Power has been restored to more than 2.5 million homes and businesses in Texas, four days after a large winter storm hit the state. But while the lights are on and the heat has returned for many, another crisis is developing — a water shortage.
Calling the ongoing situation "unacceptable," Governor Greg Abbott is calling on lawmakers to investigate what happened, and said he is asking President Joe Biden to make a major disaster declaration to allow individual Texans to apply to FEMA for assistance.
Continued freezing temperatures throughout the state have taken a toll on plumbing and sewer infrastructure. The weather has led to cracked and broken pipes, causing leaks and contamination to the water supply in hundreds of cities across Texas.
A spokesperson for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality confirmed to both CNN and NBC News Thursday that 12 million Texans are facing disrupted water service. About 725 water systems in the state are requiring Texans to boil tap water — a request that presents its own problems to those who are still without power.
To make matters worse, NBC News reports that more than a quarter-million people live in areas where water systems are completely inoperable.
With many grocery stores still closed due to power outages, many Texans are struggling to find food to eat and water to drink.
The good news is that there has been significant progress in restoring power to homes and businesses, especially in the northern part of the state.
Thursday afternoon, Governor Abbott announced about 350,000 homes and businesses are without power in Texas, down from more than 3 million on Wednesday afternoon. He says those who remain without power are because of power lines that are down and have not been repaired yet, or locations where the connection has to be manually repaired.
"As of this press conference, there are no outages of power across the state of power because of the … lack of ability to generate power," the governor said Thursday. He added that every available repair truck was in use working to reconnect power.
However, it's been four days since the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ECROT) began reporting widespread outages on Sunday night, and the state’s power grid remains on a Level 3 Alert — the highest emergency level. It also says that rotating blackouts are continuing throughout the state in order to conserve energy.
Governor Abbott shared his frustration with ERCOT Thursday, saying "it's unacceptable," and adding items to the legislative session for lawmakers to look into ERCOT's actions before and during this week's storm.
"They said 5 days before the storm hit, the head of ERCOT said, 'we are ready for the cold temperatures heading our way,' ... They assured the public there would be enough energy to meet peak demand this winter," Abbott said. "Texans deserve answers about how these shortfalls occurred."
Issues with the Texas power grid started Sunday when temperatures dipped below freezing in all parts of the state — including southern Texas, where cold snaps are fairly rare.
Then, on Sunday evening, a snow and ice storm blew through the state, knocking several power generators offline.
The severe weather is also wreaking havoc on other utilities in the state.
According to the Associated Press, cold weather has led to the deaths of “more than 30 people” across the country this week — many of them in Texas.
Earlier this week, four people in Houston died in a fire that had been sparked to keep people warm. Two others in the city died of carbon monoxide poisoning when a family ran a car in a garage in the hopes of keeping warm.