Here’s what you need to know:Ben Lozano cleaned up his garage on Thursday after a pipe burst behind his washing machine in Austin, Texas.Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times
The end of frigid conditions across Texas is in sight on Friday, but many residents who fled their homes this week in search of warm beds and showers of any temperature are only now discovering the extent of the winter storm’s destruction.
As people in the state survey the damage, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s grid, said it would end emergency conditions as power is restored to households around the state.
President Biden also said that he will sign a major disaster declaration for Texas, possibly as early as Friday afternoon, ahead of a potential visit to the state sometime next week. But Mr. Biden emphasized that he did not want the visit to create a “burden” for officials involved in emergency relief efforts in Texas.
“They’re working like the devil to take care of their folks,” Mr. Biden told reporters. “If in fact it’s concluded that I can do it without creating a burden for the folks on the ground while they’re dealing with this crisis, I plan on going.”
In the meantime, many Texans are hoping for some kind of return to normality. After spending five straight days inside the hospital where she works as a phone operator, Kendall McKee was greeted by a neighbor on Thursday when she returned to her building in West Houston.
“I knew right away something was wrong,” said Ms. McKee, 36.
Entering her apartment was a familiar experience, she said. She felt saturated carpet squish between her feet, saw puddles on the floor, wondered about the source of the water. Four years ago, her mother’s Houston apartment was flooded by Hurricane Harvey.
“I’m not losing everything, the way my mom lost a ton of stuff during Harvey,” she said. “But it’s still — I don’t know, I don’t really even know what I lost yet.”
The National Weather Service projects high temperatures in the Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio areas to reach the mid-40s on Friday, before rising into the 50s on Saturday and the 60s on Sunday. Nights may still produce lows around freezing.
But as frozen pipes thaw, residents already reeling from the arctic blast may face significant property damage. Already, state officials are preparing for many requests for help. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said he would ease restrictions for out-of-state plumbers and those with expired licenses. Others are urging residents to do what they can to prevent leaks, including shutting off the main water line to their homes.
About 13 million Texans were being told on Thursday to boil their water for safety reasons, and cities across the state were opening water distribution sites. Along with broken pipes inside homes, water providers will have to grapple with substantial damage to the main water lines that run through neighborhoods, W. Nim Kidd, the chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said at a news conference.
Ms. McKee said she would be able to stay at her mother’s house as she surveyed the damage in her apartment and tried to contact her rental insurance provider.
“I was just looking forward to sleeping on my bed again,” she said.
A fallen tree limb on a vehicle in Austin. There have been at least 57 victims of this week’s winter weather nationwide, according to The Associated Press.Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times
Days into a rolling series of crises set off by extreme winter weather around the country, the death toll continues to climb, and the enormity of the losses are taking a clearer shape.
There have been at least 57 deaths linked to the brutal conditions, according to The Associated Press, with the causes including carbon monoxide poisoning, car accidents, drownings, house fires and hypothermia.
Among the deaths that have been linked to the punishing cold is that of an 11-year-old boy found dead in his bed on Monday morning in Conroe, Texas. The family of the boy, Cristian Pineda, had no power the night before, and the parents, the boy and his siblings had huddled together in one bedroom, Lt. James Kelemen of the Conroe Police Department said on Friday.
Lieutenant Kelemen said an autopsy was being done to determine the cause of the boy’s death. A GoFundMe page set up by a family member to cover the expenses of the boy’s burial in Honduras, where his family is from, said the family had no electricity for two days and the temperature was 12 degrees that morning.
In a rural community south of San Antonio, a 69-year-old man was found dead inside his home where he lived alone. He did not have electricity, and the authorities said his bedroom was 35 degrees when they found him.
In Houston, the police said a woman and girl were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning and a man and boy were hospitalized on Tuesday morning after a car had been left running in an attached garage “to create heat as the power is out.” The Police Department advised that “cars, grills and generators should not be used in or near a building.”
In Oklahoma, a 17-year-old girl drowned on Thursday afternoon after she fell through a frozen pond, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The teenager, whose name was not released, walked out onto a frozen pond to retrieve a dog, fell through the ice and did not resurface.
Vaccines were still being administered on Thursday at a community center in the Bronx.Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times
With vast swaths of the United States pelted by heavy winter storms that brought Covid-19 vaccinations to a near-halt over the past week, health officials say a daunting task has become even more difficult.
But not impossible.
