Texas power outages: Water problems mount, food runs scarce and hospitals scramble

The Austin skyline remained snowy Tuesday as freezing temperatures continued across the state of Texas. Credit: Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune


Here’s what you need to know:

ERCOT says progress being made on restoring power 

Progress is being made to restore power to the majority of millions of Texans whose electricity and heat was forced off by energy providers during the subfreezing temperatures this week, Texas’ energy grid operators said Thursday morning.

“We’re to the point in the load restoration where we are allowing transmission owners to bring back any load they can related to this load shed event,” said Dan Woodfin with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in a statement.

Those without power still, he said, are more likely to be affected by ice storm damage on power distribution systems, systems that need to be manually restarted after they were forced to shut down, and large power facilities that voluntarily went offline and haven’t again started dispersing energy.

Austin Energy reported Thursday morning that 13% of its energy customers were without power, compared to more than 40% Monday. Less than 2% of the Houston area was reportedly without power, which had seen about 60% of its homes and businesses without power during the storm.— Jolie McCullough

Abbott provides few details on when Texans’ suffering will end as state’s crises mount

As millions of Texans continue struggling through a dayslong winter storm without power or potable water, Gov. Greg Abbott provided few details Wednesday on when they can expect their situations to improve.

As of Wednesday, 2.7 million households didn’t have power. And nearly 12 million Texans are facing water disruptions after enduring multiple days of freezing temperatures.

Texans running low on food are finding empty grocery store shelves. Food pantries are running out of supplies. And the freeze has wiped out substantial portions of the state’s citrus and vegetable crops. — Texas Tribune staff

Texas leaders failed to heed warnings that left the state’s power grid vulnerable, experts say

Texas officials knew winter storms could leave the state’s power grid vulnerable, but they left the choice to prepare for harsh weather up to the power companies — many of which opted against the costly upgrades. That, plus a deregulated energy market largely isolated from the rest of the country’s power grid, left the state alone to deal with the crisis, experts said.

While Texas Republicans were quick to pounce on renewable energy and to blame frozen wind turbines, the natural gas, nuclear and coal plants that provide most of the state’s energy also struggled to operate during the storm.

Green energy has been a political punching bag for Texas Republicans like Gov. Greg Abbott throughout the winter storm. Experts say politicians never take responsibility for natural disasters when it comes to preparedness. — Texas Tribune staff

Hospitals in Austin are running out of water, forcing some to transfer patients

Austin-area hospitals are facing widespread water issues after severe weather this week. St. David’s South Austin Medical Center said it lost water pressure from the city Wednesday, creating a series of problems.

Seton hospitals in the area are also facing water problems. A spokesperson for Ascension Seton said in a statement that “extreme weather conditions have caused intermittent water issues at several Ascension Seton” facilities.

In a letter obtained by KUT, patients and families at Dell Children’s are being asked to not take showers and to use hand sanitizer to clean their hands. They were also told the toilets can’t flush, and staff members are changing linens only as needed. — Ashley Lopez, KUT

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