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A new storm hits Texas but not everyone is over last year's ordeal

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to focus now on a winter storm that is rolling across the Midwest and the Plains today, shutting down interstates in the U.S., canceling flights and closing schools. And we're going to look at what might happen when it hits the state of Texas because you might remember that last winter, after a big storm, the power grid effectively collapsed. The power was out for many days, as a result. Water pipes froze and almost 250 people died across the state. This year, the Texas power company ERCOT has already put Texans on alert for freezing temperatures and high demand for energy. We're going to bring in Michael Evans now. He's the mayor of Mansfield, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. Mayor Evans, thanks for being here.

MICHAEL EVANS: Good morning. Thank you for having me, Rachel.

MARTIN: So Texas has this winter storm warning. It lasts until this evening. What can you tell us about the conditions where you are right now?

EVANS: Well, I can tell you this - that we continue to have sleet and freezing rain, so no snow yet, which means that we may have accumulations of ice as high as a quarter inch, which is a whole lot for this area. And when you look outside, you can see that the ground is covered not with snow but with ice, which is somewhat of your worst nightmare.

MARTIN: Explain why. Why is the ice even more hazardous than a lot of snow?

EVANS: Well, because you can't always see it on the ground, especially if you get what we call here the black ice conditions. So you are traveling - and us Texans, we don't get it as much. We don't get this snow and sleet as much, especially the North Texas area. So quite a few people still attempt to drive at posted speeds. And that just does not make for a good combination. And we have a lot of slipping and sliding taking place. So the driving conditions are quite hazardous.

MARTIN: And, of course, let me just ask, I mean, it's going to be so cold. Tell us, what have you learned from the experience last year with all those power outages?

EVANS: Well, you know, we learned some great lessons last year. One is we had quite a few problems with the - with busted pipes and those kinds of things. So a lot of people invested in generators for their homes, the small ones as well as the larger ones. Most of us now have learned to keep our faucets running and open the bottom cabinets to keep the pipes warm. Even our city for the first time in our 131 years of existence, we bought a snow plow attachment, and we've not had that. But, you know, again, these are lessons learned, and we have our staff out now. They are still trying to clear the streets and keep them salted. So that's - those are some hard lessons that we learned on the last time. And we're hoping that the power grid can withstand the subfreezing temperatures. So we're just all kind of sitting around with bated breath, fingers crossed, prayers and everything else that we can call upon to make sure that everything is going to work this time.

MARTIN: In just seconds remaining, are you satisfied with how the power company ERCOT is preparing for this?

EVANS: Well, you know what? I would say yes. We couldn't get a 100% guarantee that we wouldn't have power outages, but they gave us a 70% thumbs up. So we'll take that. But thus far, I've gotten no calls from any of our residents that they've had outages. So I think we're going to take that. That's going to be a thumbs up.

MARTIN: You take the win where you can.

EVANS: You bet.

MARTIN: Mayor Michael Evans of Mansfield, Texas, bracing for the storm. Thank you, sir. We appreciate your time.

EVANS: Thank you so much, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.