“This was a man-made disaster that has cut lives short,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, a Democrat, tweeted Friday. “We are now reporting 10 hypothermia deaths in Harris County, 600+ carbon monoxide cases, and still counting. When the dust settles, people deserve answers and accountability.”
In Texas, a county judge is akin to a county executive in other parts of the U.S.
Harris County, which includes Houston, is the nation’s third most populous county, with more than 4 million residents. Only Los Angeles County (more than 9 million residents) and Cook County, Ill. (more than 5 million residents), which includes Chicago, are larger.
Nearly four dozen people in Texas and nine other states hit by the storm had reportedly died as of Friday.
Officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the state’s power grid, were forced to cut power to millions of residents this week when plummeting temperatures caused a surge in demand that threatened the grid’s stability.
By midday Friday around 180,000 customers remained without power, down from more than 4 million earlier in the week.
Still, nearly half the state was advised to boil water for drinking and residents also face empty shelves at grocery stores.
“All of us agree on the necessity of action,” Abbott told reporters. “Not just the action taken to restore your power but an action to ensure that you never have to endure anything like this ever again.”
The disaster has caused a fair amount of finger-pointing, and ERCOT on Tuesday clarified false stories circulating online that claimed wind turbines freezing over in the cold weather were primarily responsible for Texans losing their electricity.
Failures in natural gas, coal and nuclear energy systems were responsible for nearly twice as many outages as frozen wind turbines and solar panels combined, ERCOT said in a news conference.
Hidalgo still noted the importance of being “united” during a crisis.
“I want to thank President Biden, Governor Abbott, and our congressional delegation for their tireless efforts in securing a Major Disaster Declaration. More help is on the way.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.