Texans running low on oxygen, energy company can’t say when power will be back amid brutal winter storm

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About 7 million people in Texas were told to boil their water or stop using it entirely

By Bradford Betz | Fox News

People wait in line to fill propane tanks Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Houston.  (AP)

As millions of Texans have been left without heat amid a power outage during a historically freezing winter storm, many are now reportedly running low on oxygen supplies.

Comfort Homes Director of Operations Kasey Breidenthal told WANE 15 there is a growing concern for people who are on oxygen or need electronic devices for their health.

In the Dallas suburb of Richardson, a woman who relies on an oxygen machine had to be taken to a local hospital and then a dialysis center where the machine was charged, the Texas Tribune reported.

In San Antonio, officers have been dispatched to help residents without power or food.

Further south, along the Gulf of Mexico, volunteers have rescue some 4,500 sea turtles from frigid waters this week, FOX 29 reported. Experts told the outlet the turtles became “cold-stunned” when the water dropped to around 50 degrees.

About 7 million people in Texas were told to boil their water or stop using it entirely as homeowners, hospitals, and businesses grappled with broken water mains and burst pipes, many in areas unaccustomed to dealing with sustained frigid temperatures.

The Texas city of Kyle, south of Austin, asked residents Wednesday to suspend water usage until further notice because of a shortage.

Meanwhile, the CEO of ERCOT, the Texas energy agency that shut off the power Monday amid a brutal winter storm that has killed at least two dozen people dead and millions without heat, said Tuesday night he has no idea when the power will be restored for the state.

Bill Magness told CBS Austin in an interview Tuesday night that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) actually avoided a potentially bigger crisis by shutting down the power grid.

“The reason why is these outages have to exist is the electric system’s got to be managed where supply and demand are in balance all the time,” Magness told the outlet. “If you have a big imbalance on the supply of electricity and demand, you can have catastrophic failures in the system.”

ERCOT managers approximately 75% of Texas’ power grid. Magness said the systems impacted by blackouts can potentially take a very long time to repair and be “very dangerous to people.”

“The only way we can keep it in balance and keep it in control is to do outages,” Magness said. “Our number one priority is getting the power back on for as many people as we can, but we have to do it in a safe way and reliable way that keeps the system in tact, so we can use it in the future.”

Magness was not able to say definitively when the power would resume, but he hoped many customers would see at least partial service restored by later Wednesday or Thursday.

Magness also defended the decision to force outages “to prevent an event that would have been even more catastrophic than the terrible events we’ve seen this week.”

More than 3 million homes and businesses were remaining without power for the third day of a historic winter storm that is pummeling the state.

ERCOT said early Wednesday it had restored power to 600,000 households, while 2.7 million still do not have power.

In Austin, hundreds braved the cold on Wednesday to stock up on food, creating empty shelves and long lines, FOX 7 reported.

“There’s really no letup to some of the misery people are feeling across that area,” said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service, referring to Texas.

More than 100 million people live in areas covered by some type of winter weather warning, watch or advisory, the weather service said.

More than two dozen people have died in the extreme weather this week, some while struggling to find warmth inside their homes. In the Houston area, one family succumbed to carbon monoxide from car exhaust in their garage. Another perished as they used a fireplace to keep warm.

Scientists say the polar vortex, a weather pattern that usually keeps to the Arctic, is increasingly spilling into lower latitudes and sticking around longer. The winter storm has poured into neighboring states and even Mexico. Utilities from Minnesota to Mississippi have implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on power grids straining to meet extreme demand for heat and electricity.

Texas has borne the brunt of the worst U.S. power outages. Officials have requested 60 generators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and planned to prioritize hospitals and nursing homes. The state opened 35 shelters to more than 1,000 occupants, the agency said.

The weather also caused major disruptions to water systems in the Texas cities of Houston, Fort Worth, Galveston, Corpus Christi and in Memphis, Tennessee, and Shreveport, Louisiana, where city fire trucks delivered water to several hospitals and bottled water was being brought in for patients and staff, KSLA News reported. In Houston, residents were told to boil their water — if they had the power to do so — because of a major drop in water pressure linked to the weather.

In Abilene, Texas, firefighters were hampered by low water pressure as they tried to extinguish a house fire this week, the Abilene Reporter-News reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bradford Betz is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bradford_betz.

 

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