March 3, 2021

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More than 3.5 million Texans are STILL without power and storm death toll hits 23 – Daily Mail

29 min read

More than 3.5 million Texans are still without power as the death toll from the winter storm which has wreaked havoc across the United States hit 23 Tuesday night.

The record-breaking cold weather claimed more lives Tuesday, including four family members who perished in a Houston-area house fire while using a fireplace to stay warm and a woman and a girl who died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning from a car running in a garage after their home in the city lost power. 

Three people were found dead after a tornado hit a seaside town in North Carolina; a Mississippi man died after losing control of his vehicle, which overturned on an icy road Monday night near Starkville. Two men found along Houston-area roadways likely died in subfreezing temperatures, law enforcement officials said.

In Harris County, Texas officials reported more than 300 carbon monoxide poisoning cases as people use BBQ pits and generators indoors in an effort to stay warm. Dr. Samuel Prater, a UTHealth emergency physician told The Houston Chronicle: ‘With that number of patients going in, it’s turning into a mini mass casualty event.’ 

In Galveston, the medical examiner’s office requested a refrigerated truck to expand body storage. 

The power breakdown sparked growing outrage and demands for answers over how Texas — whose Republican leaders as recently as last year taunted California over the Democratic-led state’s rolling blackouts — failed such a massive test of a major point of state pride: energy independence. 

Governor Greg Abbot has demanded investigation into grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, as cities including San Antonio, Dallas and Austin were left to shoulder the brunt of a catastrophic power failure. 

Rep. Jeff Leach called it ‘ridiculous’ that five of the 15 ERCOT board members do not appear to live in Texas. 

He tweeted: ‘I’m filing legislation this session requiring all @ERCOT_ISO officers and directors to be Texas residents. Completely ridiculous and unacceptable that current ERCOT Board Chair lives in Michigan!’   

The state is the only one in continental U.S. that has its own power grid; it is not federally regulated. 

More bad weather, including freezing rain, was expected Tuesday night with a new winter storm expected in the next two days over the south and east of the country. 

Hutto, Texas: Howard and Nena Mamu eat dinner at their home in the Glenwood neighborhood Tuesday. Anger over Texas' power grid failing in the face of a record winter freeze mounted Tuesday as millions of residents in the energy capital of the U.S. remained shivering with no assurances that their electricity and heat  would return soon or stay on once it finally does

Hutto, Texas: Howard and Nena Mamu eat dinner at their home in the Glenwood neighborhood Tuesday. Anger over Texas’ power grid failing in the face of a record winter freeze mounted Tuesday as millions of residents in the energy capital of the U.S. remained shivering with no assurances that their electricity and heat  would return soon or stay on once it finally does

Houston, Texas: View from the First Ward neighborhood on Tuesday. The power breakdown sparked growing outrage and demands for answers over how Texas ¿ whose Republican leaders as recently as last year taunted California over the Democratic-led state's rolling blackouts ¿ failed such a massive test of a major point of state pride: energy independence

Houston, Texas: View from the First Ward neighborhood on Tuesday. The power breakdown sparked growing outrage and demands for answers over how Texas — whose Republican leaders as recently as last year taunted California over the Democratic-led state’s rolling blackouts — failed such a massive test of a major point of state pride: energy independence

Richardson, Texas: Shaemiya Taylor, left front, and Marsha Williams, right front, play a board game as Jeremiah Murphy, left rear, and Khloee Williams, right rear, look on at a warming shelter Tuesday. In cooperation with the cities emergency management center, this location is one of seven that have opened in the city, offering those in need a place to keep warm

Richardson, Texas: Shaemiya Taylor, left front, and Marsha Williams, right front, play a board game as Jeremiah Murphy, left rear, and Khloee Williams, right rear, look on at a warming shelter Tuesday. In cooperation with the cities emergency management center, this location is one of seven that have opened in the city, offering those in need a place to keep warm

Houston, Texas: Freezer sections are closed off in Fiesta supermarket on Tuesday. Winter storm Uri has brought historic cold weather, power outages and traffic accidents to Texas

Houston, Texas: Freezer sections are closed off in Fiesta supermarket on Tuesday. Winter storm Uri has brought historic cold weather, power outages and traffic accidents to Texas

Austin, Texas: People walk on snowy streets Tuesday. Temperatures dropped into the single digits in the state Tuesday

Austin, Texas: People walk on snowy streets Tuesday. Temperatures dropped into the single digits in the state Tuesday 

Governor Greg Abbot has demanded investigation into grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas

Governor Greg Abbot has demanded investigation into grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas

The cold spell has already pushed snow cover to an all time high across the 48 states in North America. Official data shows snow currently covers 73.2 per cent of the area with an average depth of 6 inches; a year ago just 35.5 per cent was covered with an average of 4.6 inches of snow. 

Several cities had record lows: In Minnesota, the Hibbing/Chisholm weather station registered minus 38 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 39 degrees Celsius). Sioux Falls, South Dakota, dropped to minus 26 Fahrenheit (minus 26 degrees Celsius). 

Utilities from Minnesota to Texas implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on power grids straining to meet extreme demand for heat and electricity.  

