The Breakdown: Millions are in the dark in Texas

Plus, how the Navajo Nation is vaccinating its community and what President Joe Biden is saying about his school reopening goals.
30:56 | 02/17/21

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Transcript for The Breakdown: Millions are in the dark in Texas
I. Everyone welcome to the breakdown I'm Diana stayed out. But I'm Terry Moran a major new storm is moving across the country with at least 37 states on alert for dangerous ice wind and snow millions of Americans are already traveled. In record cold without. Power most of those people are in Texas. We're parts of that state nursing their lowest temperatures in a century and outages continue. In a few minutes the Chief Executive Officer of texas' biggest power company will join us live with the latest on the desperate race and lights and heat back. Also ahead nearly 12% of the US has gotten at least one dose of the cold that vaccine. And the hard hit Navajo Nation is one of the few minority communities blazing ahead with backstage with vaccination efforts. Coming up the ongoing mission to ramp up the rollout for rural areas and and one other parts of the country can learn from the Navajo communities approach. But we start with back to back winter storms slamming the country Texas. Has been especially hard hit millions there are without power or water or heat. Amid some of the coldest temperatures in over a hundred years our markets more is on the roads and Dallas markets what do you seeing there. Paid and women driving around this afternoon we are in just outside downtown Dallas in the deep Ellen district if you're familiar with his partner. Of Texas and you can see here the roads covered win. Was now it looks like they have been able to treat at least the main artery that's mainstream but a lot of little. The side streets calm they are still snow packed and very difficult to to get through it and and to navigate so. One of the reasons why officials here have been urging people to stay. Off of the road and in the midst of all of that. The power outages persist. They have been working around the clock. To restore power to the millions of customers here throughout north Texas and and the region who have been. In the dark says the storm hit. And we know that they're hot bed manages the entire Howard Crittenton in Texas was able to get about 700 now. Online over nine. But that still left more than two point half million people in the dark with no no idea no timetable. But when they'll get their lives back together in just a few minutes ago. Diane we've met some residents who live here. They haven't had power. Since Sunday morning they told us. And the temperatures here have been sub zero. At one point it was in the single digits for a couple of days straight so if you can just imagine what people have been enduring here. And it gives you a sense of why people had been so frustrated. And desperate for answers and has to win they will get their power back and as you know Diane we've also heard about the tragedy and how people. Out of that desperation have been using charcoal grills. Have been using have had cars running in their garages to try to keep their homes and sadly that has led to runs several dance. All across this region at least twenty people have been killed in weather related incidents so. Hub that is the very latest here everyone hoping for some relief and it may come at the end of the week here Diane. When temperatures are once again expected to give back to above freezing. All right Marcus Moore thanks very much. For that report from Dallas so how did Texas get to this point for more on that. Let's bring in someone who knows as CEO of the electric reliability council of Texas that air cut which operates the State's electricity grid bill madness. Good afternoon bill thanks for joining us. Good afternoon picture of me. So I know you're very busy and and you've taken time out of it we're just looking at looks like about three million Texas homes are without power right now as part of a rolling blackouts to reduce stress on the system. How this is happening in the 21 century in America and win is power going to be fully restored. Well we're working 24 hours today ever since Sunday night to get power restored Texans and I think now we we recently. Added more. Her ability to serve Texans I think the amount of rotating outages right now are half what they weren't there Pete. But that's not enough obviously we've got to keep that moving down as fast as we can because our only priority right now is getting. Hour to the folks in Texas. As you as you said a mean we along with you anywhere else in Texas street the losses the tragedies that have occurred in these last few days. And it it demonstrates the essential nature of power to two peoples lives. How does happen. That the nature of electricity. Is such that you have to keep the supply of electricity and the demand for electricity in balance. All the time. If you don't if they get very far out of balance you can have catastrophic. Blackouts that are not like what we're seeing today these are very big problems in Texas right now at the catastrophic blacked out. Jack be fixed by a grid operator like her. It's lots of equipment is destroyed they can last for