“We’re going to just have to make up for it: namely do double time when this thing clears up,” declared Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, a top pandemic adviser to President Biden.
The brutal winter weather delayed the delivery of hundreds of thousands of doses across the country just as vaccine distribution was beginning to gather steam in the United States. Part of the problems is that the storms affected a FedEx facility in Memphis and a UPS facility in Louisville, Ky. — both vaccine shipping hubs.
Jennifer Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Thursday the Biden administration was working closely with manufacturing and shipping partners to assess weather conditions.
Shipment delays have been reported in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Utah and Washington, among other states, forcing vaccine sites to temporarily shutter and coveted appointments to be rescheduled.
In Texas, where millions of residents lost power during the powerful storm, a delivery of more than 400,000 first doses and 330,000 second doses was delayed. A portion of those shots, roughly 35,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, were sent to North Texas providers on Wednesday, but shipments will continue to depend on safety conditions.
Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said on Thursday that the state was “asking providers that aren’t able to store vaccine due to power outages to transfer it elsewhere or administer it so it doesn’t spoil.”
On Monday, health officials in Texas scrambled to give people more than 5,000 doses after a power outage in a storage facility where they were being kept. But Mr. Van Deusen said that “reports of vaccine spoiling have been minimal.”
The Houston Health Department said on Thursday it would restart vaccinations for second doses this weekend and schedule additional first- and second-dose appointments next week. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that more than 2,000 vaccine sites were in areas with power outages.
Most of the vaccines for New York State, scheduled for delivery between Feb. 12 and Feb. 21, have been delayed as well, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Thursday night.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference earlier in the day that “a vast majority of the resupply” the city was expecting for this week had not yet shipped from the factories.
The city has had to hold off on scheduling upward of 35,000 appointments for first vaccine doses because of shipment delays and vaccine shortages. The opening of two new distribution sites was also postponed.
In Los Angeles, the city said that appointments for about 12,500 would be delayed.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said that while 136,000 Pfizer doses had arrived this week, the state had not received its shipment for the week of 200,000 Moderna doses. He said the shipment could be delayed as late as Monday.
“Because the storms we are seeing in the rest of the country, it’s basically sitting in the FedEx warehouse — and I don’t think they can even get into it because of everything,” Mr. DeSantis said at a news conference, encouraging those who had appointments rescheduled to “hang in there, the doses are going to get here.”
Dr. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, called the weather delay “significant.”
“Obviously it’s an issue,” he told MSNBC on Thursday. “It’s been slowed down in some places, going to a grinding halt.”
Dr. Fauci said, “We’re just going to have to make up for it as soon as the weather lifts a bit, the ice melts and we can get the trucks out and the people out.”
As of Thursday, the C.D.C. said that about 41 million people had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, including about 16.2 million people who have been fully vaccinated.
Abbott Says Power Is Being Restored but Water Remains a ChallengeGov. Greg Abbott of Texas said on Thursday that access to clean water remained a problem even as power was restored. He plans to ask for a major federal disaster declaration to release emergency funds.
Since our press conference yesterday, power has been restored to nearly two million homes across Texas. There continue to be approximately 325,000 Texans without power. However, those without power are not without power because of the lack of ability to generate power. Instead, those without power are being impacted either by power lines that are down or the need to manually reconnect the premises to power. I also had a call earlier today with water providers to work on additional ways to expedite getting clean water to Texas. We are in the process, as we speak, of evaluating waivers, as well as executive orders, that can be used to speed up that process. I am making a formal request of the president for a major disaster declaration. If granted, this will give Texans the ability to apply for individual assistance from FEMA. That individual assistance will assist them with funding to restore damage to their homes to the extent that it is not covered by private insurance. Now, we know because of the storm that will continue to sweep across parts of Texas tonight that we are not yet out of this, but we’re closer to this challenge being behind us. We will not stop until normalcy is restored to your lives.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said on Thursday that access to clean water remained a problem even as power was restored. He plans to ask for a major federal disaster declaration to release emergency funds.CreditCredit…David J. Phillip/Associated Press
As power began to flicker back on across much of Texas, millions across the state confronted another dire crisis: a shortage of drinkable water as pipes cracked, wells froze and water treatment plants were knocked offline.
The problems were especially acute at hospitals. One, in Austin, was forced to move some of its most critically ill patients to another building when its faucets ran nearly dry. Another in Houston had to haul in water on trucks to flush toilets.