Anger over Texas’ power grid failing in the face of a record winter freeze mounted Tuesday as millions of residents in the energy capital of the U.S. remained shivering with no assurances that their electricity and heat — out for 36 hours or longer in many homes — would return soon or stay on once it finally does.

‘I know people are angry and frustrated,’ said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who woke up to more than 1 million people still without power in his city. ‘So am I.’      

Amber Nichols, whose north Austin home has had no power since early Monday, said: ‘We’re all angry because there is no reason to leave entire neighborhoods freezing to death. This is a complete bungle.’

Nashville, Tennessee: A snow removal vehicle at Nashville International Airport on Tuesday

Nashville, Tennessee: A snow removal vehicle at Nashville International Airport on Tuesday 

Chicago, Illinois: Jennifer Evans stands beside her car, which was damaged when the building collapsed during the storm

Chicago, Illinois: Jennifer Evans stands beside her car, which was damaged when the building collapsed during the storm 

Chicago, Illinois: An aerial photo shows the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan after an overnight snowfall left more than 18 inches on the ground and roadways

Chicago, Illinois: An aerial photo shows the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan after an overnight snowfall left more than 18 inches on the ground and roadways

Gov. Greg Abbot has demanded investigation into grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas

Gov. Greg Abbot has demanded investigation into grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas

The number of outages in Texas at one point exceeded four million customers.

‘This is unacceptable,’ Gov. Abbott said, ‘Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather.’

He added: ‘I have issued an executive order to review the preparations and decisions by ERCOT so we can determine what caused this problem and find long-term solutions.’  

By late Tuesday afternoon, ERCOT officials said some power had been restored, but they warned that even those gains were fragile and more outages were possible.

The grid began preparing for the storm a week ahead of time, but it reached a breaking point early Monday as conditions worsened and knocked power plants offline, ERCOT president Bill Magness said. 

Some wind turbine generators were iced, but nearly twice as much power was wiped out at natural gas and coal plants. Forcing controlled outages was the only way to avert an even more dire blackout in Texas, Magness said.

‘What we’re protecting against is worse,’ he said.

Houston, Texas: People select shirts and sweatshirts being given away at a Gallery Furniture store after the owner opened his business as a shelter for those without power at their homes Tuesday

Houston, Texas: People select shirts and sweatshirts being given away at a Gallery Furniture store after the owner opened his business as a shelter for those without power at their homes Tuesday

Houston, Texas: More than 4 million people in Texas still had no power a full day after historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures created a surge of demand for electricity to warm up homes unaccustomed to such extreme lows, buckling the state's power grid and causing widespread blackouts. Those without power in Gallery Furniture on Tuesday

Houston, Texas: More than 4 million people in Texas still had no power a full day after historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures created a surge of demand for electricity to warm up homes unaccustomed to such extreme lows, buckling the state’s power grid and causing widespread blackouts. Those without power in Gallery Furniture on Tuesday 

Houston, Texas: The winter storm has resulted in people sleeping in their cars and furniture stores to keep warm amid unprecedented rolling blackouts that have plunged five million into darkness. Natalie Harrell holds her sleeping daughter, Natasha Tripeaux while sitting in a recliner at a Gallery Furniture store

Houston, Texas: The winter storm has resulted in people sleeping in their cars and furniture stores to keep warm amid unprecedented rolling blackouts that have plunged five million into darkness. Natalie Harrell holds her sleeping daughter, Natasha Tripeaux while sitting in a recliner at a Gallery Furniture store

Houston, Texas: The deep freeze that has paralyzed Texas by knocking out its power grid and sparking an energy crisis saw 5 million homes plunged into darkness amid unprecedented rolling blackouts. Pictured above is homes in Houston without power but empty offices still lit up

Houston, Texas: The deep freeze that has paralyzed Texas by knocking out its power grid and sparking an energy crisis saw 5 million homes plunged into darkness amid unprecedented rolling blackouts. Pictured above is homes in Houston without power but empty offices still lit up

WHY IS TEXAS FACING AN ENERGY CRISIS? 

What is happening in Texas: 

A deep freeze across Texas over the weekend took a toll on the energy industry in the largest U.S. crude-producing state, shutting oil refineries and forcing restrictions from natural gas pipeline operators.

The cold snap prompted the state’s electric grid operator to impose rotating blackouts, while President Joe Biden declared an emergency on Monday, unlocking federal assistance to Texas.

Freezing temperatures led to record demand for electricity as Texans tried to heat their homes.

ERCOT says demand reached a record of 69,150 megawatts on Sunday night, which is more than 3,200 MW higher than the previous winter peak in January 2018.

Experts have said that as people were turning up their heat, power plants and pipelines were freezing or being taken offline due to the temperatures.

At least five oil refineries in Texas have shut down operations because of the storm. Natural gas facilities and pipelines in Texas also closed after wellheads started to freeze up or get blocked with ice and compressors lost power.

Natural gas makes up about half of the state’s power generation but much of what was available was used to enable people to heat their homes instead of generating more electricity.

Half of Texas homes use natural gas for heat and the other half use electricity. Half of the state’s power plants also use natural gas to produce electricity.  

Due to a shortage in the natural gas supply but record gas consumption, gas lines were depressurizing, according to experts.

If natural gas power plants can’t get the pressure they need to operate, they have to shut down. 

