Harris County suffered the worst effects of Winter Storm Uri in Texas, new report finds

Houstonians who felt that they were perhaps bearing more of a burden than the rest of Texas during the February 2021 freeze clearly were not imagining it, a new study finds. The impacts of Winter Storm Uri were far more severe in Harris County, according to a new report by the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston.

Notably, more than nine out of every 10 residents of Harris County lost electrical power at some point between the storm’s run from February 14-20. That’s about 91 percent — significantly higher than the 64 percent of Texas’ 212 counties that lost electricity within the Texas Electrical Grid, which is managed by the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

(Harris County residents reported to be without power for an average of 49 hours, per the study.)

Meanwhile, almost two-thirds of Harris County residents lost running water — some 65 percent, much higher than the 44 percent of other Texas residents. Worse, where and when running water was available, taps produced water that was undrinkable, the study adds.

The full report, dubbed “The Effects of the Winter Storm of 2021 in Harris County,” is available here. Comparisons of storm experiences in Harris County and the rest of Texas can be found here, per the school. Another repot from the Hobby School found that 70 percent of Texans lost power during the storm.

Other findings include:

  • Harris County residents were significantly more likely than other Texans to lose cell phone service, suffer food spoilage, and have difficulty finding a plumber. Financial loss was also more common here than elsewhere in Texas.

  • Two of every five Harris County respondents suffered water damage from pipes that burst because of the freeze.

  • About three-quarters of Harris County respondents believe developing alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar, is the biggest priority in protecting the country’s energy supply. That’s markedly more than the mere 27 percent of participants who believe the current main priority should be oil and natural gas exploration and production.

This survey was fielded by YouGov between March 9-19, 2021, with 1,500 YouGov respondents, according to UH.

“These survey results point to significant ways we can respond more effectively, should a similar disaster threaten in the future,” said Kirk P. Watson, founding dean of the Hobby School, in a statement. “Local authorities can make use of this information to help maximize investments in weatherizing utility infrastructure that can protect Harris County residents.”

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