Remaining North Texas outages expected to be restored Saturday, Biden signs

This story will be updated regularly.

About 38,000 customers remained with out power Saturday afternoon, according to Oncor, the North Texas electric utility.

That total included about 2,300 customers in Dallas County and 2,900 in Tarrant County, Oncor said. The utility said it expects to fix remaining outages in North Texas on Saturday.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden on Saturday approved a disaster declaration for 77 of Texas’ 254 counties. The measure allows use of federal funds to help counties covering most of the state’s population, including North Texans.

The federal money will include grants for temporary home repairs, loans for uninsured property loss and other programs aimed at helping affected residents and businesses, the White House said.

Also, in an emergency meeting Friday evening in Austin, the Public Utility of Commission of Texas launched an investigation into factors that contributed to this week’s statewide power-outage disaster.

“We must act swiftly to discover not only how this crisis came together, but also take meaningful steps to protect electricity customers,” said DeAnn Walker, who chairs the commission.

During the meeting, the PUC waived deadlines for the Provider of Last Resort program, which allows retail electric providers to accept the customers of other providers that are exiting the market.

The commission extended the registration deadline for providers willing to serve as volunteer providers who would take on displaced customers.

It also delayed until Wednesday the transfer of customers between providers, in order to give volunteer providers more time to register and prepare for an influx of new customers.

“This week’s weather and associated grid crisis were a nightmare for millions of Texas,” said Thomas Gleeson, the PUC’s executive director. “While the financial implications may drive some retail electric providers from the marketplace, we will work to ensure their customers can easily transition to a new provider.”

Gleeson urged customers who are transitioning to new providers to make sure they find a plan that suits their budget.

Dangerous road conditions and damage to equipment have slowed restoration efforts this week, Oncor said. Some transformers were damaged as they restored large amounts of energy, the utility explained in a series of tweets Friday night.

“This damage is somewhat comparable to blowing a fuse when you plug too many devices into one outlet in your home,” it said.

Oncor said that workers might leave one affected area to work on another until new equipment or extra workers arrive. Father south and east of North Texas, about thousands of customers in and around Killeen, Round Rock and Temple also remained without electricity, Oncor said. An ice storm complicated restoration efforts there, but Oncor said it expected power to be back on by Sunday.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the agency that oversees the state’s power grid, said Friday that its operations had returned to normal and that it was no longer asking people to conserve electricity.

Boil notices remain for some

At a news conference Saturday, state officials gave an update on statewide water issues and the status of delivering water and food to impacted communities throughout the state.

Statewide, about 1,445 water systems are reporting issues due to a combination of factors including frozen pipes, lack of power and high demand, said Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Baker said some progress has been made over the last day — the total number of Texans impacted by problems with various water systems has gone down from 14.9 million to 14.3 million. The number of Texans completely without water has been more than cut in half, from 352,000 to 156,000.

Sixty four boil water notices put in place across the state over the last week have also been lifted, he said.

“My hope is … that we’ve hit sort of the worst and we’ve stabilized, and now it’s just sort of getting out of the hole that we’re in,” he said.

Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said 9.9 million bottles of water have been ordered from federal partners, 5.5 million of which the state has already received and 2.1 million of which have already been distributed. Another 1 million bottles will be delivered by Saturday, he said.

The state so far has also ordered 250,000 ready to eat meals and expects to order 5 million more. None of those meals have arrived in Texas yet because of the weather and road closures, Kidd said.

Just over 1,000 portions of the road throughout the state are still impacted by the winter storms.

The National Guard has more than 200 military vehicles across TDEM’s…

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