The effects of a punishing winter storm that left thousands of San Antonio-area residents without power or water for days will be felt for a long time, say officials looking for answers into why infrastructure failed during the crisis.
Meanwhile, San Antonio officials have been setting up an emergency fund to help residents recovering from property damage, as have other agencies.
Municipal and state leaders also have demanded accountability from state government and energy providers, saying utilities must do a better job ensuring customers stay safe during prolonged periods of harsh cold.
San Antonio achieved record low temperatures — all below freezing — Feb. 14-16, and two of the biggest snowfalls in at least 36 years.
Spurred by a unprecedented high demand for power, CPS Energy and other providers statewide were ordered by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s grid operator, to implement rolling blackouts to stabilize Texas’ energy supply.
But rolling blackouts, coupled with damaged or frozen equipment, produced outages lasting days, exacerbating conditions and frustrating customers.
San Antonio, Castle Hills and Converse opened public facilities as temporary warming centers, while several churches did the same.
Because of power outages, water utilities such as the San Antonio Water System struggled to address low pressure or outages across many service areas, such as Castle Hills and Stone Oak.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg promised San Antonio will help residents, many of whom now face the prospect of repairing broken water pipes and other damage.
“There’s going to be an infrastructure issue that we need all hands on deck for,” he said.
The City Council has grilled leaders of SAWS and CPS Energy, both city-owned utilities, saying the agencies should have been better prepared ahead of the storm, and must do better to communicate with customers in emergencies.
“Our residents expect and deserve better. I think my colleagues agree that we intend to do all we can to ensure that we aren’t in this vulnerable situation the next time a cold wave hits our city,” said the mayor.
Nirenberg, his counterparts and Gov. Greg Abbott also slammed ERCOT for its response to the severe wintry weather. Abbott asked state lawmakers to order and fund winterizations of power plants and other equipment statewide.
“What happened is absolutely unacceptable and can never be replicated again,” Abbott said.