The White House and Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, are monitoring the situation in Texas after winter weather left millions without power this week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.
“Our team and FEMA continue to monitor the situation in Texas, as well as other states in the storm’s path that might be impacted. We remain in close contact with states across the affected area to ensure any federal support requirements are met,” Psaki said at a White House press briefing.
FEMA, she said, has supplied generators in Texas and is “preparing to move diesel into the state to ensure the continued availability of backup power” for critical infrastructure, including communications, hospitals, and water. The agency is also supplying Texas with water and blankets at the state’s request.
The White House is standing by to process requests from additional states impacted by the winter storms.
“We’re preparing to quickly process requests from other states for emergency assistance, that’s how the process typically works, and we urge people in the affected states to of course listen to their emergency management officials,” she said.
Unprecedented winter storms have blanketed Texas, causing bitter cold temperatures and widespread power outages throughout much of the state.
President Biden has declared a state of emergency, which makes people eligible for federal assistance. Still, the need for help is immediate as many struggle to find shelter, food, and warmth in these dangerous freezing conditions.
Here you can help:
- The Salvation Army provides shelter, food, and other necessary items to those in need throughout Texas.
- The American Red Cross is supporting at least 35 warming centers with cots and blankets across the state.
- In Austin, the area Urban League has started the #LoveThyNeighborTX campaign to raise money for hotel rooms, food, water, clothing, and other basic needs of the housing insecure communities.
- Local small business Free Lunch is making deliveries of home-cooked meals, blankets, hand warmers, and hygiene kits to the Esperanza Community residents, a state-sanctioned shelter/campsite in the city.
- The Other Ones Foundation is also providing resiliency kits for residents of the campsite. The kits include basic needs for those experiencing homelessness.
- Dallas-area organizations Austin Street Center, OurCalling, The Stewpot, Union Gospel Mission, and Oak Lawn United Methodist Church are pooling funds to help pay for temporary shelter as well as Covid-19 rapid tests for those in need.
- Caritas of Austin also helps those experiencing housing insecurity in the Austin area. You can support their work by making a monetary donation or ordering items from their Amazon wish list to be shipped directly to the center.
- Austin Pets Alive! is working to keep pets across Texas warm and safe during the freezing conditions. The group needs heating pads, Styrofoam coolers, dog beds, heat lamps, and monetary donations.
You can donate to any of the organizations listed above by clicking this link.
More than 2,300 flights have been canceled into, or out of the US today, according to the flight tracking website flightaware.com.
This includes over a thousand flights in and out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas Love Field, and over 700 flights in and out of Houston’s Bush-Intercontinental and Hobby airports.
The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, which was closed earlier today, has reopened. Flights are expected to begin at 1 p.m. CT, according to the airport’s Twitter page.
Regional airports in Abilene, Texas, and Jackson, Mississippi, remain closed due to snow and ice.
The more than 2,300 canceled flights today are on top of over 2,800 canceled yesterday. Another 500 flights have already been canceled for tomorrow, a number which will grow as snow begins to impact the major metropolitan areas in the Northeast by late tomorrow.
Bill Magness, the CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), said in a Webex briefing that he knows everybody wants to know when the power outages will end.
He said ERCOT is “working around the clock” to get more power back on, but restoring service depends on two factors.
“There was an enormous amount of electric generation – and it’s the supply side that provides the power into the equation – that was taken out of service by the storm,” Magness said, adding the storm also had a “freezing impact on the natural gas supply” which affected the ability of gas generators to produce at full output.
“So, getting those resources back on the grid is the central solution to getting people their power back, because we need to maintain a power balance. And if that power balance has supply and demand too far out of balance it risks cascading catastrophic blackout, not an outage that we could restore as soon as we get these power plants working again, but a blackout, that would affect the entire ERCOT region, and would have an indeterminate end date, and would not offer the opportunity to serve critical loads to keep some, you know, central power on,” Magness said.
“So what we are avoiding, and the reason that we are in this situation is that we risked that catastrophic blackout at one in the morning on Monday, and we had to reduce the demand to get the supply and demand back and balanced. And we’ve been working to get that balance back, so we can operate the system reliably and safely going forward,” Magness added, saying that means the outages so far have lasted longer “than anyone would want.”
The second factor, Magness said, is the weather.
Issues like freezing wind turbine blades and other generating resources that froze and needed to be thawed will be helped by the weather warming up. Additionally, transporting skilled personnel and fuel will be easier to do when there isn’t as much ice and snow on the road.
“So the work that needs to be done to get those resources back in place is going to be easier to do as the weather warms,” Magness said.
Magness said that demand will go down as the weather warms up as well.
“The reason that the demand has stayed as high as it has all week is that we’ve had this frigid weather so the people who were using electricity are using a lot more of it than they typically would,” Magness said.
Millions are enduring a deadly winter storm without power and during extremely low temperatures. Staying safe can be a challenge.
Here are some things you can do to prevent hypothermia and frostbite:
Hypothermia: This happens after you have been exposed to very cold temperatures for a prolonged period of time and your body loses heat faster than it is produced. This low body temperature can affect your brain, causing you not to think clearly, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Being aware of the signs of hypothermia is critical because you might not realize it is happening.
- Exhaustion or feeling very tired
- Fumbling hands
- Memory loss
- Slurred speech
What to do: If you are not able to get medical help right away, start with trying to warm the person up.