Widespread power outages or instability of external power supply can force shutdowns at refineries. 

Some experts say part of the issue is because the power grid in Texas is mostly prepared for heat waves rather than winter storms.

They say it is an unprecedented strain on both natural gas and electricity grids that is ‘way beyond what they were designed to handle’. 

Texas produces roughly 4.6 million barrels of oil a day and is home to some of the nation’s largest refineries, spread throughout the Gulf Coast. In Midland, heart of the U.S. Permian shale region, temperatures were in the single digits Fahrenheit.

Motiva Enterprises said it was shutting down its Port Arthur, Texas, manufacturing complex, which includes its refinery. Motiva’s Port Arthur refinery produces more than 630,000 barrels of product per day, making it the largest refinery in the United States.

Citgo Petroleum Corp said some units at its 167,500 barrel-per-day (bpd) Corpus Christi, Texas, refinery were being shut.

Sources familiar with plant operations earlier said the crude distillation unit, a reformer and a hydrotreater were shut by cold weather at the refinery, with all other units also being powered down.

The cold snap also forced Lyondell Basell’s 263,776 bpd Houston refinery to operate at minimum production, and also shut most units at Marathon’s 585,000 bpd Galveston Bay plant.

But Exxon’s 369,024 bpd Beaumont, Texas, refinery seemed to be operating at normal levels, although the company had warned nearby residents of flaring from the plant.

‘We are also getting reports of power outages across the Permian, which are expected to continue over the weekend if the current weather system persists. This may result in intermittent production shut-ins, with a moderate impact on Permian oil production expected in February,’ Rystad Energy’s head of oil markets, Bjornar Tonhaugen said in a note.

Energy distribution was stalled across large parts of the United States.

Kinder Morgan’s Natural Gas Pipeline Co. reported capacity constraints at various locations on its pipeline system, while Enable Gas Transmission, announced it was taking measures to ensure adequate supply for customers.

Oil pipeline operator Enbridge Inc. on Monday said a 585,000 barrel per day crude oil pipeline that runs from its terminal near Pontiac, Illinois, outside of Chicago, to the largest U.S. oil storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, was halted because of power outages. ‘Crews are working with electric utility providers to restore power to Line 59,’ as the pipeline is called, said Enbridge spokesman Michael Barnes. ‘The power failure is due to the winter storm the U.S. is experiencing.’  

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Still, Magness said ERCOT could not offer a firm timetable for when power might be fully restored and refused to take the blame for the ongoing crisis blaming it instead on ‘catastrophic conditions’.  

 The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Texas had requested 60 generators and that hospitals and nursing homes would get priority. 

Shelters were opened to accommodate more than 1,000 people around the state, FEMA said during a briefing. But even they weren’t spared from the outages, as Houston was forced to close two on Monday because of a loss in power.  

A Texas furniture store owner even opened his business as a shelter for those left without power.  

Jim ‘Mattress Mack’ McIngvale told ABC 13: ‘The cold is bitter, so we’re opening up the doors to Houstonians. Whether they want to stay for two hours until their power gets back on, or they want to stay for two days, we’re here for the community.’     

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees the state’s main power grid, is still struggling to restore power after failing to keep up with heightened demand. 

ERCOT provides electricity to about 90 percent of the state. 

Images showing empty office buildings in downtown Houston still lit up overnight has sparked outrage given the millions elsewhere without power, while hundreds have been forced to line up outside grocery stores in the freezing cold for supplies.

ERCOT CEO Magness they are ‘trying to get people’s power back on as quickly as possible’ but to do that they ‘need to be able to safely manage the balance of supply and demand on the grid’. 

He added: ‘The number one job of everybody here at ERCOT is to get people’s lights back on. We’re seeing demand in the winter nearly like we see at the top of the summer, when we’re all using our air conditioners.

‘We have seen nothing like this honestly in Texas, that has covered the state like the storm has. It increased demand to an extreme, extraordinary height, and then the storm also made it difficult for the supply to be provided.’ 

The spot price of wholesale electricity on the Texas power grid spiked more than 10,000% on Monday, according to data on the grid operator’s website. 

Real-time wholesale market prices on the ERCOT power grid were more than $9,000 per megawatt hour late Monday morning, compared with pre-storm prices of less than $50 per megawatt hour. 

ERCOT can be more susceptible to wholesale price spikes because it does not have a capacity market, which pays power plants to be on standby during peak demand and weather emergencies, for example. ERCOT’s model means consumers are not paying for generation that may never be called into action.

But early on Monday, ERCOT said extreme weather conditions caused many generating units – across all fuel types – to trip offline and become unavailable. That forced more than 30,000 megawatts of power generation off the grid, ERCOT said in a news release. 

The cold blast caused by winter storm Uri has wreaked havoc on the energy industry with Texas oil wells and refineries halted and natural gas pipelines and wind turbines frozen. 

Experts say the energy crisis essentially boils down to equipment freezing because power plants failed to properly winterize their hardware.  

Oil production in the country’s largest crude-producing state has plunged by more than two million barrels a day due to the storm, which has sent prices surging to $60 a barrel for the first time in a year. 

Wind turbines, which account for a fifth of the state’s energy, have frozen solid as temperatures plummet to a bitter -20F. 

