Texas power outages: Nearly 3 million households without electricity; Houston issues boil-water notice

Texas power outages: Nearly 3 million households without electricity; Houston issues boil-water notice
Texas power outages: Nearly 3 million households without electricity; Houston issues boil-water notice

A temporary stop sign at the intersection of Greenville and Ross Avenues in Dallas. Several neighborhoods lost power due to a winter storm that hit the state.

A temporary stop sign was placed at the intersection of Greenville and Ross Avenues in Dallas on Tuesday. Several neighborhoods lost power due to a winter storm that hit the state.

Credit: Ben Torres for The Texas Tribune

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Houston issues notice to boil water

[10 a.m.] Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Wednesday he’s issuing a notice for residents to boil water as the winter storm continues to affect the city’s infrastructure.

The notice, first reported by the Houston Chronicle, comes as the mayor also urged grocery stores to stock up on bottled water and urged Houstonians to conserve as much as possible.

“Water pressure is very low. Please do not run water to keep pipes from bursting,” he tweeted Wednesday morning. “Turn off water if pipes have burst. Please contact us if you don’t know how to turn off water. Be conservative on water usage today. It is needed for hospitals and fires.”

The notice comes as several nearby municipalities, including the Pearland, Katy and Greatwood-Sugar Land areas have also issued the same instructions to their customers, according to the Chronicle. — Julián Aguilar

Grid operator reports 2.7 million households without power Wednesday morning 

[9:30 a.m.] Some 2.7 million households were still without power on Wednesday morning, after the state’s electricity grid manager said utilities were able to return power to about 600,000 homes overnight.

“We know this is hard. We continue to work as quickly and safely as possible to restore power” read a tweet from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the power flow for some 26 million customers in the state. “We hope to reduce outages over the course of the day.”

Oncor, the largest electricity provider in the state, reported early Wednesday that it was still being directed by ERCOT to continue controlled outages due to a lack of generation.

The utility was reporting 668,000 customers affected by outages, and an announcement posted on its website said ERCOT was still unable to tell them when grid conditions would improve and urged “all customers to be prepared for extended outages to continue.”

“Oncor was able to rotate some outages overnight, but poor grid conditions have continued to prevent us and other utilities from rotating, or rolling, the entirety of these outages, leading to extended periods without power for many of our customers,” the statement said. “We also urge customers to prioritize the safety of themselves, their loved ones and their neighbors.”

Local governments warned residents that they could remain without power throughout the day.

Austin Energy, which provides electricity to the capital city, said the utility was now dealing with “two emergency events” triggered by both the partial grid collapse and an overnight ice storm that intensified the severe weather conditions.

“Customers should be prepared to not have power through Wednesday and possibly longer,” the utility said in a Wednesday Tweet. — Karen Brooks Harper

More power outages expected as Texans continue struggling to find warmth, safety 

Texas residents said the storm — and ensuing partial collapse of the state’s power system — sapped what mental reserves they had left after eleven months of a global health crisis that has cost thousands of jobs and claimed more than 40,000 lives in the state.

“To go through all of that and then also to have stuff like this happen, it’s like, ‘One more historical event, and I’m going to develop PTSD,’” said Brianna Blake, 31, a mother of two sons. “I cannot do this.”

Officials with the state’s energy grid operator said it is still struggling with balancing supply and demand to the Texas power grid — and could not project when long-lasting outages would end.

Meanwhile, Oncor, the largest electricity provider in the state, tweeted Tuesday night that the state’s power grid operator had directed more reductions in the electric load, and residents should “please be prepared for additional outages.” Austin Energy issued a similar warning to its customers in Central Texas and said customers who have been without power the longest could continue to be affected.

Energy experts, local leaders and residents said energy and state officials failed to properly prepare people for the mass outages coinciding with dangerous weather that’s already led to at least 10 deaths. — Texas Tribune staff

Power grid operator underestimated peak demand during an extreme winter event 

Texas largely relies on natural gas — especially during times of high demand — to power the state. Experts say natural gas infrastructure, from pumping it out of the ground to the plants in city centers, was unprepared for the plunging temperatures brought by the winter storm.

More than half of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ winter generating capacity, largely powered by natural gas, was offline due to the winter storm, an estimated 45 gigawatts, according to Dan Woodfin, a senior director at ERCOT.

The outages during this storm far exceeded what ERCOT had predicted in November for an extreme winter event. The forecast for peak demand was 67 gigawatts; peak usage during the storm was more than 69 gigawatts Sunday. — Erin Douglas

Frozen wind turbines aren’t the main culprit for Texas’ power outages

Frozen wind turbines in Texas caused some conservative politicians to declare that the state was relying too much on renewable energy. But in reality, the lost wind power makes up only a fraction of the reduction in power-generating capacity that has brought outages to millions of Texans.

By some estimates, nearly half of the state’s natural gas production has screeched to a halt due to the extremely low temperatures, while freezing components at natural gas-fired power plants have forced some operators to shut down. — Erin Douglas and Ross Ramsey

Disclosure: Oncor has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribunes journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Texas power outages: Nearly 3 million households without electricity; Houston issues boil-water notice
Source: Texas Tribune