Close to 3 million homes and businesses in Texas stay without power, some for a third consecutive day, as harsh winter weather persists to pummel the state, pushing some localities to issue boil-water notices and urge residents to lessen their electricity usage.
Heavy snowfall, ice storms and bitter temperatures persist to put an immense strain on the state’s power grid. This as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages roughly 75% of the Texas power grid, said Wednesday morning that some 600,000 households had power restored overnight. That still left another 2.7 million customers having to endure extreme cold with no indication of when the thaw would break in their homes.
“We know millions of people are suffering,” ERCOT’s president and CEO, Bill Magness, said in a statement Wednesday. “We have no other priority than getting them electricity. No other priority.”
ERCOT also said Wednesday that it was urging local utilities to shed some 14,000 megawatts of load, which translates to roughly 2.8 million customers, to prepare for a sudden increase in demand.
“The ability to restore more power is contingent on more generation coming back online,” said Dan Woodfin, the senior director of ERCOT’s system operations.
He said that about 185 generating units were offline, stemming from a range of factors including frozen wind turbines, low gas pressure and frozen instrumentation.
But many Texans feel abandoned by the council and power companies and they are lashing out at the local face of utilities.
The City of Austin’s community-owned electric utility, Austin Energy, a tweet said crews that are working to restore power are facing harassment.
“Our crews have been working 24/7 and in these elements,” Austin Energy said.
“Some of our crews are reporting incidents of harassment, threatening them and even throwing things at them.”
Officials pleaded with the public to remain calm. “I know people are extremely frustrated. But please, I bet of you, do not approach AE crews.”
Parts of Austin are under a boil water notice, which Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros attempted to explain during a press briefing Wednesday afternoon.
“There was a large main break in that area, maybe multiple ones. We’re seeing main breaks and pipes bursting by the tens of thousands. Our entire system is under stress,” Meszaros said.
It’s not just the Lone Star State that is being crippled by the arctic blast.
At least two dozen people have died this week from weather-related incidents, according to The Associated Press.
The National Weather Service reports that more than 100 million Americans are being affected by extreme winter weather from the south central U.S. to the East Coast, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
The National Weather Service adds that cold temperatures over the nation’s heartland will begin to “moderate in the coming days” but that many parts will remain 20 to 35 degrees below normal in the Great Plains, Mississippi Valley and lower Great Lakes region.
“Potential is increasing for significant icing across portions of the Mid-Atlantic, which will be very impactful, especially for those hardest hit from the previous ice storm,” the National Weather Service tweeted Wednesday.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott railed against ERCOT, saying the utility “has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours.”
“This is unacceptable,” Abbott added, as residents were facing rotating intentional power outages. The governor issued an executive order that will add reforms for how the power grid is managed as an emergency legislative item for the state legislature to review.
The rolling power outages forced Fort Worth to extend a boil-water notice for roughly 212,000 residents. Officials said the outages affected the city’s systems that both treat water and move it to customers.
Fort Worth officials said nine other localities that purchase water from the city are also affected, including Haslet, Keller, Lake Worth and Northlake.