months and months and there would be no power. In areas like Dallas. While that blackout occurred so in order to prevent those. Winner Connors grid operator seized. The supply of power that is good news generation from whether it's wind power solar or whatever it is. If that gets and up out of balance with the demand on the system. Then we have to take some demand off the system and sadly unfortunately that's what we had to do Sunday. The causes. B storm that came to Texas in your describing moving through the country. Let's taking the power system in dangerous directions. The demand for services were higher than they've ever been in Texas by far. For a winter. Yeah we usually have our highest commands and summer winter conditions were running and we were having. Amount of power usage which rivaling that this storm blew through. And it does so that the amount of the demand is going way up higher than anything we've seen in the winter season by far. Dennis supplies going down. Because as that a storm blew through. It iced up wind turbines for example it cause outages at some of the facilities that make power so that the ability to provide. The supply. Was compromised by the same storm that was driving up the demand. And so our grid operators jerk. Are sort of that we're sort of the traffic cops we don't we don't own generation we don't know and transmission lines that. Well our job is to prevent this catastrophic black house. One of the ways we view that is how rotating outages or outages that we can control and so did win be demand and supply get back in balance efficiently. Those outages command. And when we get enough generation back on the system enough supply to meet this demand. We're going to be in a place where we were last week or the week before with electric power system where you know things work more smoothly. So this really was the historic nature and the extraordinary extreme nature of this storm that drove both the problems that. Let us to have to have so many outages and unfortunately they've lasted much longer. That anyone would want and we're working around the clock to get those. Generating hand plants the power plants to. Had enough of them to get back online from the damages they suffered with the storm. To you either know the system and let everyone get to power again. So bill and this storm was an unexpected though so why didn't have such a dramatic impact and why is Texas faring so much worse than other surrounding states. The storm was certainly expected I mean we there were forecasts it was anticipated. And I think the idea. The challenge was to be demand was so high. And the supply. Was not able to meet at end of the reason for that was really. Normally in Texas I'd say it's especially through the hot Summers and other seasons. The supply sufficient to meet the highest demands we've ever seen on the system even even higher than we're seeing now sometimes in the summer. The problem was the storm was causing. A lot of those plants as power plants that were needed desperately to serve that demand. 22 triple off to have mechanical problems or freezing that they couldn't control so be beat. Supply I'd it was anticipated to be there were no that really tough time during the storm. Was not able to operate and it's still you know getting itself fixed and back on the system so it can serve customers. And Texas governor Greg Abbott has put the blame for these outages squarely on. On you guys you're a Nazi right now obviously so let's take a listen for a moment to what he told our affiliate KP RK this morning. And so are costing us for electric. Reliability. Council of Texas. And they showed that they were not reliable. These experts say is our engineers. In in the power industry these are bureaucrats who would of the case may be these are specialists. And government has rely upon the specialists. To be able to deliver in these types of situations. So he went and lived and call for your resignation your resignation America leaders elected get your response to that and also your response to add to what people are saying that maybe Texas is to deregulated that. That other states operate. Natural gas and wind in cold weather and they outfit them by regulation so that they can survive that first Abbott second. Maybe guys are doing it wrong. Did. First you know as I was saying to focus the total focus of our team now for me to our grid operators everywhere else is to get the power back on. There's going to be a lot of investigation and analysis of this event which obviously had huge impacts on taxes. And it he needs to be looked all of the decisions we made need to be looked at and I welcome that at night I. One of the things that you know. We just have to end in sight right now is until that powers all back on we've got to keep our people focus on making that happen so Texans and their households can have the power again. And yesterday unit they've moved there may be decisions about you know. Meal or other folks that are or whatever it is that we welcomed the chance to you know be accountable for this that the one thing I will say. Is that that the grid operators the folks who were responsible 24 hours day seven days a week. From keeping these catastrophic major blackouts from happening. Saw conditions Sunday