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12 million still under boil orders in Texas as weather crisis impacts every aspect of life

Hospitals running out of supplies, store shelves empty
Texas winter weather grocery line
Posted at 6:51 AM, Feb 19, 2021

Late Friday morning, the operators of Texas' electrical grid announced that for the first time in about five days, the grid was operating normally and able to provide power to the entire state.

The number of people without power in Texas continues to drop. But as of 3:30 p.m. ET on Friday, there are still nearly 165,000 homes and businesses in the state that are still without power nearly a week after winter storms knocked large swaths of the grid offline.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters Friday afternoon that there are no power outages due to a lack of power generation. Abbott said the 165,000 outages are due to downed lines or lines needing to be reconnected to the grid.


Some of those without power have gone five consecutive days without heat in some of the coldest temperatures the state has ever seen. And while the National Weather Service reports that “widespread low temperature records may be broken tonight,” the crisis in Texas is only just beginning.

The historic cold, coupled with a lack of power, has caused the sewer infrastructure throughout the state to crumble. Nearly 12 million Texas remain under a boil order, as cracked pipes and inoperable sanitation stations have contaminated the state’s water supply.

Abbott said that during his conversation with President Joe Biden on Thursday, the president committed to approving Texas' request to issue an emergency declaration.

The declaration will allow for individuals to claim losses not covered by private insurance through FEMA.

Abbott is encouraging Texans who have busted water pipes to contact their insurance companies immediately to begin the claims process. He said those without insurance will need to file a claim through FEMA once the emergency declaration is formalized.

According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, 520 public water systems are currently under boil orders, affecting 11.9 million people.

Abbott said that 320 plumbers are working to have their license renewed. He added that Texas is working to bring in plumbers from out of state.

MORE: Why did it take so long to restore power to Texas?

The crisis has touched nearly every aspect of life in the Lone Star State. The New York Times reports that hospitals are running low on resources and taking on more patients — an emergency on top of a global pandemic.

“We’re hauling in water on trucks in order to flush toilets,” Roberta L. Schwartz, an executive vice president and the chief innovation officer at Houston Methodist, told the New York Times.

In San Antonio, CNN reports that grocery stores are struggling to keep shelves stocked with food.

"We're able to get enough to get by ... but the grocery stores, most of them shut down," Claudi Lemus told CNN. "And when we tried the few that are open, you have to stand in line for 20-30 minutes at a time, and then you just go in and get whatever is available, because stores are (largely) empty."

Abbott on Thursday called the response by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas — the state’s power regulation body — “unacceptable” and promised an investigation into the matter.

"They said 5 days before the storm hit, the head of ERCOT said, 'we are ready for the cold temperatures heading our way,' ... They assured the public there would be enough energy to meet peak demand this winter," Abbott said. "Texans deserve answers about how these shortfalls occurred."