Winter storms devastate the south, impacting virtual learning for Hampton students

William Paul Ellis | Staff Writer

The Trinity River is mostly frozen after a snow storm Monday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Fort Worth, Texas. A frigid blast of winter weather across the U.S. has left more than 2 million people in Texas without power. (Yffy Yossifor/Star-Telegram via AP)

Concurrent winter storms that swept much of the continental United States has left millions throughout the south without power or water for several days, according to The Associated Press

The impact of the winter storms was widespread, with many communities still feeling the aftershock of the weather. 

For many Hampton University students, power outages from the winter storms created a new obstacle for virtual learning. 

Mariah Smith, a sophomore economic major from Houston, Texas, says that living through a utilities crisis while being a student was not just an inconvenience, but it was highly stressful. 

“The power and water outage was [sic] very stressful for my family,” Smith said. “Spending most of the day in the dark with limited food and water was very mentally taxing.” 

Furthermore, Smith feels the severity of the situation was not completely respected by her professors. 

“The power outage caused me to miss days of classes,” she said. “Accommodations were not made by professors once I reached out to them. The vast majority of them did not respond to the emails.”

For Brianna Cry, a senior kinesiology major from Jackson, Mississippi, a lack of power and water for multiple days further exacerbated her angst connected to an atypical final year at Hampton. 

“Of course, being engaged in online learning this year has been somewhat difficult for most students,” Cry said. “But not having power, water or internet for days has left me with a lot of assignments to catch up on during my last weeks of college. 

The storms, known unofficially as Winter Storm Uri and Winter Storm Viola, left deep southern states such as Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi covered in ice—a rarity for this region. This most notably led to a power outage crisis in Texas, caused by an Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) infrastructure failure, according to a report from CBS. 

According to its website, ERCOT is a nonprofit corporation that operates Texas’ electrical grid and supplies power for more than 90 percent of the state’s electrical needs. 

ERCOT is unique in being the only deregulated energy market in the nation, meaning that it is completely disconnected from the national power grid and was ultimately unable to borrow power from other states. 

The domino effect of a power outage not only led to food and water shortages but is also connected to dozens of deaths according to the Texas Tribune

The impact of the winter storms was widespread, with many communities still feeling the aftershock of the weather. 

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