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Winter storm kills 23 across the country and 3.5m freezing Texans STILL have no power: Gov. Gregg Abbot demands investigation into energy company that may not be able to restore heat for days

 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


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


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. 


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