US: Millions in Texas scramble for drinking water after devastating winter storm

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  Republicans use Texas power outages to spread false claims about green energy Republican politicians are using the widespread power outages in Texas to place false blame on renewable energy. Millions in the state were without power following a massive winter storm that brought snow and freezing temperatures to the region as a second storm loomed nearby.

A historic winter storm that knocked out power and froze pipes across Texas has left many families scrambling for safe drinking water

More than 1,100 public water supply systems reported weather-related disruptions in service on Friday morning, impacting over 14.4 million people, about half of the state's population. Many of those affected remain under a boil-water advisory due to concerns about potential contamination, according to a spokesperson for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

MORE: How to keep your water safe

Water treatment plants across Texas have suffered power outages since a storm swept in earlier this week, blanketing the Lone Star State in snow and ice. Boil-water advisories remain in effect for most of the state's major cities, including Austin, Arlington, Galveston, Houston, San Antonio and parts of Forth Worth.

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Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who said a pipe burst in his own home, has warned residents to be prepared to boil their water -- if they have any -- before consumption or use until at least Sunday or Monday.

a person in a blue cup: A water bucket is filled as others wait in near freezing temperatures to use a hose from public park spigot, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston. © David J. Phillip/AP A water bucket is filled as others wait in near freezing temperatures to use a hose from public park spigot, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston.

Many people still don't have water or lack power to boil it. There were 189,865 customers without power in Texas on Friday morning, down from a peak of over 4.4 million on Monday, according to data collected by PowerOutage.US.

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The Public Utility Commission of Texas, which regulates the state's electric, water and telecommunication utilities, issued an order on Wednesday evening, mandating that all electric transmission and distribution utilities perform rolling blackouts so that no customer is without power for more than 12 hours.

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a man standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Father John Szatkowski of St. Paul The Apostle Church sweeps water from a broken water line out of his church in Richardson, Texas, Feb. 17, 2021, after a winter storm brought cold temperatures. © Tony Gutierrez/AP Father John Szatkowski of St. Paul The Apostle Church sweeps water from a broken water line out of his church in Richardson, Texas, Feb. 17, 2021, after a winter storm brought cold temperatures.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the nonprofit corporation responsible for managing 90% of the state's electricity, said it expects to come out of emergency conditions later Friday morning. ERCOT president and CEO Bill Magness admitted during a press briefing Thursday that the Texas power grid was just "seconds or minutes" away from a complete and catastrophic failure, as power demand increased and generators fell offline on Sunday night amid the snowstorm. Magness said it could have taken months to restore.

a person holding a gun © David J. Phillip/AP MORE: How to stay safe in cold as frigid temperatures slam South

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lambasted ERCOT for its handling of this week's storm and urged lawmakers to pass legislation to ensure the grid would be better prepared in the future.

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  Texas Boy Dies Of Suspected Hypothermia After Home Suffers Power Outage The family moved to the U.S. from Tela, Honduras, two years ago and were not used to such freezing temperatures. Although the toddler was fine, the following day, by 2pm, the sixth grader had not stirred. Cristian Pavon Pineda made no complaint of feeling unwell the previous evening, Maria Elisa Pineda said. After the 11-year-old was found dead on Monday afternoon, his mother and step-father, Manuel Moreno, 38, immediately called the police. Conroe Police Department investigators came to the home and stayed until 8pm that day. An autopsy was performed Thursday, said Conroe PD spokesman Sgt.

“What happened is absolutely unacceptable and can never be replicated again,” Abbott said at a press conference Thursday. "Texans deserve answers about why these shortfalls occurred and how they will be corrected"

Leovardo Perez, right, fills a water jug using a hose from a public park water spigot, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston. © David J. Phillip/AP Leovardo Perez, right, fills a water jug using a hose from a public park water spigot, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston.

The extended power outages combined with record-low temperatures caused freezing pipes to burst across Texas, plummeting pressure and depleting reserves. Residents, businesses and even hospitals are being asked to conserve water as cities race to restore and stabilize their water supply.

MORE: Texas' power outages, water shortages put bigger strain on hospitals

Two C-17 military transport aircraft are heading to Galveston and Corpus Christi to deliver water and other supplies, likely on Friday, a senior U.S. defense official told ABC News. The help comes at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency following a plea from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. There are currently no plans to use federal troops for ground-based support in Texas, though FEMA will be sending non-military personnel, the official said.

Biden’s low-key approach to storm wins praise but courts risks

  Biden’s low-key approach to storm wins praise but courts risks Biden’s quiet approach to the Texas freeze marks a sharp contrast to Trump’s handling of natural disasters. The president’s strategy has won praise, but it risks keeping the government‘s profile low.And U.S. Rep. Colin Allred (D-Tex.), a congressman from Dallas, said what would help most, beyond an infusion of federal dollars, is a visit from President Biden.

The Texas National Guard remains active across the state, helping local authoriies get citizens to warm shelters and provide other life-saving assistance.

a group of people standing on top of a bed: Donated water is distributed to residents, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston, after a winter storm froze pipes and disrupted water treatment plants. © David J. Phillip/AP Donated water is distributed to residents, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston, after a winter storm froze pipes and disrupted water treatment plants.

Meanwhile, crews worked throughout the night on Thursday to set up a mass bottled water distribution site at Houston's Delmar Stadium. The site was expected to begin distribution on Friday at 11:30 a.m. local time.

In Galveston, a line of cars wrapped around city blocks on Wednesday evening as people waited to collect free water bottles at a distribution site. Much of the island city is still without water or under a boil-water advisory.

MORE: No 'definitive timeline' when water will return to Jackson, Mississippi, mayor says

Gas stations were also packed with cars this week, as people fear running out of fuel for their vehicles or generators. One resident, Robert Neuman, told Houston ABC station KTRK that he has already made multiple trips, admitting he "wasn't prepared" for the storm.

"Like everyone, we figured it would get cold and maybe a little outage and that's it," Neuman said. "But we've been going since Sunday like this."

ABC News' Jenna Harrison, Will McDuffie, Matt Seyler and Gina Sunseri contributed to this report.

As Texans went without heat, light or water, some companies scored a big payday .
The nation's most deregulated energy economy was supposed to be a win for consumers, and for energy companies nimble enough to do business in a bustling, cacophonous market. But a cold snap shattered it last week.The nation’s most deregulated energy economy was supposed to be a win for consumers and for energy companies nimble enough to do business in a bustling, cacophonous market. But the cold snap — rare but by no means unprecedented — shattered it last week, plunging consumers into misery and leaving a badly prepared and dislocated energy sector in pieces.

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