DALLAS — As another year comes to a close, we at WFAA are looking back on all the news stories we covered this year. Sometimes it seems like it's crazy that all this happened in 2021, while some stories (like our coverage of the Texas winter storm and freeze) still feel all too real.
Below you'll find the Top 10 stories on WFAA's website for 2021. You, the reader decided this; these are the stories with the most visitors all year, barring our homepage and weather page.
Most of these stories had to do with the aforementioned storm, or the deadly Fort Worth pileup that immediately preceded it. Rounding out the Top 10 are stories about the crazy housing market and car dealership sticker shock that North Texans experienced this year.
Stories that were up there in views but didn't make the Top 10 include a story about Gov. Greg Abbott reopening Texas, a list of providers that would alert you on how to get a COVID-19 vaccine, our coverage of the Timberview High School shooting in October, and a how-to on where to get stimulus money.
But with that, here are the Top 10 Most-Read WFAA Stories of 2021.
1. At least 6 killed in 133 vehicle pileup crash on I-35W in Fort Worth
Days before the Texas winter storm hit in February, North Texas experienced another weather-related disaster. Six people were killed and dozens were injured in a 133-car pileup that happened on icy roads.
"This is a tragic day for the Fort Worth family. As we always do, we will get through this," Fort Worth Police Chief Neil Noakes said at the time.
2. Right on the Money: Sticker shock at the car dealership
Did you try to buy a used car this year? Did you experience some sticker shock? So did Jason Wheeler. And he also found out that many used car dealerships tacked on additional fees during the pandemic, and also didn't accept outside financing on car payments -- a practice that isn't technically illegal but is "concerning," as the Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner put it.
3. Right on the Money: Red-hot Texas real estate market
It wasn't just the car market that had you talking this year. The housing market was a huge topic of discussion in 2021. One real estate broker told Jason Wheeler he saw bids that were hundreds of thousands of dollars above the asking price.
4. Texas power outages and Texas freeze: How the state failed
What does that mean? Equipment literally froze in the single-digit temperatures and stopped working.
Then, as reserves diminished, ERCOT asked transmission providers to turn off large industrial users that had previously agreed to be shut down. But the situation deteriorated quickly.
5. Homebuilding contract: $99,000 surcharge
Remember those crazy house prices we mentioned above? One Dallas couple experienced that in real time, as they saw the build price for their Waxahachie house increase more than $99,000 from their original contract -- a 25.4% increase on the total price -- due to market demand for materials.
6. Map of power outages in February
The Texas freeze and subsequent power outages put millions of Texans in the dark cold for days. This story tracked Oncor's and the state's ongoing power outages, but the links used in there (like this one for Oncor and this one for the state) are good to keep handy any time.
7. ERCOT declares emergency in February
The beginning of the storm. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the agency that oversees the state's electric grid, declared Texas at its highest energy emergency level and started rolling outages across the state the morning of February 14 due to lower power supply and high demand amid the extremely low temperatures. Millions would go on to be without power and more than 200 people died because of the weather and ERCOT equipment failure.
8. VERIFY: The Blue Cross Blue Shield settlement is real
Did you receive a postcard in the mail in April about a $2.67 billion settlement involving Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance? It's real.
In October 2020, Blue Cross Blue Shield reached a $2.67 billion settlement in a class-action antitrust lawsuit. A judge has not given final approval to the settlement.
This settlement stemmed from an Alabama class-action antitrust lawsuit titled In re: Blue Cross Blue Shield Antitrust Litigation MDL 2406.
9. ERCOT CEO doesn't know when Texas power outages will end
In the middle of the winter storm in February, WFAA spoke with then-CEO of ERCOT Bill Magness about when the power outages would stop.
He didn't have an answer.
"We have seen nothing like this honestly in Texas, that has covered the state like the storm has. It increased demand to an extreme, extraordinary height, and then the storm also made it difficult for the supply to be provided," Magness told WFAA's Jason Whitely.
ERCOT's board of directors later fired Magness, giving him a 60-day termination notice in early March, just weeks after the deadly storm. ERCOT also announced that four of its board members resigned Feb. 24 following its board meeting, and a fifth board member separately submitted her resignation. All of those members lived out of state, records show.
10. Woman survives Fort Worth pileup
Alicia Stone was in that 133-car pileup in Fort Worth in February-- and survived. How? By crawling out of her back window.
"I was hitting my brakes, they wouldn't work," Stone said. "After that, I got hit probably four or five times from behind, just from people piling up, from the hits. So, I stayed in my car until there were no more hits."