BY: WILLIAM MANSELL, MARILYN HECK AND JOHN HAWORTH, ABC NEWS
(DALLAS) — As a major winter storm batters large parts of the country, President Joe Biden approved Texas’ emergency disaster proclamation Sunday.
The declaration orders federal assistance to supplement state and local storm response efforts, according to a statement from the White House.
“The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in all 254 Texas counties,” the statement from the White House said.
About 11 inches of snow fell in San Abilene, 10 inches near San Angelo, 5 inches around Austin and 4 around Dallas and College Station. At -2 degrees, Midland, Texas, experienced its coldest temperature in 32 years.
Several major airports in Texas, including Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport suspended flights Monday due to ice and snow.
As of Monday morning, about 2.7 million customers were without power in Texas due to the winter storm, and state officials have warned that number could get higher.
Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the agency that oversees the state’s electric grid, entered its highest alert level overnight Sunday into Monday and has begun rolling blackouts to conserve power during this harsh winter storm.
“This is typically done through rotating outages, which are controlled, temporary interruptions of electric service. This type of demand reduction is only used as a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole,” ERCOT said in a statement obtained by ABC News.
Texas told residents they should conserve power due to frozen turbines and equipment. As of 6 p.m. on Sunday night, a little less than half of all its installments were frozen or unable to operate due to the extreme cold, according to ABC Dallas affiliate WFAA-TV.
ERCOT set a new winter peak demand record Sunday, reaching 69,150 MW between 6 and 7 p.m., the council said in a statement. It said that number is more than 3,200 MW higher than the previous winter peak set in January 2018.
To help conserve energy, ERCOT asked residents to close their blinds, unplug unused appliances, wait to do laundry for a few days, wear warmer clothes and put the heat at 68 degrees.
The National Weather Service predicted that many parts of the state would experience “dangerously cold” temperatures into Monday, when there will be “widespread wind chills” of -10 to -20 degrees.
During a press conference Sunday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the “window to prepare for this historic storm has closed as the time to hunker down is here.” Hidalgo approved a disaster proclamation for the county, which includes Houston.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said police are working 134 weather-related traffic crashes across the city. “Please avoid traveling until this severe weather event subsides,” he tweeted.
Nearby in Oklahoma, a statewide winter storm warning was in effect for heavy snow, and dangerous wind chills remains in effect.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol responded to 56 non-injury collisions, 24 injury collisions and 116 motorist assists during the winter storm. There were more than 3,000 customers without power in the Sooner State on Sunday night.
There are widespread power outages elsewhere, including Oregon, with more than 249,000 customers without power, 166,000 in Virginia, 37,000 in North Carolina, and 11,172 in Kentucky.
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