Power restored to many in Texas, but freezing temperatures remain

By Brad Brooks LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of homes in Texas are facing a fourth day without heat on Thursday after utilities made some progress restoring power and the winter storm that crippled the electrical grid moved out of the state. The crisis that has gripped the country's second-largest state was set to continue, however, with millions of people still without access to water, many struggling to find food, and freezing temperatures expected through Saturday. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), a cooperative responsible for 90% of the state's electricity, said in a statement that it had made 'significant progress' in restoring electricity to homes

Reuters February 19, 2021 00:11:09 IST
Power restored to many in Texas, but freezing temperatures remain

Power restored to many in Texas but freezing temperatures remain

By Brad Brooks

LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of homes in Texas are facing a fourth day without heat on Thursday after utilities made some progress restoring power and the winter storm that crippled the electrical grid moved out of the state.

The crisis that has gripped the country's second-largest state was set to continue, however, with millions of people still without access to water, many struggling to find food, and freezing temperatures expected through Saturday.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), a cooperative responsible for 90% of the state's electricity, said in a statement that it had made "significant progress" in restoring electricity to homes. It did not provide figures.

At present some 490,000 Texas households were without power, down from around 2.7 million on Wednesday, according to poweroutage.us, a website that tracks outages.

Gary Southern, a 68-year-old real estate broker from Mineral Wells, Texas, said his power was restored on Wednesday afternoon, enabling the first solid night of sleep since he and his wife lost electricity in the early hours of Monday.

"It was one of the worst things we’ve ever had to go through," the lifelong Texan said, explaining that he and his wife slept in recliners next to the fireplace, which he kept going with firewood from a nearby ranch he cares for.

Southern said he was frustrated at being told there would be rolling blackouts, only to go days without power at all. He said their initial relief at having power again gave way to feelings of sympathy for relatives and friends still going without.

"We felt guilty," he said. "I know a lot of people in our community still don’t have it and are frustrated."

Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in Harris County, which encompasses Houston, said that the number of homes without power in her county had fallen to 46,000 from nearly a million the previous night. She warned of challenges ahead.

"The water and food impacts of the winter weather continue, and there will be a hard freeze tonight, which could cause additional impacts to infrastructure," Hidalgo wrote on Twitter on Thursday. "We still have work to do, but we're ecstatic that so many have power and heat."

The lack of power has cut off water supplies for millions, further strained hospitals' ability to treat patients amid a pandemic, and isolated vulnerable communities with frozen roads still impassable in parts of the state.

As of Wednesday, residents in over 100 of the 254 counties in Texas had been told to boil their drinking water as treatment plants continued to suffer from energy blackouts, while upward of 12 million people either had no drinking water on tap in their homes or have drinking water available only intermittently.

Hospitals in Houston, the state's largest city, and elsewhere in Texas have reported difficulties securing water. Nearly two dozen 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.

While the icy conditions should gradually improve, record low temperatures will likely persist in the South Central region of the United States through Saturday, the National Weather Service said.

The winter storm was moving northeastward and could drop 6 to 8 inches of snow in parts of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, the U.S. government agency said.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler and Jonathan Oatis)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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