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Today’s Headlines: The power grid problem

A man and an ice-covered fountain
City worker Kaleb Love works to clear ice from a water fountain in Richardson, Texas, on Tuesday.
(LM Otero / Associated Press)

Power blackouts amid a cold winter storm in Texas show how vulnerable the power grid is to extreme weather.

TOP STORIES

The Power Grid Problem

A deadly winter storm has gripped much of the United States, leaving millions without power in record-breaking cold weather. Texas, in particular, has been hard hit.

More than 4 million homes and businesses in the state saw their electricity shut off as temperatures dropped into the single digits, driving up demand for heating while simultaneously freezing much of the energy infrastructure that would normally keep people warm. Rolling blackouts began Monday morning and continued into Tuesday evening.

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At least 20 people were reported dead in storm-related incidents in the eastern half of the U.S., including several in Texas — and experts said it was all but certain that the death toll would rise. Harris County, home to Houston, reported hundreds of cases of carbon monoxide poisoning as people tried to stay warm by using portable generators or running their cars indoors.

The crisis is yet another example of how extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more severe as the climate crisis worsens — and how the U.S. power grid is not prepared for it. Experts say efforts to harden existing infrastructure against extreme cold — or in the case of California last year, extreme heat — won’t be enough.

Yet, as energy reporter Sammy Roth writes, California and Texas offer a preview of the risks and potential solutions in creating a power grid for the future.

For more about energy, the environment and climate from Sammy Roth, subscribe to The Times’ Boiling Point newsletter.

No Easy Answers Here

The announcement this week that Los Angeles County coronavirus rates have finally dropped low enough to allow for the immediate reopening of elementary schools is leading to an uneven return to class — fast in districts serving more affluent communities, but just one step in an arduous climb for school systems elsewhere, including in the L.A. Unified School District.

Smaller school systems in more prosperous communities — and many private schools — appear poised to quickly expand in-person instruction; many have been calling for it. But in larger districts and those serving mainly low-income areas, concerns about vaccinations for school staff and community anxiety over health risks are making for harder decisions.

Now, school leaders and families are facing difficult choices.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

Certain essential workers in L.A. County, including teachers, will become eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations starting March 1, but will probably face competition as supplies are expected to remain limited.

— Even as COVID-19 rates decline, L.A.'s Latino communities see disproportionate devastation: the death rate remains triple the rate for white residents of L.A. County.

— Two more COVID-19 vaccination supersites are opening in California, further expanding the state’s capacity to dole out doses even as supplies remain frustratingly limited. Meanwhile, Dodger Stadium and several other COVID-19 vaccination sites that were closed are set to reopen for second doses.

— Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, offered a more cautious note about when vaccines might be more fully available across the country, putting the timeline around late May or early June, instead of April. He also answered readers’ questions on “L.A. Times Today.”

A New Approach to School Policing

In a major overhaul of the Los Angeles School Police Department, the Board of Education has approved a plan that cuts a third of its officers, bans the use of pepper spray on students and diverts funds from the department to improve the education of Black students.

The unanimous decision comes after a yearlong campaign by students, activists and community members to reimagine the school police force, which they maintain disproportionately targets Black and Latino children. Their drive and recent calls to completely defund the school Police Department intensified after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

In 1933, Los Angeles County General Hospital was nearly complete. But a final test remained: Could the power supply handle the new hospital?

On Feb. 16, the architect Edwin Bergstrom led an effort to turn on every light in the new building. The Times reported that the lights remained on for four hours as a team inspected the building. The test was ultimately deemed successful.

But aside from its utility, the test also offered passersby a stunning view of the new building against the night sky after years of construction. The hospital opened on April 15, 1934.

a large building with all the lights on at night
Feb. 16, 1933: The brand new General Hospital during a lighting test to see if the power supply could handle over 9,000 light fixtures turned on at once. The lights were left on for four hours. A similar image appeared in the Feb. 17, 1933, Los Angeles Times.
(Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

CALIFORNIA

L.A. Police Department detectives investigating crimes that occurred during last summer’s large protests over police abuses asked business and home owners to hand over video recorded by their Amazon Ring security cameras, LAPD records show. That has raised privacy concerns among some.

— The captain of the Conception, the dive boat on which 34 people died during a fire in 2019, pleaded not guilty to seaman’s manslaughter charges.

— A GOP state senator has proposed legislation intended to curb so-called cancel culture by adding political affiliation to a list of classes — such as race, gender and religious creed — that are protected under California’s anti-discrimination laws.

— The L.A. Zoo has reopened for the second time during the pandemic.

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NATION-WORLD

Former President Trump castigated Sen. Mitch McConnell as a feckless leader responsible for Republicans’ loss of the upper congressional chamber. His outburst came after McConnell called out Trump for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

New Orleans has scaled back on Mardi Gras before, suspending its big parades more than a dozen times since 1857. But 2021 is the first time that the city has urged residents to scale back its more informal neighborhood celebrations, threatening to fine those who break the rules.

Amy Cooper, the white woman arrested last spring after calling 911 during a dispute with a Black man in New York’s Central Park, had her criminal case dismissed after completing a counseling program meant to educate her on the harm of her actions.

— Police in Myanmar filed a new charge against ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, her lawyer said, which may allow her to be held indefinitely without trial.

— The terrorism trial for Paul Rusesabagina, whose story inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” is set to start today. His family says the critic of longtime Rwandan President Paul Kagame has no chance at a fair trial.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— The story we’re told about “evangelicals” is wrong. PBS’ excellent new docuseries “The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song” aims to fix that, writes TV editor Matt Brennan.

— 1980s style and taste has become a punchline. But for Patty Jenkins and the crew of “Wonder Woman 1984,” it was a chance to get creative and craft a vibrant aesthetic.

— Photographer Wayne Thom photographed the power of 1970s architecture. At 87, he still approaches his craft with well-honed technique and poetry, and he’s finally getting his due.

Larry King’s handwritten will is complicating the fight over the talk-show host’s estate.

BUSINESS

— Chicago-based Tribune Publishing announced a proposed sale to hedge fund Alden Global Capital in a deal valued at $630 million.

— How TikTok came back to life after Trump’s threats.

SPORTS

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka will face off today in the Australian Open. Here are eight things to know.

Dodgers spring preview: Signing Trevor Bauer was an answer to the Padres’ flurry of moves.

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Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

OPINION

— Biden is making a big push against child poverty in his COVID-19 relief bill. But the anti-poverty policies would expire after a year, The Times’ editorial board writes, raising the question: How long will the effort last?

— In his post-impeachment trial statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell noted there were still legal avenues to hold Trump accountable. The Biden administration should take that advice and open a criminal investigation, writes Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— No, frozen wind turbines aren’t the main culprit for Texas’ power outages. (Texas Tribune)

Bozeman, Mont., has become a haven for remote-working people from the coasts, making a housing crunch there even worse. (Bloomberg CityLab)

ONLY IN L.A.

Long before Disneyland — even before Walt Disney moved here, in the summer of 1923 — Angelenos had the choice of dozens of themed mini-amusement parks. There were two ostrich farms, two private zoos, a monkey farm in Culver City and another in the Cahuenga Pass, and at least two lion farms. And perhaps most interesting of all, columnist Patt Morrison writes, there was an alligator farm in Lincoln Park — a goldmine for headlines like “Gators Now Hatching — Good For Pets or Bags!”

For the record: An item in the Feb. 10 edition of Today’s Headlines stated that Yvonne Craig played Catwoman on the “Batman” TV series. Craig played Batgirl.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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