night. That they really didn't have any other good choice but to have these rotating outages and now they've lasted a lot longer than rotating outages. But I feel like if we had not taken the actions we did to begin those outages. We could have seen the whole system down there with no prospect of coming back in the next few days which is certainly what we're seeing now because the outages we have in place a more control. I selects. Focus on that get Texans. Your Turkey to their life back and I certainly think will now. And investigate all the other issues I guess you let the sec it was about deregulation. If it. It was just it just the notion that Texas does it has not required. The power system to be sufficiently. Safe from called what other states right around you guys get plenty of cold and they're wind turbines and natural gas. The facilities are still working just fine. I welcome their. What issue is that. In Texas this system is designed forty. In the north the system is designed. Or you know colder. He blows he demands on the system so if we constructed some of our power plants awaited their constructed you know in more northern. Colder places. They would have difficulty maintaining their integrity in the summer when there's so much heat being generated in this case so. It is true that there are certain plants are you know built for that environment. Just deserve they're built in the north for environment where you see frequent cold. There's certainly. Plants that have protections they know cold weather's going to come but there is a difference between how. You know the power systems constructed and in warmer over places said. You know audits of it is that the traffic com. Managing how power flows our system. We're not. That the policymakers. And we're not the regulator. So. If there urban the idea is after we review this that is everyone does regulators industry are proud everywhere else that. There need to be changes in that arena absolutely I think that's what policymakers lesbian positions dealing and we're happy to help that we can't. And build a governors also pointing to those frozen wind turbines and solar panels and saying that. Green energy is responsible for the power failures what's your take on that. I mean certainly there were the governor's right there were certainly failures. Solar and when generation facilities. I think you know what what we saw this week. Was that the storm was central cause. That the true power out because we did she outages from other kinds of generation from coal. From natural gas as well as when in the soul. Certain you know I think what this storm does is exposed the vulnerabilities perhaps of all different kinds. How are making generation on the system. And it's something that obviously the industry you'll be period your suit and looking back debt and seeing. What are we gotta do to you know to keep this from happening because certainly. No one wants the kind of you know Cubans struggle that we have to see over the past few days or fellow Texans. But no one who's making power or. No monitoring managing the power system has any interest in doing that either our job every day is to get people reliable electricity. And events like this we have to protect from the absolute worst cases. But unfortunately. You know some people have had endure these outages that we needed or much longer than than we anticipated that said. I said yeah to top I mean we're moving forward on getting. More and more power back on line. We continue to work with the folks all across the industry to make sure that they're able to get there they're oh power supply back up so we can need to demand we have. And hopefully soon eliminate all the the outages that are in effect. And bill really quick we're at a time but I want your thoughts on this one of the big points of focus now is that Texas is on its own power grid yesterday the president called out alarming. Do you think after this Texas will be integrated into the National Grid. Well again we've got to focus on getting this troubled soul singing the power back on. I imagine there's going to be there we'll certainly be you know investigation this event. To determine what the right approach to going forward is that today. I'm not really focus on going forward I'm sure those discussions will come right now we got to get the power back on for. A bill Magnus ver Kyle we know you're busy we appreciate your time today good luck thank you thank you are much. And president Biden now says every American will be able to get a call a vaccine by the end of July so far more than 39 million people in the US have received at least one dose. And then not a whole nation which less than a month ago had the country's highest rate of deadly infection per capita. Is now making strides to vaccinated population. Is arranged shot has more on their rammed up rollout. In the heart of the hard hit Navajo Nation a community praying for normalcy. Hope that we can get back to normal for want to see my grandkids again I want to hold and I want to hug him again. The area that's the size of West Virginia that spans much of Arizona New Mexico and Utah. He's one of the few minority communities blazing ahead when it comes to vaccination efforts. At least 25% of people now have their first