But for many of the state’s residents stuck at home, the emergency meant boiling the tap water that trickled through their faucets, scouring stores for bottled water or boiling icicles and dirty snow on their stoves.
For others, it meant no water at all. Denise Gonzalez, 40, had joined a crowd at a makeshift relief center in a working-class corner of West Dallas on Thursday where volunteers handed out food from the luggage compartment of a charter bus.
Back at her apartment, she said, the lights were finally back on. But her pipes were frozen solid. She could not bathe, shower or use the toilet. She said she had been calling plumbers all day, but one of the few who answered told her it would be $3,000 to come out to assess the damage.
“If I had $3,000,” Ms. Gonzalez said, “I wouldn’t be getting food from people on the bus.”
Major disruptions to the Texas power grid left more than four million households without power this week, but by Friday morning, only about 200,000 lacked electricity. Much of the statewide concern had turned to water woes.
More than 800 public water systems serving 162 of the state’s 254 counties had been disrupted as of Thursday, affecting 13.1 million people, according to a spokeswoman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
The problems with water infrastructure extended to Tennessee on Friday, when all passenger flights at Memphis International Airport were canceled because of low water pressure, the facility announced.
Residents in the lobby of the Granada Homes, a low-income apartment complex for the elderly in San Antonio, collected buckets of water to bring back to their bathrooms in order to flush their toilets.Credit…Christopher Lee for The New York Times
Residents at Granada Homes, a 200-unit low-income housing residence for seniors in downtown San Antonio, have been without heat or water since Sunday, leaving them unable to shower or flush their toilets all week as a frigid winter storm seized Texas.
On Thursday night, there was a small measure of relief. Residents gathered to await the delivery of water, brought by community advocates who had filled orange Home Depot buckets with water from hoses and from the river that flows through downtown.
But Juan Flores, 73, said he needed more water to properly flush his toilet, and went to collect some from a bar nearby. He’s been struggling with the storm, he said, and slipped and fell on the ice outside earlier in the week. Now, he was sore from his fall and lugging a water bucket up to his apartment, alone, to flush his toilet.
“Don’t get near me, I stink,” he said, chuckling. “I haven’t taken a shower since Sunday.”
Inside Mr. Flores’s apartment on the fifth floor, there was a space heater and water boiling to help keep him warm. A blue U.S. Navy flag hung from one of his living room walls — he had served four years in the Navy in his 20s, he said.
Mr. Flores shakily picked up the orange bucket, maneuvered his way into the tight bathroom space, and dumped the water into his toilet. “I’m done,” he said after, seeming exasperated. “It’s heavy.”
“It’s been horrible,” said Juan Flores, a resident of the Granada Homes, noting that he had no family or friends in the area to help him out. “I have no one.”Credit…Christopher Lee for The New York Times
Mr. Flores said he was fed up with the weather and frustrated with the lack of city assistance and communication — 311 and the local Department of Veterans Affairs office have been unresponsive, he said. “Who can I call?” Mr. Flores asked.
“It’s been horrible,” he said, noting that he had no family or friends in the area to help him out. “I have no one.”
Back in the lobby, Geremy Landín, a community advocate, was making arrangements for the next day. Along with others, he has been organizing donations of food, water and blankets for the residents. Mr. Landín has also gone door-to-door across senior housing complexes in San Antonio to see if residents have water and power and to coordinate temporary moves to warming centers and hotels.
VideoDays of freezing temperatures and power outages left many Texans facing long lines and sparsely stocked shelves at grocery stores, with more cold weather forecast for the coming days.CreditCredit…Mark Felix for The New York Times
A brutal winter storm has battered large parts of the Central and Southern United States, forcing millions of people to search for the basics for survival — food, water and shelter from record cold.
President Biden has declared emergencies in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana and vowed to send aid. Nonprofit organizations are also at work trying to address the humanitarian crisis created by the storm.
Here is how you can help.
The Houston Food Bank is collecting donations to help feed people. A total of 150 meals can be provided with a donation of $50, the organization says.
The Austin Disaster Relief Network is accepting donations in order to provide people with emergency housing, gift cards, and supplies for short- as well as long-term needs.
Getting food to people in need can be difficult, especially when the bitter cold strains local energy grids. Organizations that are on the ground and helping feed people include the North Texas Food Bank; the San Antonio Food Bank, which serves southwestern Texas; and Feeding Texas, which partners with nearly two dozen food banks throughout the state.
