Two days before the storm began, Houston’s chief elected official warned her constituents to prepare as they would for a major hurricane. But few foresaw the fiasco that was to come. They could not be prepared. As temperatures plunged and snow and ice whipped the state, much of Texas’ power grid collapsed, followed by its water systems. Tens of millions huddled in frigid homes that slowly grew colder or fled for safety. Images of desperate Texans circulated worldwide. To some, they evoked comparisons to a less wealthy or self-regarding place. To others, they laid bare problems that have long festered.