Texas is typically known for it’s blistering heat, but is making headlines this week for unusually frigid temperatures that have led to rolling blackouts and major power outages, leaving residents battening down the hatches and trying to keep warm in what officials are calling a “very serious emergency.”
In Dallas, County Judge Clay Jenkins declared a state of emergency and asked nonessential businesses to delay their opening or start times until 10 a.m. Tuesday. The order also asks manufacturing and industrial businesses that “use electricity in their operation or processes” to close on Tuesday.
Jenkins also strongly urged residents to set their thermostats to no more than 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
“This is a very serious emergency,” Jenkins said during a Monday night press conference. “My full focus is on this emergency and yours should be too.”
Extreme cold weather is unusual enough in Texas, but adding insult to injury are the power outages, leaving at least 2 million Texans without power. Officials have urged people to limit their electricity usage, opened emergency shelters and moved to get resources to those in the most dire need.
Several people had pipes burst because of the cold snap. One resident in Denton, Texas filmed in shock as water streamed down from the ceiling.
The weather has wreaked havoc on travel as well, including this massive pileup in El Paso.
This report featured some stunning aerial imagery:
State officials have faced criticism for what is being called a lack of preparedness, despite knowing this extreme weather was bearing down on the region.
Since the weather hit, complaints have been made on how power utilities are handling the situation. For example, Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s electric grid operator, started issuing rolling blackouts early this morning around 1 am, planning on 45 minute outages in effected areas.
“Instead, some Texans in Austin, Houston and other cities were without power into Monday afternoon and all morning since even before ERCOT called for the rolling blackouts,” the Tribune reported.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said “we will need to have a conversation – a serious conversation – about where we are today. These are not rolling blackouts. These are power outages at a huge, unprecedented scale.”
Several emergency shelters were opened up for those who are unable to safely remain in their home. Here are several locations:
In Dallas, the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center opened on Friday to 300 people and will remain open as long as temperatures are below freezing, reports NBC DFW.
The George R. Brown Convention Center and Lakewood Church in Houston opened as warming centers Sunday. Houston set up 500 beds inside the convention center and allowed pets. But on Sunday night, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a tweet that the center was nearing capacity. Turner said residents who need access to a warming center should call 311 or 211 to be directed to one of the several shelters in the city.
In Austin, a warming center opened on Saturday at Palmer Events Center. Austin officials said single adults in need of shelter should report to the Central Library and that families should go to the Downtown Salvation Army Shelter, reports KVUE. Several community organizations in San Antonio are stepping up to help unsheltered residents with a place to stay, food or supplies to keep warm.
Please keep the residents of Texas in your prayers as they are expected to be dealing with frigid temperatures for the rest of the week!
The weather has impacted much of the country, beyond Texas. CBN reported on the wide-reaching impact:
Extreme cold temperatures pose a new threat to residents from North Dakota to Texas, as millions of Americans are without electricity and the region’s power grid is at risk of failing.
“The next few days are going to be very tough. To those who have lost power, I know you are frustrated, I know you are miserable, I know you are uncomfortable. I know it is very miserable in this cold without heat,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in the county of nearly 5 million people around Houston, Texas.
Those who haven’t lost power are being asked to conserve their energy, and power officials in Texas and 14 other states have implemented rolling blackouts in an effort to save the grid.
Officials say new generation power sources, like wind turbines, have completely frozen over and been taken offline. Even more traditional power generation methods have started to fail in the ultra cold temperatures.
Meanwhile, all of this is playing out in the middle of a pandemic and vaccine storage facilities are also losing power.
“The vaccine had reached a temperature where it needed to be distributed and in arms within 12 hours…we began immediately upon notification, mounting a vaccine campaign unexpectedly because we’re in the middle of a disaster. So we were able to, both at Methodist and working with some in the community, get 1,000 people vaccinated very quickly,” said Roberta Schwartz, executive vice president and chief innovation officer at Houston Methodist Hospital.
Overnight, a tornado generated by the winter storm ripped through a town in North Carolina, killing at least three people there.
“It’s something like I have never seen before. A lot of destruction. It’s going to be a long recovery process,” Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram said during a news conference early Tuesday.
Franklin Graham tweeted, “Last night a tornado tore through a community in Brunswick County, NC, leaving at least 3 people dead, several injured, & a path of destruction. Pray for these devastated families & those who have lost everything.”
As of this morning, more than 70 percent of the continental U.S. is covered in snow, and weather officials say more than 50 million people could see temperatures dip below zero over the next several days.