Front Steps, an Austin-based organization working to end homelessness, is running a blanket drive. Instead of “blessing bags, snack bars, etc.,” the group notes that blankets have a “lasting impact.” The group says that acrylic blankets are preferred (wool may irritate damaged skin and cotton easily retains moisture).
In Lewisville, about 25 miles north of Dallas, the Salvation Army is looking for food and supplies, including gloves, towels, soap and moisturizer.
The Homeless Alliance in Oklahoma is asking for donations so it can operate its day shelter and extend its street outreach efforts. According to the organization, it can provide a week’s worth of lunches to a person at its day shelter with a donation of $4.
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma has an ongoing call for financial contributions, as well as donations of nonperishables and dry goods.
The Acadiana Regional Coalition on Homelessness & Housing, which serves eight parishes in the state, is seeking donations to both its general fund and its emergency hotel shelter fund.
According to the Foodbank of Northeast Louisiana, one in five people in its area faces hunger. The organization says it can help provide 55 meals with each donation of $10.
Before you donate …
Make sure to research any organization on trusted sites like Charity Navigator or Guidestar, which rate nonprofits based on their effectiveness and financial condition. These sites can also show whether the organization’s goals and practices align with your values and beliefs.
The Internal Revenue Service’s database can tell you if the organization is eligible to receive tax-deductible donations.
After disasters like crippling storms, there is often an increase in fraudulent activity. If you suspect an organization or person may be committing fraud, you can report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud.
Several more inches were expected on Friday in the Boston region, where snow has already accumulated.Credit…Michael Dwyer/Associated Press
Parts of New England, including the Boston area, are in store for more snow on Friday, with accumulations of as much as four inches, making travel hazardous, forecasters said.
A winter weather advisory is in effect until about 7 p.m. for portions of northern Connecticut, all of Rhode Island and western and central Massachusetts, which could see up to three inches of snow, the National Weather Service said. Eastern Massachusetts, including Boston, the Massachusetts coast and Nantucket, could get as much as four inches, it said.
Residents will also be dealing with bitter cold, with temperatures in the mid-20s.
The snowfall on Friday will add to the layers that have already accumulated, in some places up to five inches, over the past few days. There were 45 flight delays and about two dozen cancellations at Boston Logan International Airport early on Friday morning.
Although the snow is sticking around for a while, meteorologists said it was coming down slowly enough that it would not cause as many problems as a quick dumping of snow.
“It is a prolonged, but mostly slightly light snow event,” Bill Simpson, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service’s Boston and Norton office, said.
“Generally speaking, six inches in 12 hours is significant,” he added. “During a shorter period it would be of more concern.”
Still, road conditions were treacherous on Friday, the state police said.
This year so far has been relentlessly buffeted by winter weather. Massachusetts was hit earlier this month by a powerful winter storm that pushed into northern New England after hammering much of the Northeast.
And a brutal winter storm has battered large parts of the Central and Southern United States this week, forcing millions of people to seek shelter, food and water. President Biden has declared emergencies in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana and vowed to send aid.
Manessa Grady and her sons Zechariah, 8, left, and Noah, 9, were among the millions of Texas residents who lost power this week.Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times
In California, wildfires and heat waves in recent years forced utilities to shut off power to millions of homes and businesses. Now, Texas is learning that deadly winter storms and intense cold can do the same.
Bill Magness, the president and chief executive of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s grid operator, said on Thursday that Texas was “seconds and minutes” from a catastrophic blackout this week as rotating outages were used to control the flow of electricity.
The country’s two largest states have taken very different approaches to managing their energy needs — Texas deregulated aggressively, letting the free market flourish, while California embraced environmental regulations. Yet the two states are confronting the same ominous reality: They may be woefully unprepared for the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters caused by climate change.
Blackouts in Texas and California have revealed that power plants can be strained and knocked offline by the kind of extreme cold and hot weather that climate scientists have said will become more common as greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere.
The problems in Texas and California highlight the challenge the Biden administration will face in modernizing the electricity system to run entirely on wind turbines, solar panels, batteries and other zero-emission technologies by 2035 — a goal that President Biden set during the 2020 campaign.
The federal government and energy businesses may have to spend trillions of dollars to harden electricity grids against the threat posed by climate change and to move away from the fossil fuels responsible for the warming of the planet in the first place. These are not new ideas. Scholars have long warned that American electricity grids, which are run regionally, will come under increasing strain and needed major upgrades.
