- The record-breaking cold weather claimed more lives Tuesday, including four relatives who perished while using a fireplace to stay warm and a woman and a girl who died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning
- In Harris County, Texas officials reported more than 300 carbon monoxide poisoning cases
- 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 failed such a massive test of a major point of state pride: energy independence
- Gov. Greg Abbot has demanded investigation into grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas
- The state is the only one in continental U.S. that has its own power grid; more bad weather is expected
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.
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
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
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
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
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: 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 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.' till, 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