Texas’s grid operator and the Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities across 14 states, imposed unprecedented rolling blackouts because the supply of reserve energy had been exhausted. Some utilities said they were starting blackouts, while others urged customers to reduce power usage, in a bid to prevent the collapse of their networks. 

Surging demand, driven by people trying to keep their homes warm and cold weather knocking some power stations offline, has pushed Texas’ system beyond the limits.

Dan Woodfin, a senior director of system operations at ERCOT, has defended preparations made by grid operators and described the demand on the system as record-setting. 

‘This weather event, it’s really unprecedented. We all living here know that,’ he said. 

‘This event was well beyond the design parameters for a typical, or even an extreme, Texas winter that you would normally plan for. And so that is really the result that we’re seeing.’ 

He said limited supplies of natural gas and frozen instruments at power plants are partly to blame for the blackouts.      

A map from poweroutage.us showed that nearly 5 million people were without power in Texas, and several hundred thousand in Louisiana and Oregon

A map from poweroutage.us showed that nearly 5 million people were without power in Texas, and several hundred thousand in Louisiana and Oregon

More bad weather, including freezing rain, was expected Tuesday night with a new winter storm expected in the next two days over the south and east of the country

More bad weather, including freezing rain, was expected Tuesday night with a new winter storm expected in the next two days over the south and east of the country

Pflugerville, Texas: Brett Archibad tries to entertain his family as they attempt to stay warm in their home Tuesday

Pflugerville, Texas: Brett Archibad tries to entertain his family as they attempt to stay warm in their home Tuesday 

Pflugerville, Texas: Most homes in the area were without power for nearly 24 hours. Atmos Energy and other power companies were performing rotating outages to protect the electric grid

Pflugerville, Texas: Most homes in the area were without power for nearly 24 hours. Atmos Energy and other power companies were performing rotating outages to protect the electric grid

Mexico blames US as big freeze leaves millions without power 

Freezing weather in Texas led to a chain of events that left almost 5 million customers in northern Mexico without power Monday as a shortage of natural gas disrupted electricity production.

Mexico’s government-owned utility, the Federal Electricity Commission, said its operations were left short as the winter storm in Texas froze natural gas pipelines. It said some private power plants also began shutting down Sunday night. Private plants supply about 80% of power in northern Mexico. 

Mexico uses gas to generate about 60% of its power, compared to about 40% in the United States. Mexico built pipelines to take advantage of cheap natural gas from the U.S., often obtained by fracking in Texas, but Mexico does not allow fracking in its own territory. 

The utility said U.S. electricity demand also rose as temperatures plunged across the border, leading to much higher prices. It said gas prices had risen from about $3 per million BTUs to as much as $600 in recent days.

The commission said that by midday Monday it had restored power to about 65% of the 4.8 million customers affected by the blackout, mainly in the northern border states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas.

It was the latest embarrassing failure for the Federal Electricity Commission, the government utility that has become a pet project for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who wants to reduce the role of private power generation. 

State utility CFE lashed out, saying the latest disruption ‘is why Mexico must seek autonomy’.

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Experts trying to shed light on the crisis say it started to unfold when freezing temperatures that started at the beginning of the month led to record demand for electricity as Texans tried to heat their homes, which sent prices for heating fuels, including oil and natural gas, surging higher. 

ERCOT said demand reached a record of 69,150 megawatts on Sunday night, which is more than 3,200 MW higher than the previous winter peak in January 2018.

Experts have said that as people were turning up their heat, power plants and pipelines were freezing or being taken offline due to the temperatures.

At least five oil refineries in Texas have shut down operations because of the storm. Natural gas facilities and pipelines in Texas also closed after wellheads started to freeze up or get blocked with ice and compressors lost power.

Natural gas makes up about half of the state’s power generation. But much of what was available was used to enable people to heat their homes instead of generating more electricity.

Joshua Rhodes, of the University of Texas, told Gizmodo: ‘We don’t have the supply of gas that we normally do and we’re consuming gas in record numbers, which is also depressurizing the gas lines.

‘Natural gas power plants also require a certain pressure to operate, so if they can’t get that pressure, they also have to shut down. Everything that could go wrong is going wrong with the system.’

Rhodes said part of the issue is because the power grid in Texas is mostly prepared for heat waves rather than winter storms.

‘We just have this unprecedented strain on both our major energy grids that is just way beyond what they were designed to handle,’ he said.

‘About half of Texas homes heat their homes with natural gas, about half do it with electricity, and about half our power plants also consume natural gas to make that electricity.’   

Neil Chatterjee, a member of the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, told Bloomberg the situation was critical.

‘I’ve been following energy markets and grid issues for a while, and I cannot recall an extreme weather event that impacted such a large swath of the nation in this manner – the situation is critical,’ he said.  

As nightfall threatened to plummet temperatures again into single digits in Texas, officials warned that homes in the state still without power would likely not have heat until at least Tuesday.  

‘Things will likely get worse before they get better,’ said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in the county of nearly 5 million people around Houston.  

Temperatures nosedived into the single-digits as far south as San Antonio, and homes that had already been without electricity for hours had no certainty about when the lights and heat would come back on. 

In Dallas, officials told residents to refrain from calling 911 to report power outages as the 911 call center became overwhelmed with power outage calls.   

