Power begins to flow on Thursday though water problems continue to be widespread

By R. Hans Miller | News Editor
Posted 2/18/21

Power is mostly-restored throughout Fort Bend, Harris and Waller counties this evening, though authorities say the condition of the regional power grid is still somewhat fragile and they are asking …

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Power begins to flow on Thursday though water problems continue to be widespread

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Power is mostly-restored throughout Fort Bend, Harris and Waller counties this evening, though authorities say the condition of the regional power grid is still somewhat fragile and they are asking residents to be frugal with their energy consumption. Meanwhile, many households throughout the area continue to deal with boil water advisories or burst pipes from this week’s subfreezing temperatures.

“The good news is that the vast majority of our region has power,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “Right now, as of 4:30 this afternoon, there were a little less than 20,000 homes without power. CenterPoint tells me in our region, compared to the 1.4 million that we saw starting on Sunday night.”

Power problems

Power went out for much of the region at about 1:30 a.m. Monday morning, Hidalgo said. Since then electrical experts have been working around the clock to bring power plants back online and repair power grid damage. Crews continued to work to repair lingering damage to electrical infrastructure caused by the storm, which is keeping those without power from being warm, she said. Repairs to the electrical grid appear to be holding, but Hidalgo said the situation was still delicate and asked that residents conserve power by setting the thermostat at no higher than 68 degrees, turning off lights and appliances when not in use, and not running large appliances at all if it could be avoided.

“The grid is fragile right now, Hidalgo said, “And for the next couple of days we need help conserving energy so that we can have this renewed electricity consistently.”

Earlier in the day, Fort Bend County Judge KP George had said Fort Bend County was facing a similar situation with regard to power and that most Fort Bend residents, but not all, had power restored to their homes. He had encouraging words for those still without power.

“Don’t let your heart be troubled,” George said. “(CenterPoint) crews are working overtime to fix any problems in your area and if you don’t have power, you will be getting power.”

George said there were currently no rolling blackouts or other intentional outages, but that could change if demand on the grid increased dramatically. He said much of that decision would be associated with decisions from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

According to the ERCOT’s website, Texas’ power grid is producing between 60,000 and 65,000 MW of power while demand is just under 55,000 MW, as of 9:42 p.m.

According to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, power shortages earlier in the week were caused by failures at natural gas and coal power plants.

Forbes reports that an estimated 13% of the power loss was related to wind energy.

Meanwhile, ERCOT Senior Director Dan Woodlin told Bloomberg News on Monday that the majority of the state’s power woes were associated with “frozen instruments at natural gas, coal and even nuclear facilities, as well as limited supplies of natural gas.”

Water issues

Hidalgo said she had spoken with the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and was lobbying authorities in Washington to provide disaster assistance. However, in order to make a case for disaster relief, the county needs residents’ assistance. Usually, during a natural disaster, she said, the county can do an assessment of the damage by driving around and doing a “windshield assessment” of the damage because hurricanes and tornadoes leave obvious damage. However, with most of the damage in people’s homes, that isn’t possible. Therefore, the county is asking residents to visit https://www.readyharris.org/Incidents/Winter-Weather-Resources to complete a form describing storm damage to help strengthen the county’s request for federal aid.

“And so we rely on you, the residents, to report the damage you have so that we can then pass then on to the state government,” Hidalgo said. “They pass it on to the federal government and make a case for why we need federal assistance.”

Hidalgo said many people across the county were without water due to frozen pipes or were under a boil water notice due to problems with water infrastructure. With temperatures facing a hard freeze again Thursday evening. She asked residents not to drip water overnight, but rather to turn off their water at the mainline into the home instead, then drain pipes in the home instead, in order to prevent damage.

“Tonight, we’re going to have a hard freeze again – please do not drip your pipes,” Hidalgo said. “Doing so will extend the length of time we go without water pressure. Perhaps you do have water but many of your neighbors do not, instead what you can do or need to do is shut off your home’s main water line and drain the pipes (inside the home).”

Instructions on how to turn off the water in the home and drain internal pipes can be found here.

Waller County Judge Trey Duhon said via Facebook that many county facilities had been impacted by the cold snap. The new Precinct 4 Annex located between Katy and Brookshire had damage to its water well. All of the justice of the peace offices had either broken pipes or water damage as of Wednesday. The county courthouse had no heat and its primary generator was in need of major repairs at that time as well. Evaluations of other county buildings would be ongoing. Duhon said commissioners court would try to meet Friday, though it may be unpleasant for attendees since the heat would likely not be restored to the building by then. He also expressed hope and appreciation for the public’s support and cooperation.

“Hopefully by next week we will have most of our facilities repaired and back up and running,” Duhon said. “We appreciate everyone’s patience as we deal with these repairs.”

Duhon also said the county’s new justice center had a roof leak and low water pressure, but otherwise was doing well.

Both Fort Bend and Harris counties have websites to track boil water notices. To identify your water provider in those lists, readers should consult their water bills. Many Katy area residents do not actually reside within the city of Katy, but rather only have a Katy zip code.

Some Waller County municipalities may be under boil water advisories as well and readers are advised to check with their local municipalities. Brookshire had not been under a boil water notice as of Wednesday.

“With a hard freeze warning in effect this evening, conserve electricity to keep power flowing for your neighbors,” George said via social media at about 8:30 p.m. Thursday. “Lower thermostats, unplug appliances, turn off lights and do not run dishwashers, washers or dryers.”

George also said that COVID-19 vaccinations would resume in the county Friday and that those needing the second dose of the vaccine would be prioritized.

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