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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Opinion: On thin ice

Photo by Photo courtesy of Jonathan Cutrer

Opinion colomnist Zach Freeman discusses how Gov. Greg Abbot fails at  rebuilding the trust of texans following the 2021 freeze. 

Nearing the anniversary of Texas’ big freeze last February, many Texans’ anxieties and bad memories were rekindled by the prospect of another winter freeze this year.

Thankfully, last week’s hard freeze on Feb. 3 and 4 was not too unusually cold for this time of year, and the state’s grid did not feel the same strain as last year. Though, about 70,000 Texans still lost power Thursday and Friday, mostly due to frozen electric lines and failures in local energy infrastructure.

In November, Gov. Greg Abbott guaranteed that “the lights will stay on” over the Texas winter. Just two months later, he backtracked on that promise, saying “no one can guarantee” there wouldn’t be outages last week.  

Abbott’s lack of confidence in the grid during a lesser crisis speaks to how little he thinks he has done to fix last year’s issues. Not only that, the fact that Abbott can’t be trusted to not go back on past promises tests the already razor-thin level of confidence his constituents have of him.

People have not forgotten the outages. Some, like Bryan resident Charnae Meloncon, were trapped in grave conditions. For three days, she was stuck at her job, a facility for the care of the eldery and disabled. 

“My clients were afraid and some couldn’t understand what was happening,” Meloncon said. 

In the brief 30-minute intervals that power returned, Meloncon had to prepare food and attend to the home’s security system, which would blare loudly every time it reactivated. Meloncon was equipped with a single flashlight that soon ran out of power, and with no portable heater she had to ensure that the facility’s elderly residents remained bundled and safe when moving between pitch-black rooms. For Meloncon’s clients, a loss of power without her supervision could have easily meant death, she said.

It was not only the elderly at risk, as many Texas A&M students were also put under tremendous stress and uncertainty as a result of Texas’ ill-prepared energy system.

“Last year, during the freeze, my upstairs neighbor’s apartment flooded and all the water flooded into our unit,” sociology senior Gwen Howerton said. “I didn’t have power or water for days during the storm, and we ran out of food, too. It gave me and my roommates trauma. I was in therapy over it … and it put me through some financial hardship having to move so much. It definitely makes me scared for what the future holds.” 

Apartment complex maintenance had to tear insulation out of the walls and worked on it well into March, Howerton said. Eventually, the complex decided it wasn’t worth fixing the damage and broke Howerton and her roommates’ lease, forcing them to move. 

“I definitely think it could get worse,” Howerton said. “The cold snap on Thursday made me anxious because I’m worried that it’s only the beginning of a worse freeze this year. I’ve absolutely lost faith in the state’s ability to do anything at this point. We all learned so much about the reality of the Texas power grid; I didn’t even know that our grid was disconnected from the national grid until last winter.”

“It’s just all a disaster,” Howerton said.

Many Texans echo the same negative sentiments. According to the Texas Politics Project, most Texans do not trust our grid’s reliability nor the cold shoulder that we’ve been given by our leadership.

Though, amid the disaster and ice-wrought damage, Howerton still managed to find a ray of sunshine.  

“It was so nice to see the community come together last year though, to take food and clothes, to open their homes, to help strangers,” Howerton said. “I think we did see the Aggie community come together and really do what Aggies do best: helping each other. So, that’s a plus.”

Our strong bonds and willingness to help our neighbors are part of what makes Aggies and Texans great. Simply stated, these great people of Texas deserve better than broken assurances and icy scars, they deserve better than Greg Abbott. Trust is not won back easily, and a year out from disaster, Abbott has not put in the work to protect the people of Texas. As far as Texans should be concerned, Gov. Abbott is on thin ice.  

Zachary Freeman is an anthropology senior and opinion columnist for The Battalion.

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