Millions of Texans on Wednesday began their third day without heat in the wake of a punishing winter storm that has killed at least 21 people in the US, as icy conditions threatened to plague the country’s largest state and the surrounding region for days.
Some 2.7 million Texas households were still without power, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, a co-operative responsible for 90 per cent of the state's electricity which has come under increasing fire for the outages.
Laura Nowell, a 45-year-old mother of four in Waco, Texas, said her family had been without electricity since before dawn on Monday and had been trying to keep warm by bundling up and running and sitting in their car for short stints.
“We’ve never had this much cold. There is ice everywhere,” Ms Nowell said, adding that she was frustrated by the lack of communication about rolling blackouts to conserve the power grid. “Tell me what’s going on. It’s silence.”
The National Weather Service said snowfall and ice accumulation would likely end around midday on Wednesday in north Texas, offering some reprieve, although it kept a winter storm warning in effect and warned that historically low temperatures would continue for days.
Moreover, a low front responsible for the snow and freezing rain crippling the region was moving east and heavy ice accumulation was expected in parts of Texas, the lower Mississippi Valley, Virginia and North Carolina by Wednesday night, it said.
The storm has killed at least 21 people across four states.
Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top government executive in Harris County, Texas, on Wednesday said the ongoing storms were straining not only the local electric grid but triggering a cascade of effects, including lost water pressure, carbon monoxide poisoning and halted Covid-19 vaccinations.
“A lot of it really is just beyond what our infrastructure can really stand and it’s really testing a lot of people,” Judge Hidalgo told MSNBC, adding that power issues awee likely to last after the weather clears out.
Texas’s deregulated energy market gives little financial incentives for operators to prepare for the rare bout of intensely cold weather, critics have said for years.
Austin mayor Steve Adler said it could be another two or three days before power returned, and that there was a lack of information from state authorities.
President Joe Biden assured the governors of states hit hard by storms that the federal government stood ready to offer any emergency resources needed, the White House said in a statement. – Reuters