Oncor is warning of further outages Wednesday as North Texans brace for a second winter storm that's bringing continued snow, sleet and freezing rain.
An estimated 2.8 million households across Texas remain without power as of 9 a.m. Wednesday, according to ERCOT, the company that oversees the state's electric grid. It marks some improvement over the 3.7 million outages reported the day before.
"We know millions of people are suffering," said ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness. "We have no other priority than getting them electricity. No other priority."
During the overnight hours, ERCOT was able to restore approximately 3,500 MW of load, which is roughly 700,000 households, the company said in a news release.
"Although we've reconnected more consumers back to the grid, the aggregate energy consumption of customers (those recently turned back on and those already on) is actually lower this morning compared to yesterday because it's less cold," ERCOT Senior Director of System Operations Dan Woodfin said in a news release. "However, we are anticipating another cold front this evening which could increase the demand."
Oncor reported that more than 160,000 customers were without power in Dallas County as of 5 a.m. with nearly 150,000 in Tarrant County, 59,000 in Collin County and 26,000 in Denton County.
Meanwhile, Oncor said lower power demand overnight allowed for some power restoration and increased capability to rotate outages throughout their service area.
"However, as we saw yesterday, low temperatures of the early morning and increased power demand may result in direction from ERCOT to once again reduce additional load. We will continue to take their direction as we focus on ensuring the integrity of the electric grid," Oncor wrote.
"We continue to strive toward providing any temporary relief that we can for those who have been without power the longest as soon as enough generation is available," the statement read.
Magness spoke with NBC 5 Senior Investigative Reporter Scott Friedman Tuesday morning and said if the weather cooperates and if they get more power generation online, they hope to tell electric providers they can restore service to many customers later this week.
ERCOT said the demand for power began to exceed the available supply early Monday morning and they were forced to order rotating, controlled power outages to keep the grid intact and to help even more people not experience longer uncontrolled blackouts that could last for weeks or even months.
On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) added ERCOT reform as an emergency item to the current Texas legislative session. The governor is calling on the legislature to investigate ERCOT and ensure Texans never again experience power outages on the scale they have seen over the past several days.
"The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” said Abbott in a statement on Tuesday. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable."
On Tuesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Texas had requested 60 generators and that hospitals and nursing homes would get priority. Thirty-five warming shelters were opened to accommodate more than 1,000 people around the state, FEMA said during a briefing. But even they weren’t spared from the outages, as Houston was forced to close two on Monday because of a loss in power.
Thousands of North Texans are still without power. Many sit in their freezing homes. Their frustrations are boiling over.
“I could see my breath, I was trying to just cook whatever food I could,” said Mike Nimietz of Lewisville. “I was bundled for winter inside my apartment.”
Nimietz is from Chicago but said he’s never experienced anything like this outage before.
“The cold is not really what frightened me, but also we never really had that kind of power outage there,” he said.
Madi Alimohammad of Las Colinas said she’s been without power since around 2 a.m. on Monday.
Her elderly parents live with her.
“They are seniors, so they were freezing. They were just sitting having blankets and I didn’t have any idea of what’s going on,” she said.
West Plano resident Pola Sanchez rushed her son who has medical needs requiring electricity to her mother’s home after they lost power.
“We stuck it out Monday night, but yesterday it was just too cold in the apartment,” she said.
But her mother’s home was then impacted by bursting water pipes, forcing Sanchez to seek shelter at a hotel.
She said her apartment’s water has been shut off because of broken pipes.
Kevin Bibelhausen’s friends took him and his wife in when their power was gone, but then their friends’ parents lost power too.
“We decided that the closest relative we have is here in Kansas so we packed up the car the next morning and packed up the two dogs and made the seven-hour trip to Salina, Kansas,” he said.
Days-long outages have also hit assisted living facilities across the region, including Tuscany Villas in Plano where a resident spoke with us by phone after being picked up by her grandkid.
“I do have a next-door neighbor that’s been keeping me informed and she said it was 42-degrees in her apartment right now,” said the resident who asked not to be identified.
A representative from the facility who answered our phone call, referred NBC 5 to ERCOT for answers about their “rolling outages.”
To electric company leaders and leaders in government, these North Texans have this to say:
“Instead of blaming nature or green energy or blaming other political parties, just learn how you should handle this situation,” said Alimohammad.
“This is not above your pay grade. This is quite literally what you’re there to do,” said Bibelhausen. “At some point, a leader stands up and says: This is a problem, we’re accountable and we’re going to fix it.”
Winter Weather Recovery
After several days of sub-freezing temperatures, some melting is expected Friday and Saturday.