A rare deep freeze in Texas that raised demand for power forced the state’s electric grid operator on Monday to impose rotating blackouts, leaving 4.0 million customers without power even as temperatures dipped to teeth-chattering levels.
The cold snap sweeping Texas reached the northern part of neighbouring Mexico as well, where authorities said 4.7 million users lost power early on Monday. Around midday, service had been restored to almost 2.6 million of them.
The PowerOutage.us website, which tracks power outages, said 4,088,064 Texas customers were experiencing outages around 8:30 pm, reports Reuters.
President Joe Biden declared an emergency on Monday, unlocking federal assistance to Texas, where temperatures ranged from 28 to minus 8 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 2 to minus 22 Celsius).
“The Texas power grid has not been compromised. The ability of some companies that generate the power has been frozen,” Governor Greg Abbott wrote on Twitter. “They are working to get generation back on line.”
Abbott also deployed the National Guard statewide to assist in the restoration of electricity.
Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport said it would remain closed until at least 1.0 pm CST (1900 GMT) on Tuesday, while the city’s Hobby Airport ceased operations until at least noon on Tuesday due to the inclement weather.
The freeze also took a toll on the state’s energy industry, by far the country’s largest crude producer, shutting oil refineries and forcing restrictions from natural gas pipeline operators.
Apart from Texas, much of the United States was in the grip of bone-chilling weather over the three-day Presidents Day holiday weekend.
The National Weather Service (NWS) said an Arctic air mass had spread southward, well beyond areas accustomed to freezing weather, with winter storm warnings posted for most of the Gulf Coast region, Oklahoma and Missouri.