Texas power outages below 500,000, but water crisis persists during deep freeze
Power was restored to more Texans on Thursday, with fewer than a half-million homes remaining without electricity, but many still were without safe drinking water after winter storms wreaked havoc on the state’s power grid and utilities this week.
Meanwhile, the Appalachians, northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania braced for heavy snow and ice. Snow fell in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. Little Rock, Ark., got 38 centimetres of snow in back-to-back storms, tying a 1918 record, the National Weather Service said.
More than 320,000 homes and businesses were without power in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. In Tennessee, 12 people were rescued from boats after a dock weighed down by snow and ice collapsed on the Cumberland River on Wednesday night, the Nashville Fire Department said.
The extreme weather has been blamed for the deaths of more than three-dozen people, some of whom perished while struggling to keep warm. In the Houston area, one family succumbed to carbon monoxide from car exhaust in their garage. A woman and her three grandchildren died in a fire that authorities said might have been caused by a fireplace they were using.
Cruz acknowledges Mexico travel
Meanwhile, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz acknowledged on Thursday that he had travelled to Mexico for a family vacation this week, leaving his home state as thousands of constituents struggled after the powerful winter storm.
The high-profile Republican, a potential White House candidate in 2024, said in a statement that he had accompanied his family after his daughters asked to go on a trip with friends, given that school was cancelled for the week.
“Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon,” Cruz said after The Associated Press and other media outlets had reported details of the trip.
“My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas,” Cruz said. “We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm.”
The revelation drew immediate criticism from Democrats and Republicans in Texas and beyond as Cruz, a key ally of former president Donald Trump, contemplates the possibility of a second presidential run. The two-term senator’s current term expires in early 2025.
“That’s something that he has to answer to his constituents about,” state Republican Party Chairman Allen West said when asked whether Cruz’s travel was appropriate while Texans are without power and water.
“I’m here trying to take care of my family and look after my friends and others that are still without power. That’s my focus.”
Earlier, Cruz’s office had declined to answer specific questions about the family vacation, but his staff reached out to the Houston Police Department on Wednesday afternoon to say the senator would be arriving at the airport, according to department spokesperson Jodi Silva. She said officers “monitored his movements” while Cruz was at the airport.
Silva could not say whether such requests are typical for Cruz’s travel or whether his staff has made a similar request for his return flight.
The Texas senator, who once described Trump as a “pathological liar,” championed the-then president’s call to block the certification last month of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory. That stand led to calls for Cruz’s resignation after a violent mob stormed the Capitol as Congress was affirming Biden’s win.
“Ted Cruz had already proven to be an enemy to our democracy by inciting an insurrection. Now, he is proving to be an enemy to our state by abandoning us in our greatest time of need,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said Thursday. “For the 21st time, the Texas Democratic Party calls on Ted Cruz to resign or be expelled from office.”
Drinking water affected
In Texas, just under 500,000 homes and businesses remained without power, down from about three million on Wednesday. The state’s grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said the remaining outages are largely weather-related, rather than forced outages that were made early Monday to stabilize the power grid.
“We will keep working around the clock until every single customer has their power back on,” said ERCOT senior director of system operations Dan Woodfin.
Adding to the misery, the snowy weather has jeopardized drinking water systems throughout the state.
Texas officials ordered seven million people — a quarter of the population in the nation’s second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking it following days of record-low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and froze pipes.
In Austin, some hospitals faced a loss in water pressure and, in some cases, heat.
“Because this is a state-wide emergency situation that is also impacting other hospitals within the Austin area, no one hospital currently has the capacity to accept transport of a large number of patients,” said David Huffstutler, CEO of St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, in a statement.
Water pressure has fallen across the state because lines have frozen, and many residents are leaving faucets dripping in hopes of preventing pipes from freezing, said Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott urged residents to shut off water to their homes, if possible, to prevent more busted pipes and to preserve pressure in municipal systems.
Supplies run short
Grocery store shelves have gone bare in several Texas cities, including Austin and Lewisville. Frozen goods had to be disposed of after the blackouts.
Gas shortages have also hit parts of the state as people search for fuel for their vehicles and back-up generators. Some oil production facilities, responsible for an estimated three million barrels per day, remain offline.
WATCH | Some Texas gas stations run out of fuel:
Mayor resigns over insensitive comments
The now former mayor of Colorado City, Texas said he had already turned in his resignation when he wrote a controversial Facebook post on Tuesday.
Tim Boyd said it was not the local government’s responsibility to help those suffering in the cold without power. “Only the strong will survive and the weak will parish,” the typo-ridden post said.
Boyd also wrote that he was “sick and tired” of people looking for handouts and that the current situation is “sadly a product of a socialist government.”
The post was made as millions in Texas were without power following the storm. Utilities from Minnesota to Texas and Mississippi implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on power grids straining to meet extreme demand for heat and electricity.
Boyd deleted his post but stood by the sentiments in a follow-up message. He also wrote that his original message was posted as a private citizen, not the mayor of Colorado City.
“I was only making the statement that those folks that are too lazy to get up and fend for themselves but are capable should not be dealt a handout,” Boyd’s follow-up post said.
Turtles rescued from cold
Thousands of sea turtles unused to cold temperatures have been washing up on the beaches of South Padre Island, off the southern coast of Texas.
Ed Caum, executive director of the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the turtles are “cold-stunned.” That’s a condition where cold-blooded animals suddenly exhibit hypothermic reactions such as lethargy and an inability to move when the temperature in the environment around them drops.
WATCH | Hundreds of sea turtles shelter in Texas convention centre to escape cold:
Volunteers have brought some 4,700 of them to the convention centre, where they are being kept in tubs and enclosures before they can be released when the weather warms up.
Although, as this Tik Tok user demonstrated on Tuesday, fish weren’t faring much better in their indoor tanks during the blackouts.
Published at Thu, 18 Feb 2021 14:31:58 +0000