Disconnected: ERCOT's use of Twitter during Winter Storm Uri

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Melton, Jacqueline Leigh
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Middle Tennessee State University
In February of 2021, a severe arctic weather event known as Winter Storm Uri caused the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to lose control of the power supply. An estimated 10 million people were left without electricity in subfreezing temperatures, resulting in hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in property damage. This case study examines ERCOT’s Twitter response to Winter Storm Uri through the crisis communications lenses of the stealing thunder and digital stealing thunder strategies, and Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT). The study utilizes news reports and Tweets from the @ERCOT_ISO account between February 10, 2021, and February 20, 2022, to explore the company’s response in three stages: before, during, and after the crisis. This examination of digital communications surrounding a high-profile crisis event contributes to the existing research literature on stealing thunder, digital stealing thunder, and SCCT while examining the practical value of the strategies and theories for utility companies facing severe weather events.
Crisis communication, Digital stealing thunder, Power outage, SCCT, Stealing thunder, Twitter, Communication, Mass communication