San Antonio, Texas: People seeking shelter gather at a make-shift warming shelter at Travis Park Methodist Church, Tuesday

San Antonio, Texas: People seeking shelter gather at a make-shift warming shelter at Travis Park Methodist Church, Tuesday

San Antonio, Texas: The state opened 35 shelters to more than 1,000 occupants. More than 500 people sought comfort at one shelter in Houston. Mayor Sylvester Turner said other warming centers had to be shut down because they lost power

San Antonio, Texas: The state opened 35 shelters to more than 1,000 occupants. More than 500 people sought comfort at one shelter in Houston. Mayor Sylvester Turner said other warming centers had to be shut down because they lost power

Austin, Texas: People wait in line to buy groceries during the extreme cold snap and widespread power outage on Tuesday

Austin, Texas: People wait in line to buy groceries during the extreme cold snap and widespread power outage on Tuesday 

Austin, Texas: People wait in a long line to buy groceries at H-E-B during the extreme cold snap

Austin, Texas: People wait in a long line to buy groceries at H-E-B during the extreme cold snap

Abilene, Texas: Military vehicles from the Texas Military Department of the Texas National Guard, tasked to transport residents to designated warming centers and other required duties, form a convoy

Abilene, Texas: Military vehicles from the Texas Military Department of the Texas National Guard, tasked to transport residents to designated warming centers and other required duties, form a convoy 

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania: Sarah Olson of Edinboro walks her dog Zion on Tuesday during the winter storm

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania: Sarah Olson of Edinboro walks her dog Zion on Tuesday during the winter storm 

North Jackson, Mississippi: A snowy Interstate 55 pictures Monday. There have been record subzero temperatures in Texas and Oklahoma

North Jackson, Mississippi: A snowy Interstate 55 pictures Monday. There have been record subzero temperatures in Texas and Oklahoma

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas sought to cut power use in response to a winter record of 69,150 megawatts on Sunday evening, more than 3,200 MW higher than the previous winter peak in January 2018.

About 10,500 MW of customer load was shed at the highest point, enough power to serve approximately 2 million homes, it said, adding that extreme weather caused many generating units across fuel types to trip offline and become unavailable.

‘Controlled outages will continue through today and into early tomorrow, possibly all of tomorrow,’ Dan Woodfin, director of systems operations at ERCOT, told a briefing.

The storms knocked out nearly half the state’s wind power generation capacity on Sunday. Wind generation ranks as the second-largest source of electricity in Texas, accounting for 23% of state power supplies, ERCOT estimates.

Of the 25,000-plus MW of wind power capacity normally available in Texas, 12,000 MW were out of service on Sunday morning, an ERCOT spokeswoman said.

An emergency notice issued by the regulator urged customers to limit power usage and prevent an uncontrolled system-wide outage. 

How the US energy powerhouse failed its residents: Texas gas pipes and wind turbines froze because operators made virtually NO preparations for cold weather and state’s only electricity firm was crushed by surging demand

The governor of Texas called for the leaders of his state’s energy board to resign on Tuesday night, as five million people in the state were left shivering without power amid a record-breaking cold snap.

Texas is the only state in the lower 48 with its own electrical grid, ERCOT, while only two other grids, the Eastern Interconnection and the Western Interconnection, serve the rest of the contiguous United States.

The state opted to run its own power system due to suspicion of the federal authorities, The Austin American Statesman explained.

Greg Abbott, the Republican governor, on Tuesday announced an investigation into ERCOT, and rounded on the leaders – several of whom, it emerged, did not even live in the state.

‘The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,’ said Abbott in a statement.

‘Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable.’

Almost four million homes in the state were without power on Tuesday. 

The deep freeze has paralyzed Texas by knocking out its power grid. Pictured are homes in Houston without power but empty offices still lit up

The deep freeze has paralyzed Texas by knocking out its power grid. Pictured are homes in Houston without power but empty offices still lit up

Ten people are known to have died as a result of Winter Storm Uri – some in traffic accidents, some from fires sparked by attempts to keep warm, and at least two homeless people from the cold.

Shocked Texans suffered some of the coldest days in living memory, with temperatures falling as low as minus two Fahrenheit in Dallas – marking only the fifth time on record that the temperature was below zero.

Yet Texas produces more crude oil and natural gas than any other state. It also generates more electricity than any other state, with production rates almost twice those as Florida, the second-highest electricity-producing state.

Natural-gas-fired power plants generated 40 per cent of Texas’s electricity in 2020, according to ERCOT, the largest single source. Wind turbines were second at 23 per cent, followed by coal at 18 per cent and nuclear at 11 per cent.

Texans were asking how their energy-rich state could be so swiftly left without power.

GAS

Natural gas accounts for a significant percentage of household heating: more than a third of Texas households rely on natural gas as their primary heating fuel, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Experts say that much of the problem in Texas was down to natural gas.

Half of the state’s power plants also use natural gas to produce electricity.

‘Texas is a gas state,’ said Michael Webber, an energy resources professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

He told The Texas Tribune: ‘Gas is failing in the most spectacular fashion right now.’

Pike Electric service trucks line up after a snow storm on Tuesday in Fort Worth, Texas

Pike Electric service trucks line up after a snow storm on Tuesday in Fort Worth, Texas

Due to a shortage in the natural gas supply but record gas consumption, gas lines were depressurizing, according to experts.