dose part of that effort is trying to keep a piece of our country's culture from slipping away. We are indigenous communities around the United States. Unfortunately Kobe seems to be hitting the elders the hardest and others are. Urged the tradition of the language is not a lot of the not a whole imaginary amended the language is that can't allow him I didn't know. Goldstein is an area director for core non profit a group thing embedded in the region last may when Kobe to rates were soaring. Partnering with Johns Hopkins and community leaders youth advocates and traditional healers in the race against time to reach out to as many people as possible. The vaccination approach dramatically different from smaller cities. Complication that we are facing the challenge. Is. So many people by choice and the ocean but little. What would be my perspective consider them I don't know whether it's about her you know on her Castro incidents where they want to. The results of that it sometimes people are or our jobs. The mission to backseat folks in the most rural areas has been on medical experts minds months before the roll out. One of the things that makes a vaccination program so difficult in the United States is that we have such fragmented. Disorganized and ED efficient health care system. Health experts along with activists now teaming up the virtual panels hoping to tackle another challenge when it comes to that exceeding the Navajo Nation should. Skepticism. We wanted to get the best vaccine that would help our people get through this Covert pandemic and I think that sharing of information built trust. And they get a report every week from John Hopkins letting them know how the study is progressing. It has been during war and mistrust out. The governments of people who are non indigenous. Americans are being used in terms of the start and how they didn't get out of the senate. We are and what we know how the United States American and a teeny tiny little while also plans. Despite the participation of indigenous people in vaccine trials miss trust and intergenerational trauma. Stemming from a history of communicable disease wiping out tribal communities. Still causes concern for some residents. Asking whether that takes ride to ten years opera you're right that land. And thing that I've heard but health officials reassuring the community that the vaccine has already been thoroughly tested. A lot of testing was already completed on an. Win the world population in mind and different minority groups were our test and. 818. A lot of key indifferent to such groups that that happened match that that the population of that the unites states. According to nobilo nation's president of the region will hit its goal of a 100000 vaccines bite and a February. President jumping as seeing the region has had several large scale dry through vaccinations. And more personnel and vaccines are on their way that's quite believe you very much informed considered. At least. And whenever I was gonna hear and Wayne doesn't matter and perhaps. Our thanks caesarean shop for that report and for more on the nationwide vaccine roll out let's bring in got a lot professor of operations. Information and decisions from the University of Pennsylvania got thank you so much. For being here looking out the way it's developed there how can officials learned from places like the Navajo Nation are West Virginia. But even successful in getting their communities vaccinated quickly. So far. He I think it's a great question and to some extent I think one has to understand really. All the different steps to get people vaccinated so we fertile had to develop the vaccine. Then we have to manufacture them then we have to distribute them and then we have to back sedate people. No the reason I'm outlining the entire process is because ultimately the main issue we face is that we don't have enough vaccines. The net the resigned saying that is if we had enough vaccines any question about priorities station. We did not mean he shall we would just tried to say drug device and it is many people as we can as quickly as we can and don't usually being new would you be vaccinated today or tomorrow. Maybe a week from now. Usually faced now he's the scenes there and not enough vaccines we have to decide how to allocate them across different states we fifteen states. To make sure that we actually give for your ET. To those who are more from noble. As well as take into consideration equity. The usually dad is in the solution for that. He is that if you look at states look at this he said states like West Virginia that might know. Sacks in eight WT lies 9597%. All day Schulz that they January that were sent to them what you see in my state health and see Renyel where we only administer and below 60%. And then you ask why and and the main reason for that penalty if you look across countries who see Israel than by Nile vaccine eight did. Team in fact six million people if in fact the ever more vaccinated more people than any state in the US in drawing California. Wind you don't even think about distended outsized then decide differences. The main reason for that is looked forced well Ford's Virginia or we heard now here for an alcohol. Is based central centralize everything you shall we had