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Power outages and water shortages as Texas shivers, says report

Misery deepens as a new storm threatens the US east coast

Topics
weather | Texas | US economy

Agencies  |  Houston 

Texas snow
Days of glacial weather have left at least 38 people dead nationwide, made many roads impassable | Photo: AP

The lack of power and safe water for millions of people in may be compounded on Thursday by a band of foul stretching from the Rio Grande to New York.

The National Service said a major winter storm would bring freezing rain, snow and temperatures that were “much below average,” a gut punch for Texans who have resorted to stoves, barbecue grills, gasoline generators and their vehicles to keep themselves warm.

Days of glacial have left at least 38 people dead nationwide, made many roads impassable, disrupted vaccine distribution and blanketed nearly three-quarters of the continental United States in snow. As temperatures dropped and record snow fell on areas not accustomed to the cold, power generation tumbled with fuel starved plants shutting even as electricity demand surged. A projected call for 75,000 megawatts on Tuesday was met with up to 55,500 megawatts, leading to widespread outages.

Governor Greg Abbott called for the top executives of its grid operator to resign, while other officials prepared to haul regulators and to a hearing next Thursday to explain what went wrong. Abbott used the outage to slam calls for greater use of renewable energy across the US.

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, though, placed the blame on Abbott, noting that the governor appoints the Public Utility Commission, which in turn appoints the state's grid operator.

chart


"Gov Abbott is responsible He's the man at the top," Miller said. He added that several of the grid board members live out of state, "One of them lives in Germany. How can you manage the grid in Texas if you're not even here? The extreme cold has left some residents to choose between staying in dark and cold homes, some with frozen or broken water pipes, or face Covid-19 exposure at local relief centers. Many homes are not insulated for the sub-zero temperatures in metro areas where February lows average 48 degrees Fahrenheit (9C).

Meanwhile, Abbott is banning sales of the state’s natural gas beyond its borders in the latest sign the crisis roiling energy markets and leaving millions in the dark is far from abating. Top US liquefied natural gas exporter Cheniere Energy said it’s temporarily cutting natural gas and electricity consumption to help the Texas power grid, and that its decision was made ahead of Abbott’s order.


Power demand on the Ercot grid (see chart) is starting to pick up signalling that fewer blackouts are needed to keep the system stable. While Ercot earlier said the increase in generation was able to bring power back to about 1.6 million households, there still remain more than 1 million outages in the state.

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First Published: Fri, February 19 2021. 02:02 IST
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