More than a million people could be without power on one of Houston’s coldest nights

Top line

The Houston energy supplier told customers who lost electricity not to expect it to be restored on Monday, potentially leaving more than a million customers without access to heat during what is expected to be one of the coldest nights in the city’s history.

Highlights

A massive winter storm brought historically cold temperatures to much of Texas, crippling the state’s power supply.

According to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D), 1,153,000 CenterPoint customers were without power as of Monday afternoon, with more than 2.8 million without power statewide, according to poweroutage.us.

The National Weather Service forecast a minimum temperature of 10 degrees for Houston on Monday night, very close to the coldest temperature the city has ever recorded: 5 degrees on January 18, 1930.

Power outages across the state of Texas came on Monday as the state scrambles to preserve its electricity supply after Gov. Greg Abbott (right) said natural gas generators and coal used to power the state had frozen over.

A convention center converted to a heated shelter reached full capacity just before 2 p.m. central time Monday afternoon, Turner said.

Crucial quote

“Significant damage has already occurred with power plants, hydro plants and emergency generator failures where fuel supplies are freezing. Natural gas connections are also freezing, leading to natural gas outages in some areas, ”said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District.

Key context

A huge winter storm has significant impacts across much of the eastern United States, from southern Texas to the northern tip of Maine. Heavy snowfall occurred on the north and west sides of the storm, while freezing rain resulted in ice storm conditions on the eastern edge of the system. Most of the American population was subject to some sort of winter weather advisory issued by the National Weather Service on Monday, which led to the extraordinary situation throughout the state of Texas for some time under a warning of winter storm.

What to watch out for

Another major winter storm is expected to hit Texas from Tuesday night through Wednesday, raising further concerns about what could happen to the state’s power supply.

Tangent

A Harris County health storage facility lost power early Monday morning and its back-up generator failed, spoiling 8,400 doses of Moderna vaccine if they were to were not administered promptly. The vaccines have since been scattered around the county jail, Rice University and three local hospitals, although the doses are not offered to the general public as authorities urge residents to stay away from frozen roads.

Further reading

Millions without electricity, vaccination sites disrupted as winter storm sweeps across United States (Forbes)

Harris County rushes to distribute 8,400 COVID-19 vaccines after freezer lost power (Houston Chronicle)

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