New Report Details Impact of Winter Storm Uri on Texans

UH Hobby School Survey Finds Widespread Disapproval of ERCOT, Majority Oppose Paying Fee for Generator Weatherization

winter storm
Winter Storm Uri left close to 4.5 million Texas homes and businesses without power at its peak.

More than two out of three Texans – 69% – lost electricity at some point during Winter Storm Uri last month for an average of 42 hours, while almost half – 49% – lost access to running water for an average of more than two days, according to a report released today by the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston. Nearly one-third of people reported water damage in their home.

The Hobby School conducted the online survey of Texas residents 18 and older who live in the 213 counties served by the Texas Electrical Grid, which is managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

Almost three out of four Texans – 74% – disapprove of ERCOT’s performance during the winter storm, with 65% strongly disapproving, compared to only 6% who approve, according to the survey. Seventy-eight percent do not believe that the power outages in their area were carried out in an equitable manner. Seven ERCOT board members resigned following the near total failure of the state’s power grid.

“Winter Storm Uri was a catastrophic weather event that impacted millions of lives across our state. By digging deeper into its impact on Texans, we are learning critical information that will help inform future plans so a tragedy of this magnitude never happens again,” said Kirk P. Watson, founding dean of the Hobby School.  

Winter Storm Uri began to hit parts of Texas on February 13 and its onslaught left close to 4.5 million homes and businesses without power at its peak, killing more than a hundred people while producing an estimated $295 billion in damage.

Other notable findings:

  • 61% of Texans prepared for the storm by buying additional food, 58% bought bottled water and 55% filled their vehicle with gas. The next most common preparations were insulating pipes, covering or moving plants and storing tap water.
  • 75% had difficulty obtaining food or groceries, 71% lost internet service and 63% had difficulty obtaining bottled water.
  • When they lost electrical power and heat, 18% left their home with 44% going to a local relative’s home.
  • Among those Texans who remained in their home without power, 26% used their gas oven or cooktop as a source of heat, 8% used a grill or smoker indoors and 5% used an outdoor propane heater indoors.
  • Almost half of Texans disapprove of Gov. Greg Abbott’s performance during the winter storm, compared to 28% who approve.
  • More than half relied either a great deal, somewhat, or a little on three information sources before, during and after the storm hit: 68% on local TV news; 63% on neighbors and friends; and 55% on The Weather Channel.

The entire Hobby School report is available here

In order to ensure Texas doesn’t suffer a repeat of 2021, more than three-quarters of residents support four policy reforms, which include requiring electricity generators to weatherize and boost their reserve capacity and natural gas companies to weatherize in order to be able to participate in the Texas market. 

“There is considerable support of more rigorous oversight of electric utilities in Texas,” said Renée Cross, senior director of the Hobby School.  “These proposed reforms enjoy bi-partisan support with backing by more than four-fifths of Democrats and three-fourths of Republicans in the state.”

Substantial majorities of Texans, however, oppose proposals that would require consumers pay an additional fee in order to fund electricity generator weatherization efforts and to increase the amount of reserve electricity generation capacity.

“It’s notable that more than half of residents are unwilling to pay any additional amount on their monthly electricity bill to safeguard the Texas electrical grid from severe weather with only 14% willing to pay an additional $10 a month,” said Mark P. Jones, a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute and a Hobby School senior research associate.

The survey was fielded by YouGov between March 9-19, 2021 with 1,500 YouGov respondents, resulting in a confidence interval of +/-2.5.  The respondents were matched to a sampling frame on gender, age, ethnicity/race, and education and are representative of the adult population in these 213 Texas counties.