Millions without power in Texas as dangerous winter weather continues

"This is the winter version of Hurricane Harvey," Texas' governor said.

February 17, 2021, 10:38 AM

More than 2.9 million customers in Texas were without power Wednesday morning as dangerous winter weather conditions continue to slam the state.

"This is the winter version of Hurricane Harvey," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told Houston ABC station KTRK. "And we will learn from this also, and we will come up with strategies to make sure there are available sources of power and energy so that things like this do not happen again."

PHOTO: A woman walks through falling snow in San Antonio, Feb. 14, 2021. Snow and ice blanketed large swaths of the U.S., prompting canceled flights, making driving perilous and reaching into areas as far south as Texas's Gulf Coast.
A woman walks through falling snow in San Antonio, Feb. 14, 2021. Snow and ice blanketed large swaths of the U.S., prompting canceled flights, making driving perilous and reaching into areas as far south as Texas's Gulf Coast.
Eric Gay/AP
PHOTO: Customers use the light from a cell phone to look in the meat section of a grocery store Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Dallas.
Customers use the light from a cell phone to look in the meat section of a grocery store Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Dallas. Even though the store lost power, it was open for cash only sales.
Lm Otero/AP

At least nine people have died in Texas, according to The Associated Press, including four family members who died in a fire started by a fireplace. Three died of carbon monoxide poisoning and two men found by the side of the road in Houston believed to have died in sub-freezing temperatures.

Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the agency that oversees the state's electric grid, entered its highest alert level overnight Sunday into Monday and started rolling blackouts to conserve power.

"This is typically done through rotating outages, which are controlled, temporary interruptions of electric service," ERCOT said in a statement obtained by ABC News. "This type of demand reduction is only used as a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole."

PHOTO: People wait in line at a mall to get inside a supermarket in Round Rock, Texas, on Feb. 16, 2021.
People wait in line at a mall to get inside a supermarket in Round Rock, Texas, on Feb. 16, 2021.
Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images

To help conserve energy, ERCOT asked residents to close their blinds, unplug unused appliances, wait to do laundry for a few days, wear warmer clothes and put the heat at 68 degrees.

ERCOT said Tuesday, "The number of controlled outages we have to do remains high. We are optimistic that we will be able to reduce the number throughout the day."

Judge Lina Hidalgo, Harris County's elected leader, said Tuesday that 70,000 power outages were caused by severe weather, but that number is now down to 30,000.

Hidalgo, however, noted that 1.2 million customers continue to be without power because of the forced state/ERCOT power outages -- roughly the same as Monday.

She was also critical of the forced outages, saying, "We've been hit hard by nature this week, but we can't deny that some of this is a man-made disaster as well. And the 5 million residents of this county, and really this region and in this state, will deserve answers from ERCOT and the state once this is over."

PHOTO: Snowplows works to clear the road during a winter storm Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, in Oklahoma City. Snow and ice blanketed large swaths of the U.S. on Sunday, prompting canceled flights, making driving perilous and reaching into the Texas Gulf Coast.
Snowplows works to clear the road during a winter storm Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, in Oklahoma City. Snow and ice blanketed large swaths of the U.S. on Sunday, prompting canceled flights, making driving perilous and reaching into areas as far south as Texas’ Gulf Coast, where snow and sleet were expected overnight.
Sue Ogrocki/AP
PHOTO: Christine Chapman sets down an empty canister to exchange for a full propane tank outside a grocery store Feb. 16, 2021, in Dallas.
Christine Chapman sets down an empty canister to exchange for a full propane tank outside a grocery store Feb. 16, 2021, in Dallas. Even though the store lost power, it was open for cash only sales. Chapman said she has been without power for two nights and is using the propane to keep warm.
Lm Otero/AP

Two federal agencies with oversight of energy grid reliability -- Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation -- will open a joint inquiry into the grid operations during the storm.

Texas vaccine shipments are on hold because of the storm.

"Due to the winter storm and dangerous conditions, the CDC has put vaccine shipments on hold," the Texas Department of State Health Services said. "We are not expecting deliveries to occur until at least Wednesday. Many local vaccine providers have postponed clinics since it is not safe for people to be out across much of Texas right now. Vaccination will resume as soon as it is safe and local conditions allow."

President Joe Biden approved Texas' emergency disaster proclamation on Sunday. The president also spoke to Abbott on Tuesday afternoon and promised federal help if necessary.

PHOTO: People seeking shelter from below freezing temperatures rest inside a church warming center Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Houston.
People seeking shelter from below freezing temperatures rest inside a church warming center Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Houston.
David J. Phillip/AP
PHOTO: A line of more than 200 people formed outside at the George R. Brown Convention Center, in Houston, Feb. 14, 2021, which city officials opened as an emergency shelter for the area homeless, who needed to get out of the freezing temperatures.
A line of more than 200 people formed outside at the George R. Brown Convention Center, in Houston, Feb. 14, 2021, which city officials opened as an emergency shelter for the area homeless, who needed to get out of the freezing temperatures.
Karen Warren/AP

But Texas isn't out of the woods yet. A new storm is hitting the state on Wednesday.

This new storm already brought up to 9 inches of snow to Amarillo, Texas. Freezing rain is falling in Austin and San Antonio where everything is covered in a layer of ice.

Severe thunderstorms, damaging winds and tornadoes are possible along the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Mobile, Alabama, Wednesday evening.

ABC News' J. Gabriel Ware, Ivan Pereira and Jamie Aranoff contributed to this report.

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