Texas power plants working after storm

·2-min read

Texas Governor Greg Abbott say all power generating plants in the state are back online but hundreds of thousands of homes remain without energy because of downed lines and other issues after a ferocious winter storm.

About 325,000 households still do not have power on Thursday, down from 2.7 million on Wednesday, and more than 13 million Texans are seeing interruptions in their water services.

Energy operators and state leaders such as Abbott are facing withering criticism for the prolonged outages due to freezing temperatures that began four days ago.

Abbott said he has asked state legislators to push through laws mandating that all energy generation plants in Texas "winterise" their facilities like those in colder states do in the hopes that future cold snaps do not result in electrical grid failures.

"What happened this week to our fellow Texans is absolutely unacceptable and can never be replicated again," Abbott told an afternoon news conference.

The governor lashed out at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), a co-operative responsible for 90 per cent of the state's electricity, which he said had told officials before the storm that the grid was prepared for the cold weather.

Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in Harris County, which encompasses Houston, said the number of homes without power in her county had fallen to 33,000 from 1.4 million a few nights ago.

"It's definitely a big positive that the power is back on for most of the residents," Hidalgo said. "It's been a miserable few days, a really tragic few days."

She warned a "hard freeze" on Thursday night could cause setbacks and encouraged donations to food banks, with some residents struggling to secure food and water.

Angry residents have trained much of their ire on ERCOT, which critics say did not heed warnings after a cold weather meltdown in 2011 to ensure that Texas' energy infrastructure, which relies primarily on natural gas, was winterized.

Critics have also raised questions about Abbott's leadership. US Senator Ted Cruz came under fire for flying to the Mexican resort city of Cancun with his family in the middle of the crisis. The Republican lawmaker cut his trip short after his travels were reported, saying he would return to Texas and "get to the bottom of what happened".

The lack of power has cut off water supplies for millions, further strained hospitals' ability to treat patients amid a pandemic, and isolated vulnerable communities.

As of Thursday afternoon, 797 public water systems were reporting disruptions in service, affecting 13.2 million people, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Most of those affected have been told they need to boil their water.

Nearly two dozen deaths have been attributed to the cold snap and officials suspect there have been many more.