TEXAS — Monday morning, thousands of Texans woke up to see snow and ice covering their sidewalks and cars. They also found themselves trying to find warmth from the frigid temperatures inside their homes as many dealt with power outages with more than 1 million by mid-afternoon causing local officials to question how prepared the state was for the historic winter storm.
“The state must own and explain the magnitutde of these power outages across the state,” tweeted Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. "ERCOT is the traffic manager of the electric grid, which reports to the state. Neither the city nor the county controls or regulates ERCOT or the power generators. That is solely the responsibility of the state."
Houston, similar to many cities across the state, warned residents of the ongoing power outages expected over the course of the day into Tuesday, per state officials.
“The Texas power grid has not been compromised,” tweeted Gov. Greg Abbott, trying to address concerns of the state’s unprecedented power shortage. “The ability of some companies that generate the power has been frozen. This includes the natural gas and coal generators. They are working to get generation back on line."
Abbott mentioned that the Electronic Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and others were actively working to priortize residential customers and restore their power first. But, for the more than 1 million customers without power in Dallas County, officials warned that restoration could take up to hours with no definite timeframe in sight.
“Nearly 1.1 million Dallas County, Texas residents are currently without power, many for over six hours, some for over thirteen hours,” wrote Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins on Twitter. “If you are a business with generator capacity, please consider opening as a warming center.”
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson asked downtown buildings to turn off their external lights Monday night in an effort to conserve energy. In response, Reunion Tower confirmed it would not be lit along with “any other non-essential lights and electricity-consuming equipment…” Johnson also expressed his dissatisfaction with ERCOT.
"I have been as frustrated as everyone else today," tweeted Johnson. "I know this has been extraordinarily difficult. These power outages are unacceptable and ERCOT needs to answer for them."
Two hundred miles south, Austinites were grappling with the same issues— how to conserve energy and stay warm in the meantime. Leslie Pool, City of Austin council member, said companies were hard at work trying to help residents in need, especially the vulnerable population.
“The state of Texas is quite literally in a catastrophic power situation,” Pool tweeted. “All cities are required to shed load when ERCOT tells them to shed load. Austin’s load is so great that it has completely used up every available circuit.”
Fort Bend County's judge KP George noted that he would call on legislators to use their "oversight functions on the grid" to get help to its more than 800,000 residents. He described the power grid's outage as "unacceptable."
"... We have known for a week that the #ArticFront was coming," he tweeted. "We deserve answers. This is a life and death situation."
Rep. Jeff Leach, of district 67, insisted that ERCOT owed Texans an answer for the mass power outage. In a one-page letter to not only his constituents but also ERCOT, he admitted that the state should've prepared better for the storm. He also added that the communication to residents about that the grid was "plainly unacceptable." Leach ultimately encouraged people not to panic and to prepare for what's to come.
"Many devoted workers are on our streets right now at this very moment working to get power back on," Leach said. "But, my own due diligence leads me to believe that now is the time to start taking the necessary measures to plan ahead for the next one to two days should power not be restored by this evening."