If natural gas power plants can’t get the pressure they need to operate, they have to shut down.

Dan Woodfin, a senior director for ERCOT, told Bloomberg on Tuesday that natural gas pressure was a significant issue.

But, he added, failures across all sources were partially to blame.

‘We’ve had some issues with pretty much every kind of generating capacity in the course of this multi-day event,’ he said.

Natural gas power plants usually do not have very much fuel storage on site, experts said.

Instead, the plants rely on the constant flow of natural gas from pipelines that run across the state from areas like the Permian Basin in West Texas to major demand centers like Houston and Dallas.

In early February, Texas operators were producing about 24 billion cubic feet per day, according to an estimate by S&P Global Platts. But on Monday, according to the Texas Tribune, production plummeted to between 12 and 17 billion cubic feet per day.

Furthermore, systems that get gas from the earth are not properly built for cold weather.

Operators in West Texas’ Permian Basin, one of the most productive oil fields in the world, are particularly struggling to bring natural gas to the surface, analysts said, as cold weather and snow close wells or cause power outages that prevent pumping the fossil fuels from the ground.

‘Gathering lines freeze, and the wells get so cold that they can’t produce,’ said Parker Fawcett, a natural gas analyst for S&P Global Platts.

‘And, pumps use electricity, so they’re not even able to lift that gas and liquid, because there’s no power to produce.’

On Tuesday evening Texas Gas Service warned again that demand for natural gas is outpacing supply and urged customers on their website to conserve energy as ‘it is going to take time for our suppliers to get their natural gas wells back online’.

The company provides gas to the El Paso, Austin and Rio Grande Valley areas of Texas and has more than 670,000 customers.

The plea comes after a statement issued on Monday warning that its supply wells were freezing over and supply was limited.

They said not to expect a quick reintroduction of service.

‘Once the system is operating again, we need to visit each home to check for leaks and reestablish gas service,’ the company warned.

‘This makes the need for energy conservation even more important.’

WIND

Right-wing commentators were swift to blame renewable energy for Texas’ crisis, with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson incorrectly claiming that Texas was ‘totally reliant on windmills’.

ERCOT, however, said that wind turbines accounted for 23 per cent of the state’s electricity need, and only accounted for a limited loss of power.

On Monday, frozen instruments and a limited gas supply forced 30,000 MW/h of power offline, KHOU reported.

ERCOT said that wind turbines accounted for less than 13 per cent of the total generation that was lost on Monday: the main problem came from coal and gas.

Much of the problem seemed to stem from a lack of preparation for winter conditions.

Wind turbines — like natural gas plants — can be ‘winterized’ or modified to operate during very low temperatures, and work well in Arctic conditions.

Experts say that many of Texas’ power generators have not made those investments necessary to prevent disruptions to equipment since the state does not regularly experience extreme winter storms.

OIL

Texas produces roughly 4.6 million barrels of oil a day and is home to some of the nation’s largest refineries, spread throughout the Gulf Coast.

In Midland, heart of the U.S. Permian shale region, temperatures were in the single digits Fahrenheit.

Motiva Enterprises said it was shutting down its Port Arthur, Texas, manufacturing complex, which includes its refinery. Motiva’s Port Arthur refinery produces more than 630,000 barrels of product per day, making it the largest refinery in the United States.

Gas pumps could not get sufficient fuel from the refineries amid the freeze

Gas pumps could not get sufficient fuel from the refineries amid the freeze

People wait to fill propane tanks outside of Dallas on Tuesday

People wait to fill propane tanks outside of Dallas on Tuesday

Citgo Petroleum Corp said some units at its 167,500 barrel-per-day (bpd) Corpus Christi, Texas, refinery were being shut.

Sources familiar with plant operations earlier said the crude distillation unit, a reformer and a hydrotreater were shut by cold weather at the refinery, with all other units also being powered down.

The cold snap also forced Lyondell Basell’s 263,776 bpd Houston refinery to operate at minimum production, and also shut most units at Marathon’s 585,000 bpd Galveston Bay plant.

But Exxon’s 369,024 bpd Beaumont, Texas, refinery seemed to be operating at normal levels, although the company had warned nearby residents of flaring from the plant.

‘We are also getting reports of power outages across the Permian, which are expected to continue over the weekend if the current weather system persists. This may result in intermittent production shut-ins, with a moderate impact on Permian oil production expected in February,’ Rystad Energy’s head of oil markets, Bjornar Tonhaugen said in a note.

Texas’ oil facilities were not alone in struggling: energy distribution was stalled across large parts of the United States.

Kinder Morgan’s Natural Gas Pipeline Co. reported capacity constraints at various locations on its pipeline system, while Enable Gas Transmission, announced it was taking measures to ensure adequate supply for customers.

Oil pipeline operator Enbridge Inc. on Monday said a 585,000 barrel per day crude oil pipeline that runs from its terminal near Pontiac, Illinois, outside of Chicago, to the largest U.S. oil storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, was halted because of power outages. ‘Crews are working with electric utility providers to restore power to Line 59,’ as the pipeline is called, said Enbridge spokesman Michael Barnes.

‘The power failure is due to the winter storm the U.S. is experiencing.’

