden’s major disaster declaration. Now only residents in 108 Texas counties can receive individual assistance for some of the damages that their insurance policies won’t cover. In the 146 counties not yet approved by the Biden administration, the wait is nerve-wracking. Officials say it’s because those counties lack data on damages. Their only hope for assistance is from volunteer groups, and they can only do so much. 

Too few plumbers and parts: After last week’s winter storm, many Texans need plumbers. But too few Texans want to be plumbers. A shortage of skilled trade workers — plumbers, electricians and the like — has been growing in the state for the past decade, and that is exacerbating problems for those seeking help with broken pipes and damaged water heaters. The long-term shortage stems from an expectation that young people go to college and a culture of disrespect for blue-collar industries, experts say. Plus, the state’s low minimum wage keeps plumbers from moving to Texas and young people from entering the industry. 

Even if Texans find professionals to hire, parts are in short supply. Many of the companies that make parts, pipes and tools had already cut back production because of the pandemic, putting a strain on the supply chain even before the power and water crises in Texas. To make matters worse, consumers have to worry about the scams and price gouging that typically follow a disaster. Read the full story by the Tribune’s Duncan Agnew. 

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