is weak new use for eleven months. That's Rio waiting for the vaccine. And no one to decline to actually create the registry. They to create teach wage and where you can go once and for all in register in effect until these state. Only very few states I know West Virginia I know New Mexico very few states as of one register Rican born register and you know you want to get the call immediately. As a boxing is ready for your Liberal Party station. In more states if you aren't all in one B or one seat. You still have to call and check again and again again. If you say wants the usual that the usually is that we ultimately get Donald spoilage what do the spoilage since we have limited capacity. Supported you get enough took us eight people are that were scheduled. Are coming toward their day off there shot and now have to delay it because there's not enough capacity. Or there are centers of we know that they are. Throwing away so these vaccines because they were remaining no shows. And now they have because there is such a low paid and Adam mostly appreciable live with Fordham of the same day. So because of the high fragmentation of the mark this situation here in the fight and we are not really creating is centrally station of that. But to the federal level very few state of the state little. We get a situation where. Mean even though we have many Schultz the commercially were delivered already eaten we have supported quite a bit of could pass up to this point. I wanna address that with you because that seems like the biggest shame if you have vaccines going to waste when so many people need them so what's the fastest way. To fix it we're not good automatically get a national registry that's perfectly organized but so what's the fastest way to solving those bottlenecks right now. The way to solve it is I know that we heard now that people have to wait sometime in drive wee hours. Generally speaking when we talk about genocide being more tele T I don't care so much on the I think inconvenient in fact. One thing that will be a thing improving things by law would be if you say a deal with every day by 5 PM. We're going to send an email blasts to ever mentally livings at thirty miles and he doesn't matter. What's your level of what's your age what your party is Asian if you come within the next hour you will be administer the shot. And that's what we mean ending Israeli acting Israel Doherty study involving eighty small social network people in different phase from groups who say war there is going to be wasted day. Making sure the people are going to be there it's 5 PM 6 PM 7 PM making sure that there is not a single show all but he's got goal wasted. And and the thing. That's the one appealing his single thing in many states a misspeak when people in West Virginia and New Mexico you've seen do you get a sense of urgency. I don't get sense of the federal level I don't get the sense of urgency. At the state level and we need to get to the point where realize that just having a long line and having people check again again again the same website is. Is not a solution to hide got a lot we have to let you got what we so appreciate your time today thank you. Really uninteresting yeah thanks very much for that that was very enlightening and when we come back. Important part of what president Biden is saying now about reopening schools and win every American can expect to get their backs shocks them. Yeah. Welcome back the Biden administration is take a lot of heat about its mixed messaging around the reopening of schools and this is former president trump has broken his silence following the passing of his ally. Rush Limbaugh so joining us now to break down a political headline today. Our political director Rick Klein and ABC news White House correspondent Karen Travers Rick let me begin with you present from spoke out. On Fox News about the death of Rush Limbaugh on American political colossus for decades he. Was that a friend and ally of Trump's as well as a first time we've heard from president trump since his acquittal. What did you hear from the former president there any thoughts on the impact Limbaugh's hat on shaping our politics today. I don't think is an exaggeration to say that that. Rush Limbaugh pave the way for the media environment on the conservative side that allowed Donald Trump to thrive. Rush Limbaugh came before Fox News I became before they there's that famous escalator ride that that that president trump. Referenced in his tribute to Rush Limbaugh today. A Limbaugh understood something about trump and boosted an elevated a lot of the same ideas concepts conspiracy theories. Far right up policies. All along the way and I think as president comes said today he could have gotten where he was without. That the stamp of approval from Rush Limbaugh and his massive radio audience across the country so many cars. I heard talk about Donald Trump taken seriously. As a presidential candidate long before many media organizations that the same. And I think notably Terry you heard president trump today say that Rush Limbaugh thought. That I won this election and by the way I thought the same thing he said he wrongly falsely perpetuated that big lie that ultimate lie. That led to his impeachment. Indignant all the way through