Millions of people in Texas awoke on Wednesday (February 17) without heat again following a historic winter storm that has killed 21 people so far, as icy conditions threatened to plague the country’s largest state and surrounding region for days.
Some 2.7 million Texas households were still without power, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (Ercot), a cooperative responsible for 90% of the state’s electricity. Ercot said 600,000 households had power restored overnight.
The National Weather Service said snowfall and ice accumulation would likely end around midday on Wednesday in North Texas, offering some reprieve, although it kept a winter storm warning in effect for the region through 8 p.m.
But the weather service warned that the historically low temperatures that have crippled Texas and caused some power outages in the nearby states of Louisiana and Mississippi would likely continue, and that a low responsible for the snow and freezing rain enveloping the region was moving east.
Significant ice accumulation — a primary reason behind the widespread power outages — could be expected in parts of Texas, the Lower Mississippi Valley, Virginia and North Carolina by Wednesday night, the weather service said.
So far, the storm has killed at least 21 people across four states and has shuttered COVID-19 inoculation centers and hindered vaccine supplies.
Texas’ deregulated energy market gives little financial incentives for operators to prepare for the rare bout of intensely cold weather, critics have said for years. Natural gas wells and pipelines in Texas, the country’s biggest energy-producing state, do not undergo the winterization of those farther north – resulting in many being knocked offline by the prolonged freezing weather.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott demanded that state lawmakers investigate Ercot and pass reforms.
The storm has knocked about a third of the state’s generating capacity offline. The power grid in Texas relies heavily on natural gas, responsible for nearly half the electricity generated.
President Joe Biden assured the governors of states hit hard by storms that the federal government stands ready to offer any emergency resources needed, the White House said in a statement.