- Focus on heating up the chest, neck, head and groin area. The CDC says if you don’t have power, use skin-to-skin contact under layers of clothes or blankets.
- Warm drinks can help increase the body temperature.
- Once they are warmed up, make sure the person is dry and wrap their body, including their head and neck, in a blanket.
Frostbite: This can lead to a loss of feeling and color in your body – typically your extremities like your nose, ears, cheeks, fingers or toes. The CDC says you may not notice you have frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen parts of your body will be numb.
- A white or grayish-yellow skin area
- Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
What to do: The CDC says you should get medical care right away, but in an instance where a person is showing signs of frostbite and not hypothermia and you cannot get medical care, here’s what you can do:
- Do not walk on the feet or toes that show signs of frostbite, unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Do not rub the frostbitten area, this causes more damage, according to the CDC. Also don’t use things like a heating pad, heat lamp, fireplace or radiator – because the area is numb, it could get burned.
- Put the frozen areas in warm water. The water should be comfortable to touch with unaffected parts of your body, not hot. If warm water is not available, use body heat.
Remember: These tips are not substitutes for proper medical care. Hypothermia is a medical emergency and frostbite should be looked at by a doctor. Get medical care as soon as you can safely.
Winter storms in Kentucky have caused “physical damage to the infrastructure that transmits and delivers electricity to households” and some residents still might not have power by the end of the week, state officials say.
“Our issues are different than what they’re facing in Texas, though some of the natural gas is impacting some of our cities,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said at a storm briefing.
In Kentucky, the bigger concern “is the infrastructure, especially in Eastern Kentucky and the hit that it’s taken and the amount of time it’s going to take to get it back online,” the governor said.
“We believe that we’re going to make substantial headway through the end of this week in getting people their power back, but in some areas of eastern Kentucky it may take longer than through the end of the week,” said Beshear, who acknowledged its tough news for residents.
More than 96,000 customers were without power on Thursday morning, state officials said.
“No matter how well prepared [we are] for significant events, power outages and transmission issues are a product of ice storms,” said Michael Dossett, executive director of the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management.
“Electric companies have activated their mutual aid system” and in some counties base camps have been established where “all the power companies will be onboard working to bring the power back,” Dossett said.
There are several steps crews must take to repair damaged power lines, said Dossett.
Crews must first assess the lines, “they physically need to walk many of these because of the dangerous conditions, the downed trees and the significant impacts in getting to the power lines,” according to Dossett.
Crews must also prioritize the sites depending on how many households are connected to a specific circuit, Dossett said.
Because of this “households can experience on again and off again service because they routinely have to take down a major circuit to provide repairs to a feeder circuit, and then energize that area again,” Dossett said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is preparing to begin distributing 60 generators, millions of liters of water and tens of thousands of blankets in Texas starting today, according to a FEMA source.
More shipments are expected in the coming days and weeks.
FEMA Region 6, which includes Texas, told CNN the agency is “coordinating with the Texas Division of Emergency Management to facilitate requests for generators, blankets, bottled water and shelf stable meals.”
Biden approved an emergency declaration for the state over the weekend.
Over 3.3 million customers are without power in the state, with the greatest number in the Houston area.
As millions of Texans face power outages during winter storms, Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin, Texas, said the return of power for residents depends on how soon the state can bring its power generation plants online and it could take days.
“What I’m hearing is it could be that we don’t get that generation back online until things thaw. And that could be Friday, that could be Saturday here in Texas,” he told CNN. “This is a rough place we’re in right now, and there’s no guarantee of immediate relief.”
He acknowledged that Texas needs to prepare to face extreme weather conditions more frequently.
“I’m in a community right now that is scared, frustrated, confused, angry and I am, too,” he added. “The state grid has failed us. We weren’t ready for sustained weather of 18 below zero. We need to be. These extreme weather conditions are happening much more frequently and we were not prepared.”
Adler also addressed and criticized comments from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, calling it “outrageous” to make the conversation about renewable energy and blaming the power failures on green policies during an interview with Fox News.
“The statement is not true to start off with,” Adler said. “We want our governor focused on getting us power and on restarting the grid, to find out what it is with ERCOT that made this happen.”
The San Antonio Fire Department confirmed to CNN that the power outages and cold weather are affecting their ability to put out fires.
San Antonio Fire Department spokesperson Joseph Arrington said that frozen hydrants, as well as power outages affecting pump stations, are causing “challenges” with water pressure. That’s ultimately hampering their efforts to put out fires as they find ways to work around it.
“We have just had to ‘do more with less,'” he went onto say.
For instance, Arrington said that instead of trying to aggressively knock down the fire inside, they’ve had to transition to a more exterior, defensive approach because of water pressure issues.
“Our normal attack would involve multiple hoses and lots of water on the fire, so we’ve obviously just had to adjust,” he said.
Elsa Lightbourn appears to have witnessed the new approach firefighters have been forced to take in video she took of a fire in her San Antonio apartment complex. Arrington confirmed that firefighters responded to a fire in the leasing office around 6:30 a.m.
“Crews found heavy fire in the attic area of the building, made an attempt at an interior offensive attack but were forced to back out and go defensive due to low water pressures,” he said. “Some crews remain on scene clearing up hot spots.”