Updated Feb 16, 2021 - Energy & Environment

2 dead and millions without power in Texas as winter storm sweeps U.S.

Workers clear snow from a parking lot in Midland, Texas, U.S, on Monday, Feb. 15
Workers clear snow from a parking lot in Midland, Texas, U.S, on Monday. Photo: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Texas city of Abilene has had all of its water services shut off, as a deadly winter storm continues to pummel the state.

The latest: Over 4 million people across Texas were without power early Tuesday, as most of the state faced single-digit temperatures and sub-zero wind chill, according to the national utility tracker poweroutage.us.

  • Water services in Abilene, west of Dallas, were shut off at 7pm "as a result of power outages from both power sources at all three of its water treatment plants," per a city statement.
  • There's no estimate for when power and water would be turned back on in the city of 123,000.
  • Law enforcement found two men dead at roadways in the Houston area, per AP.

For the record: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced the state was deploying personnel to help local officials clear the streets and assist essential workers.

  • He also ordered members of the National Guard "to conduct welfare checks and to assist local authorities" in moving people to warming centers.

The Department of Energy issued an order authorizing Texas power plants to work at maximum capacity, a move that could "result in a violation of limits of pollution," Bloomberg reports.

  • The Electric Reliability Council of Texas requested the order "to preserve the reliability of bulk electric power system.
  • The weather event was "expected to result in record winter electricity demand that will exceed even ERCOT’s most extreme seasonal load forecasts," it noted.

The big picture: Large swaths of the country, including the southeast up through the central U.S., under a winter storm warning, according to the National Weather Service.

What else is happening: The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said early Monday that it would begin rotating outages due to extreme weather to take generators offline.

  • There were reports of road closures throughout the state, including in Houston and San Antonio, with freezing temperatures expected for at least the next day.
  • Several airports across the state announced flights would be canceled or postponed on Monday due to the conditions.
    • The Hobby Airport in Houston said its airfield "will remain closed" through Tuesday.
    • The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport announced that all flights were canceled and recommended that travelers contact their specific airlines to handle flight details.

Of note: "The barrage of storminess and extreme cold can be traced back to an early January disruption of the polar vortex, which allowed lobes of extreme cold to ebb south over North America, Europe and Asia," the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang reports.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details, including the two deaths, news from Abilene and the latest information on the power outages.

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