Texas and Houston Area Enter Day Three Of Winter Hellscape [UPDATED]

Icy conditions persisted Wednesday morning with over 160 reports of frozen-over roads across Houston.
Icy conditions persisted Wednesday morning with over 160 reports of frozen-over roads across Houston. Screenshot
Updated 2-17-21 at 1:20 p.m.:

In remarks to the media Wednesday morning, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said that although the water pressure issues at the root of the ongoing water supply problems and boil notices throughout the region “will start to improve through today,” it may not be until the end of Thursday that water in the City of Houston will come out of the tap safe for human consumption.

Turner said the city is expecting 13 trucks full of safe drinking water to arrive sometime in the relatively near future. “That water will be offered at no cost,” to members of the public, with additional details on a distribution plan forthcoming, he said.

City Public Works director Carol Haddock explained that state rules from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality mean that the boil notice can’t be immediately lifted even once the system regains enough pressure to ensure the water coming to consumers can be sufficiently treated and sanitized. She said once the water pressure gets back to an acceptable level, the city has to take water samples and send them into the state.

“We have to then let them sit in the laboratory for 24 hours to make sure that no bacteria grows in them,” Haddock explained, “and once we get the all clear on those, then the state will allow us to rescind the boil water notice.”

The main two concerns within City Hall about Houston’s new water crisis are fire hydrants for disaster response and water outages at regional hospitals, which have been reported across town.

Turner said that he’s instructed the fire department to bring trucks to provide LBJ Hospital with water, and that parks and recreation department irrigation trucks will be sent to other hospitals to deliver water used for summer irrigation. “We’ll make that water available to hospitals for their chillers,” he said.

Haddock reminded city residents lucky enough to still have running water that you can still use city water to take showers for the time being (as long as you take care not to swallow any) or for flushing toilets, but stressed the need to only use water that’s cooled after hitting a rolling two-minute boil for drinking or cooking.

“The answer is just don’t drink it,” she said.

Original Story:

Over a million locals are still without power or heat Wednesday morning as this bone-chilling cold weather drags on into the third day of this interminably cold week.

As of 5 a.m., CenterPoint Energy said 1.35 million of its Houston area customers didn't have electricity. According to a Wednesday tweet from ERCOT (the Electric Reliability Council of Texas), about 600,000 Texans got power back last night but 2.7 million are still powerless.

CenterPoint VP Jason Ryan warned Tuesday night that the days-long outages many Texans have faced may likely continue even once the state starts warming up in the days ahead as long as Texas’ independent power producers still struggle to crank out enough power.

The death toll from the Arctic weather and the collapse of the Texas power grid continues to climb; A grandmother and three of her grandchildren died in a Sugar Land house fire early Tuesday morning. The tragedy occurred in a neighborhood without power, and the family is believed to have been trying to keep warm with their fireplace before they passed.

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City of Houston residents were told to boil their water for safe consumption until further notice.
During Wednesday's virtual Houston City Council Meeting, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that the city will soon be announcing a boil water notice "for our main water distribution systems." An emergency alert was pushed to smartphones within Houston just at 9:27 a.m.

Numerous other parts of the greater Houston area are also under boil water notices Wednesday morning after the cold weather caused issues at water treatment facilities across the region. Harris County’s Office of Emergency Management tweeted Wednesday that virtually all of the county either has low water pressure or has no water at all, and the agency expects things to stay that way until power is restored.

In an interview with ABC13’s Gina Gaston Tuesday night, Gov. Greg Abbott said he believes the leadership team at ERCOT should resign, and called the agency's response to the ulta-cold weather “a total failure” for not being able to prep to have adequate backup power generators available ahead of a storm that everyone saw coming.

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Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas emergency management head Nim Kidd criticized the state power grid operator ERCOT Tuesday night.
“They’re not providing information to either you, to the public in Houston, or even to the governor of Texas that can explain why they’re incapable of equitably distributing energy power across the state of Texas,” Abbott said. In an about-face after initially only criticizing the state's independent power providers, Abbott on Tuesday named a full investigation into ERCOT's failures an emergency item for the Texas Legislature to take up immediately.

Space City Weather’s Eric Berger gave a Wednesday morning update on the frigid weather across the area. He wrote that most of Harris County is currently seeing normal non-frozen rainfall that should exit the region by noon or so.

“Most of the region should be passable by noon as temperatures warm, but motorists along and north of Interstate 10 should take care on roads, especially bridges and elevated highways, until ice has melted,” Berger warned.

Berger forecasted that a final push of cold air will surge into our region Wednesday night that might cause a tiny amount of snow or sleet in the northern reaches of Harris County on Thursday morning, but probably not enough to cause extra problems on local roads.

After Thursday’s likely highs in the 30s, Berger predicts that “The weekend will see stair-stepping high temperatures of 40s on Friday, 50s on Saturday and 60s on Sunday.”

“There will be plenty of sunshine,” he wrote. It can’t get here soon enough.
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Schaefer Edwards is a staff writer at the Houston Press who covers local and regional news. A lifelong Texan and adopted Houstonian, he loves NBA basketball and devouring Tex-Mex while his cat watches in envy.
Contact: Schaefer Edwards