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Texas ice storm leaves hundreds of thousands without power

An iced over pedestrian walkway is lined by trees that are covered with ice from a few days of sleet and rain, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, in Dallas.
Tony Gutierrez
/
AP
An iced over pedestrian walkway is lined by trees that are covered with ice from a few days of sleet and rain, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, in Dallas.

Updated February 3, 2023 at 4:54 AM ET

An intense winter storm finally passed through Texas on Thursday, but residents will feel the impact of the storm for more time. The storm led to power outages in hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.

The weather in the state is part of a major ice storm hitting the Southern U.S. since Tuesday, stretching from Texas to Tennessee. Statewide, the arctic conditions shuttered classrooms, canceled or delayed thousands of flights, and caused numerous car collisions, including one fatal crash in Austin.

Austin Energy tells customers it can't determine when power will be restored

About 262,000 people across the state are without power as of 4:30 a.m. Friday. Temperatures are as low as 29 degrees in South Central Texas and as low as 27 degrees in parts of Austin and San Antonio.

The power outages are further complicated by a lack of information from city officials. On Thursday, Austin Mayor Kirk Watson vowed his office would be more communicative going forward. He said a press conference addressing the storm, and the outages, "should have happened before now."

"I am frustrated, and I know others are frustrated," Watson said at a press conference. "This needs to happen on a more frequent basis. We ought to focus now on the life and safety issues — get those out of the way — and then we'll come up with a new way to do this so that we're able to answer the public's questions in a more rapid fashion."

For the first few days of the storm, the Texas Tribune reported that some residents, without internet connection or reliable cellphone data, struggled to get information from the website and social media of electric utility provider Austin Energy.

On Thursday, Austin Energy, which is one of the largest providers in the country, gave a glum update: It didn't know when all of its customers would receive power back.

"We have determined we are unable to provide a specific system-wide restoration estimate," the utility tweeted. "Each individual outage has unique challenges and full restoration will take longer than initially anticipated. At this time, we are unable to provide a restoration time."

In San Antonio, 13 outages are affecting fewer than 25 customers as of Thursday evening, according to CPS Energy, which services the area.

Gov. Abbott says the state has "ample" power

In parts of North and Central Texas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth area, a little over 100,000 customers are without power, according to Oncor, which services the area.

And while hundreds of thousands of Texans struggle without power, Gov. Greg Abbott is telling residents that there is enough power in the state.

"The Texas power grid has maintained ample supply throughout the winter weather this entire week," he tweeted. "Any outages are due to local issues like fallen trees and downed power lines."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: February 2, 2023 at 11:00 PM CST
A photo that was originally published with this story was taken in February 2021, not this year as implied. It has been replaced with a current photo.
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Giulia Heyward
Giulia Heyward is a weekend reporter for Digital News, based out of New York. She previously covered education and other national news as a reporting fellow at The New York Times and as the national education reporter at Capital B News. She interned for POLITICO, where she covered criminal justice reform in Florida, and CNN, as a writer for the trends & culture team. Her work has also been published in The Atlantic, HuffPost and The New Republic.