severe weather

Chelsea Stanfield / KOSU

State leaders are worried some sellers of natural gas may have taken advantage of utilities' desperation to heat Oklahomans' homes and illegally raised their prices.

Some 8,707,769 people remain under boil water notices in Texas, as utilities struggle to get water pressure back up to safe levels in the wake of catastrophic winter storms and record cold temperatures.

A Houston-area family whose son died during an extended power outage is suing its electricity provider and the agency that oversees most of Texas' energy grid. The family of Cristian Pavon says he died at age 11 because of negligence.

The family lives in Conroe, a city about 45 miles north of central Houston. Like millions of other people in Texas, the family members were forced to live without power as a wave of record-setting cold temperatures created chaos and life-threatening conditions across the state.

Millions of Texas residents suffered last week when a winter storm caused a statewide electrical grid failure. But those who had power, even intermittently, are also paying a price — literally.

Many residents face enormous bills for the electricity they used during the storm.

Residents with variable-rate power plans are being hit the hardest. Such plans charge different prices for electricity depending on how much demand there is. The more demand, the higher the price.

A fundraising effort spearheaded by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to help storm-battered Texans has raised more than $4 million in just a few days.

On Saturday, Ocasio-Cortez was on the ground in Texas to celebrate the success of the fundraising effort, which will go to local organizations providing Texans food assistance, homelessness relief and elder care. She was joined by Democratic Texas Reps. Sylvia Garcia and Sheila Jackson Lee, all of whom helped fill boxes at the Houston Food Bank.

White House officials on Friday confirmed the extent of the weather's chilling effect on COVID-19 vaccine distribution, saying this week's storms created a backlog of some 6 million doses affecting all 50 states.

That number represents three days' worth of delayed shipments, said Andy Slavitt, senior adviser on the White House COVID-19 Response Team. He added that many states have been able to cover some of the delay with their existing inventory, and that the Biden administration expects to make up the backlog shortly.

Texas officials are cracking down on businesses they say have hiked the prices of food, water, and hotel rooms while the state continues to deal with shortages caused by unprecedented winter weather.

Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee, the chief civil attorney for Texas' largest county, and Linda Hidalgo, the Harris County Judge, said Houston area residents have complained of hotel rooms and bottled water being sold at exorbitant prices.

LIVE UPDATES: Oklahoma Reckons With Severe Winter Storm

Feb 18, 2021
Sam Stalcup

Updated February 18 at 5:25 p.m.

In the wake of this week’s damage to the state's water infrastructure, Oklahoma could soon face mandatory boil orders. Environment officials anticipate the damage and response will continue for weeks.

The Department of Environmental Quality issued a release on Thursday, warning that precautionary boil advisories could increase in coming days, and that mandatory boil orders are possible.

The extreme weather conditions in Texas, where a winter storm has caused widespread power outages, should serve as a reminder that climate change is real and the United States not fully prepared to deal with its impact, said White House homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall on Thursday.

This week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott appeared on local TV in Dallas and blamed the state's power crisis on the devastating storm that disrupted power generation and froze natural gas pipelines.

He didn't single out one power source to blame. Then he went on Fox News and gave a different story.

"Wind and solar got shut down," he said. "They were collectively more than 10% of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis."

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