“We really need to change our paradigm, particularly utilities, because they are becoming much more vulnerable to disaster,” Najmedin Meshkati, an engineering professor at the University of Southern California, said about blackouts in Texas and California. “They need to always think about literally the worst-case scenario because the worst-case scenario is going to happen.”
St. David’s South Austin Medical Center was forced to move some patients on Wednesday night after losing water pressure and heat. It also tried to acquire portable toilets.Credit…Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times
Chaotic scenes were playing out all over Texas on Thursday as hospitals faced an onslaught of problems from the brutal storm: wintry indoor temperatures, a dearth of generators, acute water shortages and a spike in emergency room visits by patients in desperate need of dialysis treatment and oxygen tanks.
“We’re hauling in water on trucks in order to flush toilets,” said Roberta L. Schwartz, an executive vice president and the chief innovation officer at Houston Methodist, which operates seven hospitals around the country’s fourth-largest city. Water, she said, was in such short supply that health workers were using bottled water for chemotherapy treatments.
“We actually had a rainstorm after the ice storm, so we collected the rainwater because we needed it,” Ms. Schwartz added.
The tumult comes at an already vexing juncture for hospitals in Texas, nearly a year into a pandemic that has stretched many to their limits. While new coronavirus cases in Texas have fallen sharply, from an average of more than 20,000 a day a month ago to less than half that in recent days, much of the state is struggling as the virus continues to spread and as vaccine distribution was slowed by this week’s storms.
Hospitals such as St. David’s South Austin Medical Center said they were transferring some patients to other facilities as they desperately tried to conserve resources. In a statement, David Huffstutler, the chief executive of St. David’s HealthCare, said the hospital was working to get water trucks and portable toilets as quickly as possible.
In Dallas, parts of the ceiling collapsed at the Baylor University Medical Center after a pipe burst, spraying water directly into the emergency room. Julie Smith, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said workers had made initial repairs that allowed patients to continue getting treated there.
The scenes took place in a state where health care workers have grappled with repeated crises in recent years: Hurricanes. Floods. Tropical storms. Blackouts. Pandemic surges.
Dr. Sarah Olstyn Martinez, an emergency room doctor in an Austin hospital, bluntly described the situation on Facebook: “There is no where to put anyone.”
“I don’t want to incite panic but I also want people to understand the severity of the situation in hopes that people will stay at home,” Dr. Martinez wrote, adding, “We are bunking patients 2 to a room and boarding patients in hallways.”
“I’ve never seen a city medical system in such dire straits as we are in Austin right now,” Dr. Martinez continued. “Covid surges were nothing compared to the current situation.”
Cruz Says Mexico Trip Was ‘Obviously a Mistake’At a news conference on Thursday, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said it was a mistake to fly to Mexico when most of his state was suffering without power after a winter storm.
So the question from the video on the cellphone was, was whether the decision to go was tone deaf. Look, it was obviously a mistake. And in hindsight, I wouldn’t have done it. I was trying to be a dad. And all of us have made decisions. When you got two girls who have been cold for two days and haven’t had heat or power, and they’re saying, “Hey, look, we don’t have school, why don’t we go, let’s get out of here.” I think there are a lot of parents that’d be like, “All right, let me, if I can do this, great.” That’s what I wanted to do. As I said, really, from the moment I sat on the plane, I began really second guessing that decision and saying, look, I know why we’re doing this, but, but I’ve also got responsibilities. And it had been my intention to be able to work remotely, to be on the phone, to be on internet, to be on Zoom, to be engaged. But I needed to be here. And that’s why I came back. And then as it became a bigger and bigger firestorm, it became all the more compelling that I needed to come back because our priority should be fixing this problem and making sure it doesn’t happen again. And I didn’t want all the screaming and yelling about this trip to distract even one moment from the real issues that I think Texans care about, which, which is keeping all of our families safe.
At a news conference on Thursday, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said it was a mistake to fly to Mexico when most of his state was suffering without power after a winter storm.
Like millions of his constituents across Texas, Senator Ted Cruz had a frigid home without electricity this week amid the state’s power crisis. But unlike most, Mr. Cruz got out, fleeing Houston and hopping a Wednesday afternoon flight to Cancún with his family for a respite at a luxury resort.