the rest of Rush Limbaugh's life. And even now to this post presidential period by president trumpet seem to me almost a fitting tribute to say that he had even in his passing. I commend him for believing this falsehood that that idol he's. Or worse than by the original troll been in many ways or change the way we see and talk about politics or better we're committed to Karen on. Biden in his town hall less than kill a lot of questions. About schools used force to clarify his administration's messaging. On his goal to open schools the first hundred days of his administration so are they moving the goalposts here at the White House what do you sense. Yet Terry they move the goalposts and they move the goalposts back but there also insisting they never move the goalposts but. Has said that it's a goal to get the majority of elementary and middle schools opened by a the first 100 days so they ended April English. You know in that goal in itself was criticized because some say that was an ambitious enough that worry almost bear and just having a school opened one or two days for. Only a percentage of students is in re re getting the job done well then it got a little more complicated because the white house Press Secretary last week. Terry Shi said that and that is the goal but we're looking at maybe one day a week there was a lot of backlash to that parents not happy saying that Torre looking out one day of school is checking off an accomplishment in 100 days. Last night the president called that a mistake of communication. Sort of throwing the com's team under the bus there and said that no their goal is still to get the majority open. Jen Psaki who white house Press Secretary houses saying yes they do I get five days a week. But still they are facing a lot of tough questions about this and a lot of criticism about how they're doing this what the reopened plans are. And get a lot of pressure now to try and do this safely and get students and teachers back in the classroom. And questions about whether one stakeholder hear the teachers the teachers' unions are really the main stakeholder in the administration struggling. With that question about whether teachers need to be vaccinated. In order for schools to BO. Yet this is a very big source of tension between teachers unions and school administrators the issue of vaccines that wish to note a lot of teachers who've been in the classroom since the start of the school year and of course have not been vaccinated but we're seeing this play out in a lot of big cities. And the CDC last week released those long awaited guidelines about school reopening and they said that teachers should be prioritized. That they don't have to be vaccinated to go back into the classroom. Biden was asked this last night. And he did not echo that at which is very notable that riding he just say yes I agree teachers don't have to be vaccinated. Vice president Harris today in an interviews said the same thing. While Terry the White House clarified that later this afternoon saying that the president believes teachers do not have to be vaccinated. To get back to in person teaching but they do believe they have to be prioritized in this process. S in the back and forth showing that political cross pressure isn't so Rick what's your take on the politics surrounding the school's issues. This is enormously complicated because it's one of those issues that I think cuts. Across party lines up parents want kids back in school probably they want it done safely but every time he set up a metric like this you find new complications and I thought. Key to hear president Biden outlined the the issues involved with ventilation systems with the future of the cafeteria workers and bus drivers are made safe he even raised the prospect of needing to extend the school year into the summer adding classrooms I adding teachers to be able to have reduce class sizes. That is just not a practical solution and I'll tell you at this time where he's trying to corral Republican support for Colvin nineteen bill the fact that teachers unions. Appear to be an impediment to school reopening in so many parts of the country that as a galvanizing issue for Republicans is gonna make it easier frankly. For Republicans who oppose some of the Covert relief that the president. Is fighting for I do not know how they square this circle is a difficult one. And in I'll tell you if we if we go well into next school year with schools largely not reopened that is a prime political issue for the mid term elections. Yeah and for parents like you and Karen and MA and Diane and all of us so all parents across the country it's a critical issue Rick Klein Karen Travers thanks very much for being with us. Thanks to. And a programming note for you before we go be sure to watch mission to Mars here on ABC news live that's tomorrow. At 3:30 PM eastern when the perseverance rover is late it's a land. Our team will be live again and it 10 PM eastern with the first images. And from the red clad in all happening right here on ABC news live from tomorrow and that does it crashed on the breakdown today I'm Diane say. And I'm Terry Moran who have a great day.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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