NUCLEAR

One of Texas’ two nuclear power plants failed on Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported, adding to the state’s woes.

The problem was in one of the two units of the South Texas Project, a nuclear-power plant near the Gulf of Mexico.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the plant’s operator said that the unit’s water supply froze, causing two pumps to fail.

The plant usually produces enough to power two million homes.

COAL 

It provides only 18 percent of Texas’s energy needs as the state has turned away from the source that is considered more polluting than some others, but coal also backfired in the frigid temperatures.

Coal facilities were said to have shut off because of extreme cold, the WSJ reported, with frozen equipment. 

Piles of coal stored to feed power plants also were thought to have literally frozen over, making it impossible to generate electricity at the plant.

House fire kills grandmother and three kids in Texas city while Houston mother and daughter are killed by carbon monoxide after using car to keep warm amid historic winter storm

Dangerous attempts to keep warm after losing power have killed at least six people in Texas amid a historic winter storm, with four perishing in a fire and two dying by carbon monoxide poisoning.

In Houston, a mother and daughter were killed after running a car inside a closed garage, while a blaze in Sugar Land killed a grandmother and her three young grandkids when they tried to use a fire to stay warm. 

Houston police were called to the home on the 8300 block of La Roche Lane for a welfare check early on Tuesday, and found a family of four suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The mother and daughter were dead on the scene, while the father and son were rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment.

In Sugar Land, a city on the southwest outskirts of Houston, a grandmother and her three young grandchildren perished in a house fire on Tuesday

In Sugar Land, a city on the southwest outskirts of Houston, a grandmother and her three young grandchildren perished in a house fire on Tuesday

Houston police were called to the home on the 8300 block of La Roche Lane for a welfare check early on Tuesday, and found a mother and daughter dead from carbon monoxide

Houston police were called to the home on the 8300 block of La Roche Lane for a welfare check early on Tuesday, and found a mother and daughter dead from carbon monoxide

‘Initial indications are that car was running in the attached garage to create heat as the power is out,’ the department said in a statement. ‘Cars, grills and generators should not be used in or near a building.’ 

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo called the deaths of the mother and daughter ‘heartbreaking.’ 

‘Please bundle up and be aware of the extreme danger carbon monoxide poses for us. Praying for this family,’ he added.

Officials also warn that sitting in a running car outdoors to stay warm can likewise pose a carbon monoxide danger, if the tailpipe is blocked by snow accumulation. 

Meanwhile, in Sugar Land, a city on the southwest outskirts of Houston, a grandmother and her three young grandchildren perished in a house fire on Tuesday.

Authorities believe that they were attempting to burn something indoors to keep warm after losing power, but the cause of the blaze remains under investigation. 

Sugar Land Fire and EMS spokesman Doug Adolph said that when firefighters arrived after the call at about 2am, the house was fully engulfed and the 41-year-old mother of the children and her female friend were outside of the home and suffering from burns. 

He said a responder had to restrain the mother from running back inside the house in a desperate attempt to save her children. Both women who survived have been taken to a hospital.

Officials say social media posts indicate that the family was using a fireplace to stay warm and may have also been using candles, according to KTRK-TV.  

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a midday news conference that 1.3 million people in his city remain without power. The city is looking for businesses that still have power to open their doors as warming centers.

‘It’s critically, critically important to get the power restored as quickly as possible. It’s priority number one!’ Turner said.

Officials say social media posts indicate that the family was using a fireplace to stay warm and may have also been using candles

Officials say social media posts indicate that the family was using a fireplace to stay warm and may have also been using candles

Robyn Harrison, a mother of two in the Houston suburb of Bellaire, told DailyMail.com that her family has been without power since 4am on Tuesday, and is using their home’s gas fireplace to keep warm.

‘We have no electricity. No water. The water main broke. No cell service,’ she said. ‘It’s been in the low 20s and teens.’

When her husband Keith Harrison drove to the family’s business to pick up a generator, he discovered a burst pipe at the offices, she said. 

For now, Robyn Harrison said that residents in her neighborhood were focused on surviving the historic winter storm safely — but that they would have hard questions for ERCOT officials once the crisis passes. 

‘Once we get power and water and all the other creature comforts, then people will be pissed,’ she said. ‘I think people will be irate when they have hundreds if not thousands of plumbing repairs.’  

Aerial images show trail of destruction left by a tornado which killed three people and left 10 injured as winter storm Uri continues to hammer the US

Aerial photos show the trail of destruction left by a tornado which killed three people and left 10 injured as winter storm Uri continues to hammer the United States. 

In the dramatic photos, houses are seen completely decimated to the foundation after a tornado swept through a seaside town in North Carolina. Dozens of homes have been destroyed with some left barely standing with their roofs ripped off. 

Cars are pictured with their windows and sunroofs blown out while residents look on surveying the damage.

The National Weather Service said the tornado was rated as an EF-3 with estimated wind speeds of 160 miles per hour after it touched down just before midnight. 

The tornado, spawned by a line of thunderstorms associated with a sprawling winter storm that has brought frigid temperatures as far south as Texas, swept through a golf course community and another rural area late around 11.50pm on Monday.

