As power outages in Collin County and statewide come to an end, some Texans are still without power and others are dealing with unsafe drinking water. And the Electric Reliability Council of Texas warned that rotating outages might happen again if people use too much electricity. 

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott said power has been restored to almost two million homes across the state since Wednesday, including 301,739 people in Collin County. Yet, more than 325,000 Texans are still without power. 

Now many North Texas cities and counties are telling residents to boil water before consumption because the power outages have affected water treatment plants.

Those cities and counties include Arlington, Benbrook, Boyd, Denton, Fannin County, Fort Worth, Greenville, Haslet, Keller, Kennedale, Lewisville, Mesquite, Mustang Special Utility District, North Richland Hills, Princeton, River Oaks, Springtown and University Park.

WFAA reported that, as of Thursday, Anna and Princeton were the only cities in Collin County under a boil water notice, which is in effect for all customers.

However, other big cities in Collin County are experiencing problems with water.

McKinney Mayor George Fuller asked residents in a Facebook post Wednesday to only use water for essential needs. It seems the city’s supplier, the North Texas Municipal Water District, and the city “are experiencing higher than normal demands.”

“Unfortunately, the unexpected usage increase problem was compounded as NTMWD experienced additional local equipment challenges last night due to the extreme weather,” Mayor Fuller wrote in the post. “As a result of this collective situation, NTMWD could not supply the city with the amount of water needed to refill the City of McKinney’s water supply for these higher demands.”

Mayor Fuller claimed that McKinney was in a much better position regarding water supply as of Thursday morning. He pointed out that it’s still important for residents to continue conserving water as much as possible.

The City of Plano asked residents in a Facebook post Wednesday to shut off their water if they discover a water leak or pipe burst. (For downloadable directions on how to turn off your water, click here. For video directions, click here.) 

“We urge you to learn how to shut your water off yourself as quickly as possible in the event of a burst pipe or leak,” the city wrote.

ERCOT: Rotating Outages Still Possible

ERCOT restored 3,500 megawatts of power overnight, which represents about 700,000 households, according to a Wednesday press release. It also was directing local utilities to shed 14,000 megawatts of power, representing around 2.8 million households. Some industrial facilities also voluntarily went offline to help conserve power. 

Throughout the day, ERCOT restored 8,000 megawatts to around 1.6 million households. As more generation became available throughout Wednesday afternoon, ERCOT was able to restore 1,000 megawatts every hour.

During an ERCOT press conference Thursday morning, Dan Woodfin, the senior director of ERCOT Systems Operations, said a lot of generation came back online during the afternoon, especially solar power. Because of that, they were able to tell transmission operators early Thursday morning to restore power. 

Anyone who still doesn’t have power may be due to storm damage on the distribution system. It could be also because of “the energy emergency load shed,”which has to be manually fixed, according to an ERCOT press release Thursday.

But the possibility of rotating outages is still there over the next few days.

“If [the amount of electricity used] exceeds the amount of available generation… it’s possible that, if that kind of situation occurred, we could have to reimplement rotating outages on a limited basis, and hopefully be able to rotate through those as opposed to having the longer-term outages that had happened before,” Woodfin said.

Gov. Abbott: ERCOT Failed

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Gov. Abbott said he is taking many steps to help Texans who were impacted by the winter storm. He asked President Joe Biden to declare the winter weather event a major disaster. The president agreed and issued a federal declaration for the 254 counties in Texas. This move will make individual assistance by the Federal Management Agency available to Texans affected by the storm and pay for anything not covered by their private insurance. 

The governor is also working with water providers to evaluate waivers and create executive orders to speed up the process of getting clean water to Texans. 

Gov. Abbott also had a lot to say about ERCOT, who he said failed Texans this winter season. “What happened this week to our fellow Texans is absolutely unacceptable and can never be replicated again. It’s especially unacceptable when you realize what ERCOT told the state of Texas. They said five days before the winter storm hit — the ERCOT CEO assured ERCOT, and I quote, ‘We’re ready for the cold temperatures coming our way.’

“He said that ERCOT had issued a notice to power plants to ensure that they were winterized properly,” Gov. Abbott continued. “ERCOT’s annual winter assessment, which is designed to ensure that the state is prepared, assured the public that there would be enough power to meet peak demand.”

Because of these shortfalls, Gov. Abbott said he issued an executive order that added emergency items to the legislative session. He is asking the legislature to investigate what happened at ERCOT leading up to and during their response to the winter storm. 

Texans are not out of the woods yet as cold temperatures will continue across the state, Gov. Abbott said. There is still uncertainty surrounding power generation facilities, but they “hope and anticipate” nobody will lose power tonight. 

“Now we know because of the storm that will continue to sweep across parts of Texas tonight that we are not yet out of this,” Abbott said. “But we’re closer to this challenge being behind us. We will not stop until normalcy is restored to your lives. Until that moment comes, though, I ask all Texans to continue your efforts to take the proper precautions that are needed to stay safe and to stay warm.”

How You Can Help or Stay Warm

If you are in need of a warming center, click here to find the one closest to you. 

Or, if you would rather stay in your home, Oncor tweeted out an infographic from the National Weather Service with tips on how to stay warm without power:

  • Close the blinds or curtains
  • Close off rooms
  • Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight and warm clothing
  • Eat and drink to give yourself energy but avoiding alcohol and caffeine
  • Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors

To help conserve electricity and avoid further rotating outages, ERCOT recommends that you: 

  • Turn down your thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Close your shades and blinds
  • Turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances
  • Avoid using large appliances, such as ovens and washing machines
  • If you own a business, minimize electric lighting use and electricity-consuming equipment
  • Any entity that is a large consumer of electricity should consider shutting down completely or reducing non-essential production processes

Gov. Abbott also noted a couple of ways Texans can help during his press conference. To help those who need food, go to www.feedingtexas.org. To help deliver other supplies, the governor recommended visiting www.redcross.org to work with the Red Cross.

Mayor Fuller is also seeking plumbers for residents who have been affected by the storm. He asked anyone who is or has been a plumber to email him at help@mayorfuller.com with contact information for him to share.

Bailey Lewis

Bailey Lewis recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma and served as The OU Daily's news editor and enterprise editor. Previously, she was a summer 2020 news intern at the Malheur Enterprise,...