A winter storm is a phenomenon in which wind meets with a variety of precipitation that only occurs at freezing temperatures, such as freezing rain or snow. It is a mixture of heavy snow and a dangerous combination of blowing snow and wind chills. A winter storm is a grave experience. These storms are typically formed when an air mass of dry, cold, Canadian air moves south. Then, it interacts with a moist, warm air mass moving north from the Gulf of Mexico. We call the point of intersection of these two air masses as a front. If cold air spreads and pushes away the warm air, it forms a cold front. When warm air spreads, it overrides denser, cold air mass to form a warm front.
If none of the air masses spread, it forms a stationary front. Winter storms originate when there is a clash of two air masses of different moist levels and temperatures. The types of winter storms are snowstorms, blizzards, lake effect storms, ice storms. Each of them has a heavy toll on the lives of the people they impact. In the United States, these snowstorms are mostly common in the upper Midwest and the Great Plains, and most parts of the country. North America and Canada experience around 10 winter storms a year, affecting 2.5 million people.
One of such horrifying winter storms caught Texas in February with the temperature there dipping below freezing levels. This temperature recorded is the lowest since the last three decades. The winter storm ‘URI’ has caused damage to the extent that President Joe Biden declared an emergency in Texas, ordering federal assistance to aid response efforts. Experts have recorded more than a dozen deaths amidst this winter storm. Even though Texas is rich with energy there is now a widespread blackout throughout the state.
This was because the low temperatures spiked the need for electricity and the primary sources of energy such as coal, nuclear, wind, solar and natural gas have been plagued by the cold and ice. Over 4.3 million people across the US have been left without power after the repeated failure of the power grid due to the high electricity demand. The abrupt decrease in the temperature also elevated the prices of natural gas and power to more than 10,000% when the storm hit.
The winter has ironically stopped the water supply in many parts of Texas due to frozen pipelines. We can see people wandering outside their houses in the search of drinking and flowing water. The blackout has made it impossible to stay inside the house without thermostats working. Hence, people have decided to huddle together around fireplaces to stay warm. The longest stretch of freezing temperatures recorded was 44 consecutive hours. Deaths are around 69 for which one can blame the cold. This winter storm in 2021 has also affected the COVID-19 vaccination process in Texas. The average inch of snow recorded in Houston this year is approximately 20 inches which has never happened before. This is the coldest winter in Texas than it ever will be.