• Saturday, Jul 02, 2022
  • Last Update : 04:24 pm

No electricity, no water, Texans struggle through historic cold

  • Published at 10:07 am February 18th, 2021
Texas deep freeze
A man walks to his friend's home in a neighbourhood without electricity as snow covers the BlackHawk neighborhood in Pflugerville, Texas, US on February 15, 2021 Reuters

On Wednesday evening, officials told residents in the most populous parts of the state to brace for another round of freezing rain and snow in the next 24 hours

Texas officials warned of “disasters within the disaster” of historic cold weather that left millions without heat for a third day on Wednesday, telling residents to prepare for energy to not return until the weekend.

Residents in over 100 counties in Texas have been told to boil their drinking water as treatment plants continue to suffer from energy blackouts, officials said. Upward of 12 million people in the state -- the country’s second largest with a population of roughly 29 million -- have either have no drinking water on tap in their homes or have drinking water available only intermittently.

Energy remains out for 2.7 million households, officials said. With freezing temperatures expected through the weekend, getting the lights back on will be a slow process, as the state has lost 40% of its generating capacity, with natural gas wells and pipelines, along with wind turbines, frozen shut.

Hospitals in Houston, the state’s largest city, and elsewhere in Texas have reported they have no water. Nearly two dozens deaths have been attributed to the cold snap. Officials say they suspect many more people have died - but their bodies have not been discovered yet.

On Wednesday evening, officials told residents in the most populous parts of the state to brace for another round of freezing rain and snow in the next 24 hours.

The cold forced some residents to choose between staying in dark and cold homes, some with frozen or broken water pipes, or face possible Covid-19 exposure at local relief centers.

“This is in many ways disasters within the disaster,” said Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in Harris County, which encompasses Houston. “The cascading effects are not going to go away.”

Cold and silence

Governor Greg Abbott told a news conference that he expected a nuclear plant in south Texas to come back online Wednesday night, which along with coal-fired plants’ returning to operations should provide enough power for 400,000 homes.

Abbott, a Republican, has demanded an investigation into the management of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), a cooperative responsible for 90% of the state’s electricity.

Critics say ERCOT did not heed federal warnings after a similar cold-weather meltdown in 2011 to ensure that Texas’ energy infrastructure, which relies primarily on natural gas, was winterized.

“Every source of power the state of Texas has access to has been compromised because of the cold temperature or because of equipment failures,” Abbott said.

Laura Nowell, a 45-year-old mother of four in Waco, said her family has been without electricity since before dawn on Monday and has tried to keep warm by bundling up and sitting in their car for short stints.

“We’ve never had this much cold. There is ice everywhere,” Nowell said, adding that she was frustrated by the lack of communication about rolling blackouts to conserve the power grid. “Tell me what’s going on. It’s silence.”

‘We’re makeshifting’

Texas’ deregulated energy market gives few financial incentives for operators to prepare for the rare bout of intensely cold weather, an issue critics have been pointing out for years.

ERCOT, which instituted blackouts to cope with the surge in demand, asked that people focus on fixing the problem first before assigning blame. It said it hoped that soon customers would have to cope only with short rolling blackouts.

“The best case at this point is that today or tomorrow we’re able to at least get back down to the point where all the consumers are experiencing outages that are no longer than 30 minutes to an hour at a time,” Dan Woodfin, ERCOT’s senior director of system operations, told a briefing.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler, a Democrat, blamed the power failures on a lack of preparedness and also called for reforms.

“We need to start taking a look at extreme weather. It’s not as unusual as it used to be,” Adler told MSNBC.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has supplied Texas with generators and is preparing to provide diesel fuel to help ensure availability of backup power, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday. President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for the state on Sunday.

People were coping the best they could.

Trilby Landry, a 57-year-old homeless man, was escaping the cold at the Gallery Furniture store in Houston, which opened its doors as a warming center, joining people who had fled homes with busted heating systems and water pipes.

“We’re makeshifting,” Landry said in an phone interview. “Everybody’s in a whirlwind right now. They are letting people sleep on couches and chairs. People just want to go home.”

50
Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail