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Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Experts say that communities of color were hit with blackouts in Texas first and are likely to face more hurdles getting help or being able to recover financially.

Why it matters: "These are communities that have already been hit hardest with COVID," Robert Bullard, a professor and expert on wealth and racial disparities related to the environment, told The New York Times. "They’re the households working two minimum wage jobs, the essential workers who don’t get paid if they don’t go to work."

The big picture: The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the flow of electric power in the state, started conducting power outages to balance the demand and supply of the electric grid.

  • But, but, but: Urban and downtown areas, which have the most affluent residents, have been almost completely exempt from blackouts, with surrounding, underprivileged neighborhoods having to endure long blackouts, some of which last days, per The Washington Post.
  • "A vivid metaphor for the state’s entrenched inequities emerged Monday night: The illuminated Texas skylines of downtown buildings and newly filled luxury hotels cast against the darkened silhouettes of freezing neighborhoods," The Post writes.

This is not the first time marginalized neighborhoods are left as the ones to bear the brunt.

  • The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic people, and this winter storm shows how they continue to be the most vulnerable.
  • "It’s not just today. It’s not just this emergency. It’s every emergency," Natasha Harper-Madison, mayor pro-tem of Austin, told The Guardian. “These are the kinds of disparities that we see on a normal basis all the time. They just happen to be amplified because of the emergency.”

The bottom line: “These communities are gonna have to go back to work in a few days, when the snow melts,” Cecilia Corral, co-founder of CareMessage, a nonprofit focused on medical undeserved areas, told The Guardian. “Who’s gonna advocate for them, so that this doesn’t happen again?”

Go deeper

Texas governor calls for emergency probe into state's power grid

Pike Electric service trucks in Fort Worth, Texas on Feb. 16. Photo: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called for an investigation into the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) on Tuesday, in the wake of a statewide power outage that has affected millions during a historic winter storm.

Why it matters: Over 3 million customers in Texas are still without power, as more freezing rain, sleet, and snow is forecast for western Texas until 9 p.m. CST, per the National Weather Service.

2 dead and millions without power in Texas as winter storm sweeps U.S.

Workers clear snow from a parking lot in Midland, Texas, U.S, on Monday. Photo: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Texas city of Abilene has had all of its water services shut off, as a deadly winter storm continues to pummel the state.

The latest: Over 4 million people across Texas were without power early Tuesday, as most of the state faced single-digit temperatures and sub-zero wind chill, according to the national utility tracker poweroutage.us.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Feb 17, 2021 - Energy & Environment

The changing climate for U.S. power

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The crisis gripping Texas' power grid is very different from California's fiery emergencies in recent years, but there's connective tissue there: Electricity grids and infrastructure need to be better equipped for a changing climate or they can have deadly consequences.

Driving the news: Texas is reeling after a bitter blast of Arctic air and a related demand surge led to widespread outages, causing millions of customers to lose power that as of this morning is only partially restored.