Photos of Mr. Cruz and his wife, Heidi, boarding the flight ricocheted quickly across social media and left both his political allies and rivals aghast at a tropical trip as a disaster unfolded at home. The blowback only intensified after Mr. Cruz, a Republican, released a statement saying he had flown to Mexico “to be a good dad” and accompany his daughters and their friends; he noted he was flying back Thursday afternoon, though he did not disclose how long he had originally intended to stay.
Text messages sent from Ms. Cruz to friends and Houston neighbors on Wednesday revealed a hastily planned trip. Their house was “FREEZING,” as Ms. Cruz put it — and she proposed a getaway until Sunday. Ms. Cruz invited others to join them at the Ritz-Carlton in Cancún, where they had stayed “many times,” noting the room price this week ($309 per night) and its good security. The text messages were provided to The New York Times and confirmed by a second person on the thread, who declined to be identified because of the private nature of the texts.
For more than 12 hours after the airport departure photos first emerged, Mr. Cruz’s office declined to comment on his whereabouts. The Houston police confirmed that the senator’s office had sought their assistance for his airport trip on Wednesday, and eventually Mr. Cruz was spotted wheeling his suitcase in Mexico on Thursday as he returned to the state he represents in the Senate.
As the Cruzes were away, millions of Texans were still without electricity, many had no running water and the icy air that swept into the state was so severe that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had been activated to send supplies, including generators. Some searched neighborhoods for discarded fallen trees to burn for warmth.
“What’s happening in Texas is unacceptable,” Mr. Cruz told a television crew at the Cancún airport. He was wearing a Texas state flag mask and a short-sleeved polo shirt tucked into his jeans; the temperature in Cancún was above 80 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday, and in the 30s in Houston.
After landing back in the United States, Mr. Cruz offered a new statement with a different tone from earlier in the day, when he had tried to explain the vacation without regrets and left the impression that it might have always been a one-day trip for him. Speaking to reporters after his arrival home, he conceded that the trip was “obviously a mistake” and said he had begun having “second thoughts” as soon as he boarded the plane to Mexico intent on a few days of remote work in the sun.
“The plan had been to stay through the weekend with the family,” he said, framing the decision as a parent’s attempt to placate his two daughters, ages 10 and 12, after a “tough week.”
“On the one hand, all of us who are parents have a responsibility to take care of our kids, take care of our families,” Mr. Cruz said. “But I also have a responsibility that I take very seriously of fighting for the state of Texas.”
VideoPresident Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico asked citizens to limit their electricity use as the country faces an order from Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas to restrict natural gas exports following a deadly winter storm.CreditCredit…Jessica Lutz for The New York Times
The Mexican government said on Thursday that it was working to reverse an order from Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas to restrict natural gas exports, part of that state’s effort to resolve widespread power outages that have left millions of Texans without electricity in the middle of a deadly winter storm.
Mr. Abbott’s order has heightened tensions between the two countries, with top Mexican officials protesting the governor’s decision to cut off gas supplies just as Mexico works to resolve its own mass power outages as a result of the frigid weather.
“We are doing our diplomatic work so that this doesn’t happen,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico said at a news conference on Thursday, referring to Mr. Abbott’s order. “This wouldn’t just affect Mexico — it would also affect other states in the Union.”
Mr. Abbott on Wednesday ordered Texas producers who were exporting natural gas out of state to instead sell to in-state power generators until Sunday.
The fallout south of the border from Mr. Abbott’s measure underscored the extent to which Mexico relies on the United States for much of its power, even as Mr. López Obrador pushes for greater Mexican energy sovereignty.
Gas-fired plants generate about two-thirds of Mexico’s power. In 2019, 96 percent of natural gas imports were from the United States, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The arctic weather in Texas froze natural-gas pipelines between the two countries, according to Mexican energy officials, which, coupled with a surge in demand for gas in the United States, disrupted energy production across northern Mexico and left almost five million customers in Mexico without power earlier this week.
The mass outages affected not just private homes but also industry, with major manufacturers like General Motors and Volkswagen forced to halt operations, leading to an estimated $2.7 billion in losses, according to Reuters.
On Thursday, Mexico’s state energy company, the Federal Electricity Commission, or C.F.E., said it had restored power to all users by generating energy from other sources, including hydroelectric and coal-fired plants.
This latest outage comes on the heels of one in December that briefly left about 10 million people without electricity.