Last week the United States saw record snow and cold temperatures in most of the Midwest. Southern states such as Texas and Oklahoma that don’t see severely cold weather very often were woefully unprepared as the severe weather caused people to lose power and water for days.
Missouri was similarly affected by the weather and saw power outages and temperatures below zero with wind chills as low as minus 20 degrees in Maryville.
Due to freezing temperatures at Northwest, all classes were canceled Feb. 15 while in-person classes were canceled the next day. However, internet issues caused by energy problems made it hard for some students to attend online class or get work done.
The weather also caused more severe issues than power outages and internet trouble at Northwest. The cold temperatures caused a pipe to freeze and then burst in the Garrett-Strong Science Building.
Although this can be normal weather for some parts of Missouri, we still saw weather that is usually rare. Missouri City Mayor Robin Elackatt said that we were dealing with first-of-its-kind weather that we haven’t seen in 30 years.
Missouri is accustomed to harsh winters, but when you combine a severe weather event with a once in a lifetime pandemic, things can get difficult.
Due to the weather, vaccine distribution in Missouri and other parts of the country was delayed. Some Missourians were unable to receive their first or second doses of the vaccine due to the storm.
Many states had to deal with two crises at once, both of which we never imagined would be this bad.
Why did this storm seem worse than usual? Climate change.
What we are seeing is something called a polar vortex, which is what happens when the Arctic gets too warm. A polar vortex keeps cold air trapped and will usually stay around northern areas of the globe.
As many know, we can attribute this increase in warming to climate change, which has been exacerbated by human activity, according to NASA’s website on climate change.
However, due to the rapid warming of the Arctic, the cold air was pushed down south toward Texas, causing an unstable or wavy polar vortex.
What we were seeing has happened in a similar fashion in the U.S., but what makes this time different is that the cold went farther south than it ever does— 4,000 miles from the North Pole, according to an article from CBS.
Although this type of extreme cold is more normal for Missouri, it still made an impact.
Many people lost power for periods of time and were told by their power companies to reduce usage and conserve energy due to the high demand. The grid system was strained from the overuse of heat, according to Chairman of Missouri’s Public Service Commission Ryan Silvey.
Silvey also said that prevention of system failures and strain can be done by having a more robust infrastructure in the first place.
Seeing that something as simple as investing in robust infrastructure could have made the overall response to power and heat usages better makes you wonder why we didn’t invest in that infrastructure in the first place.
A Green New Deal is a congressional resolution to mobilize society to renewable energy and give people good paying jobs and a just transition to renewable energy. It’s an outline that can be adaptable to different states to meet their climate change related needs, such as preparing for abnormal and severe weather.
Climate change is an issue we all must acknowledge and work together to mitigate. Otherwise, we will continue to see extreme weather events severely impact people such as the homeless, who were completely helpless during the storm, and continue to cause problems like the burst pipe in Garrett-Strong.