Aerial images show trail of destruction left by a tornado which killed three people and left 10 injured late Monday night

Aerial images show trail of destruction left by a tornado which killed three people and left 10 injured late Monday night

Dozens of homes were destroyed in the golf course community after the deadly tornado ripped through just before midnight

Dozens of homes were destroyed in the golf course community after the deadly tornado ripped through just before midnight

An aerial photo shows what is left of a home falling into the pool after a deadly tornado ripped through a seaside community in North Carolina

An aerial photo shows what is left of a home falling into the pool after a deadly tornado ripped through a seaside community in North Carolina

Cars were pictured with their windows and sun roofs broken and blown out after an EF-3 tornado ripped through North Carolina

Cars were pictured with their windows and sun roofs broken and blown out after an EF-3 tornado ripped through North Carolina

Some of the North Carolina homes were destroyed all the way down to their foundations by the EF-3 rated tornado

Some of the North Carolina homes were destroyed all the way down to their foundations by the EF-3 rated tornado

Several tractor-trailers were seen blown over by the EF-3 tornado which ripped through North Carolina on Monday night

Several tractor-trailers were seen blown over by the EF-3 tornado which ripped through North Carolina on Monday night

Aerial photos show ripped up trees and damaged roofs after the EF-3 tornado which ripped through North Carolina on Monday night

Aerial photos show ripped up trees and damaged roofs after the EF-3 tornado which ripped through North Carolina on Monday night

Officials said all of the victims lived in the Ocean Ridge Plantation neighborhood in Ocean Isle Beach, pictured above

Officials said all of the victims lived in the Ocean Ridge Plantation neighborhood in Ocean Isle Beach, pictured above

Brunswick County Sheriff officers closed the entrance to the Ocean Ridge Plantation development after the tornado on Tuesday

Brunswick County Sheriff officers closed the entrance to the Ocean Ridge Plantation development after the tornado on Tuesday

A property owner videos the damage to a home from severe weather in Brunswick County, N.C. near the town of Sunset Beach

A property owner videos the damage to a home from severe weather in Brunswick County, N.C. near the town of Sunset Beach

Property owners survey damage and start work on repairs after dozens of homes and businesses were damaged by a tornado

Property owners survey damage and start work on repairs after dozens of homes and businesses were damaged by a tornado

Some homes were left barely standing after a strong tornado ripped off roofs and decimated others late Monday night

Some homes were left barely standing after a strong tornado ripped off roofs and decimated others late Monday night

Ed Conrow, director of Brunswick County Emergency Management, said on Tuesday that first responders had completed search and rescue operations and there were no reports of missing persons as of noon, WWAY-TV reported. 

All of the victims lived in the Ocean Ridge Plantation neighborhood in Ocean Isle Beach, Conrow said. The victims have not yet been identified.

The Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office said officials were awaiting daybreak to sift through the rubble of damaged homes.

‘There is a significant amount of damage, both structural and debris,’ the sheriff’s office said in a statement.   

Governor Roy Cooper said rescue operations were continuing on Tuesday.

One resident, Sharon Benson, 63, said the roof of her home was damaged and her garage door was blown off. 

She said her windows were shattered and nearby trees were also uprooted. 

‘The sky lit up and there was a lot of pop-pop-popping. And the loud thunder. And then it sounded like a train, a freight train coming through. The roar of a freight train. That’s when all the damage occurred,’ she said. 

Elsewhere as a result of the winter storm, millions of people remained without power amid subfreezing temperatures and authorities warned of treacherous travel conditions in many states. 

Three people have been killed and 10 injured after a tornado swept through a seaside town in North Carolina (above) as a blast of winter weather continues to strike large swathes of the United States

Three people have been killed and 10 injured after a tornado swept through a seaside town in North Carolina (above) as a blast of winter weather continues to strike large swathes of the United States 

Officials in Brunswick County said early Tuesday that three people were killed as the tornado tore through a golf course community and another rural area just before midnight

Officials in Brunswick County said early Tuesday that three people were killed as the tornado tore through a golf course community and another rural area just before midnight

Damaged vehicles sit among debris after a deadly tornado tore through Brunswick County

Damaged vehicles sit among debris after a deadly tornado tore through Brunswick County

A man surveys the damage after a deadly tornado tore through Brunswick County, North Carolina just before midnight

A man surveys the damage after a deadly tornado tore through Brunswick County, North Carolina just before midnight

The massive winter storm that overwhelmed a Southwestern power grid and immobilized the Southern Plains was carrying heavy snow and freezing rain eastward, with bad weather spreading through into New England and the Deep South, the National Weather Service said. 

The storm system left behind record-setting cold temperatures with wind-chill warnings extending from Canada into Mexico.  

The worst US outages were in Texas, affecting more than 4 million homes and businesses Tuesday.  

More than 250,000 people also lost power across parts of Appalachia, and another quarter-million were still without electricity following an ice storm in northwest Oregon, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility outage reports. Another 4 million people lost power in Mexico. 

The Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities covering 14 states, imposed rolling two-hour blackouts to east the extreme demand for heat and electricity. It said the outages were ‘a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole.’ 

Emergency crews gather at a staging area near Sunset Beach, North Carolina on Tuesday after the deadly tornado

Emergency crews gather at a staging area near Sunset Beach, North Carolina on Tuesday after the deadly tornado

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