Texas Deep Freeze Could Cost $90 Billion in Losses, Modeler Says

By Brian K. Sullivan | February 25, 2021

Texas’s deep freeze and power outages last week could cost as much as $90 billion in losses, and most of it could have been avoided, according to Enki Research disaster modeler Chuck Watson.

Arctic cold brought ice and sub-zero temperatures across Texas, disrupting the state’s grid and its ability to produce electricity. A lack of power meant homes and businesses were left without heat during the coldest days of the season.

Probably about 90% of the losses could have been avoided with preventive measures, Watson said, citing a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report on the state’s previous crippling cold blast a decade ago.

“To me a huge part of the story is that a few hundred million of mitigation investment over the last decade or so, since the 2011 FERC report, and a bit more planning could have probably prevented 90% of the damage,” he said.

Of his $80 billion to $90 billion estimate for direct and indirect losses, there will probably be about $35 billion in physical damages, such as water damage from burst pipes. Of that, about $20 billion will be covered by insurance.

The estimate includes $45 billion in economic losses from impacts to government accounts and disruptions to supply chains, he said.

The frigid blast that toppled the Texas electric grid was part of one of the toughest winters across the entire Northern Hemisphere in 10 years, said Todd Crawford, lead meteorologists with the Weather Co.

In December, historic cold swept across Asia and then a sudden stratospheric warming event “reshuffled the pattern and amped it up to aim the coldest weather into the central U.S. and parts of Europe.”

“Much different winter than we’ve seen in a very long time,” Crawford said. “We haven’t had an enormous hemispheric-wide extreme blocking pattern like this in 10 years.”

About the photo: Workers repair a power line in Austin, Texas, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Texas is restricting the flow of natural gas across state lines in an extraordinary move that some are calling a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause. Photographer: Thomas Ryan Allison/Bloomberg

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