Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has signed a disaster declaration for Harris County over an Arctic blast that proud once-in-a-decade weather conditions to the area. The move gives the county flexibility with resources to handle the severe weather event, she said.
“Let’s see this as an extended hurricane,” Hidalgo said. “Right now we have to hunker down and be very careful. Our roads continue to have ice on them, so driving is the last thing you want to do right now.”
Mayor Sylvester Turner, who said he had also signed a city declaration, said at a press briefing Sunday evening that a Houston-run warming shelter for unhoused Houstonians at the George R. Brown Convention Center was already near capacity. The city had planned for 200 people, but the number of people seeking shelter was approaching 500, he said.
Turner added that he would open additional emergency centers but did not specify the locations, saying the city would rely on emergency personnel and homeless outreach groups, similar to Harris County’s plan.
Lakewood Church is also set to open its doors to those who need shelter from the cold, the mayor said.
Houston Fire Chief Peña reported three fires in the last 24 hours due to inappropriately placed space heaters. The chief advised those planning to use space heaters to place them three feet away from combustibles and plug them directly into the power outlet.
The entire state of Texas — including Houston — could see rolling blackouts in coming days as Texas’ power grid continues to see unprecedented demand amid the ongoing winter storm, Mayor Sylvester Turner warned Sunday.
The potential blackouts are a result of a statewide discussion to prevent system overload, according to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Turner advised Houstonians to set thermostats to around 68 degrees in an effort to avoid overloading the energy grid, especially during what he said were three risk periods: Sunday evening, Monday morning, and Tuesday morning.
Any blackouts could range from 15 minutes to an hour in length, and will reportedly avoid key locations such as hospitals, emergency stations, and water treatment facilities.
Turner’s warning comes just a few hours after the state’s grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, announced that energy use amid the atorm was putting a strain on the system.
“We are experiencing record-breaking electric demand due to the extreme cold temperatures that have gripped Texas,” read a statement from ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness. “At the same time, we are dealing with higher-than-normal generation outages due to frozen wind turbines and limited natural gas supplies available to generating units. We are asking Texans to take some simple, safe steps to lower their energy use during this time.”
In addition to setting thermostats at 68, ERCOT recommended Texans:
- Close shades and blinds to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows.
- Turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances.
- Avoid using large appliances (i.e., ovens, washing machines, etc.).
- Businesses should minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible.
- Large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential production processes.