In the latest fallout from a crippling winter storm, more than 14 million Texans on Friday (February 19) had to endure disrupted water service, leaving many longing for a hot shower just as the state’s power grid jerked back to life after five days of blackouts.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott confirmed that all power-generating plants were online as of Thursday afternoon. He urged lawmakers to pass legislation to ensure the grid was prepared for cold weather in the future.
The governor lashed out at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), a cooperative responsible for 90 percent of the state’s electricity, which he said had told officials before the storm that the grid was prepared.
He said, what happened, “never happens again.”
Officials said during a press call on Friday that ERCOT has enough generation in its system to return to normal operations.
Nearly two dozen deaths have been attributed to the cold snap. Officials say they suspect many more have died, but the bodies have not been discovered.
A warming trend is expected to relieve some of the pressure on the region on Saturday, the National Weather Service said.
Bitter cold weather and snow have paralyzed Texas since Sunday, shutting down much of the state’s electricity grid and freezing pipes and waterways, leaving communities across the state either without water altogether or forced to boil it for safety.
Monday was the third coldest day since record keeping began, according to Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, with a statewide average temperature of 16.7 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 8.5 degrees Celsius), citing records dating back to 1899.
That same day, temperatures in the state capital Austin dropped below those in parts of Alaska.
Hospitals in some hard-hit areas ran out of water and transferred patients elsewhere. Millions of people were ordered to boil their drinking water after water-treatment plants lost power, which could allow harmful bacteria to proliferate.
In Houston, a mass distribution of bottled water opened at Delmar Stadium on Friday, the city’s Office of Emergency Management said. Around midday, the line of cars waiting to enter the stadium stretched for at least half a mile, one police officer told Reuters.
President Joe Biden said he would accelerate federal emergency assistance for Texas and had directed his administration to identify other resources to help the state.
(Production: Deborah Lutterbeck)