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Live updates on crisis in Texas: On call with Gov. Abbott, Biden promises federal support

Here's what's happening Thursday as North Texans are still reeling from the impacts left behind by winter storms.

This story will be updated continuously on Feb. 18, 2021.

Power has started to come back online for hundreds of thousands of homes across Texas, but water and natural gas problems are still an issue millions are facing in the state. 

In an update Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott said more than 2 million households across Texas have had their power restored in the past day. But officials also said 13 million Texans are impacted by boil water notices.

The state has an estimated population of around 29 million.

Abbott said he is requesting a major disaster declaration from the federal government, which would enable FEMA assistance for costs not covered by insurance. 

"Everyone knows how challenging the past few days have been for our fellow Texans," Abbott said. "I want everyone to know that all of us believe it is completely unacceptable that you had to endure one minute of the challenges that you have faced.” 

A number of cities across North Texas have issued a boil water order as of Thursday. Many of the boil orders are due to massive spikes in water demand and plant issues dropping water systems' pressure below safe levels, officials explain.

Officials in North Richland Hills are warning the city could run out of its water supply in 48 hours "if customers fail to conserve" the essential resource.

In Fort Worth, the city's water system confirmed at least 193 water main breaks have occurred between Sunday to 10 a.m. Thursday. Officials have 169 additional possible water main breaks they still need to investigate.

Many home owners are also rushing to have their water shut off as the risk of damage from pipes bursting grows as Texas thaws. State Farm says it has received as many insurance claims for damage from busted water pipes in Texas over the course of the past week as it had for the entire U.S. throughout 2020. 

RELATED: Water pipe bursts expected to get 'exponentially worse' as things start to thaw out

More potential pipe problems could yet arise still too, with the National Weather Service issuing a hard freeze warning for most of North and Central Texas from 9 p.m. Thursday to 9 a.m. Friday.

Texans should continue to keep their plumbing protected if possible.

The historic winter storm has also affected the state's natural gas providers. Supply is critically low and Atmos Energy warned customers Wednesday night they could begin to experience service outages, which could become extended due to the severity of the issue.

RELATED: Natural gas supply is critically low in Texas. Are rolling gas outages next?

Utilities officials across the board called on Texans who have access to limit their use of water, electricity and gas as much as possible. Even as power has been restored to so many, ERCOT officials say that "some level of rotating outages may be needed over the next couple of days to keep the grid stable."

If at all possible, Texans are also being asked to donate to those who are in need at this time. 

RELATED: No power? Here's where to get free firewood, food, water, warmth in North Texas

Read on for live updates from across North Texas and the state.

Key links:

Remember to download the WFAA app for the latest need-to-know updates. You can also use it check the forecast, one of our dozens of local radars near you, weather cameras and current conditions.

Here's what's happening across North Texas:

10:15 p.m.: President Joe Biden said he spoke with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Thursday night about the severe winter storms affecting Texas and other parts fo the country.

Biden said he would make sure the federal government would work together with state and local authorities in Texas to "bring relief and address the critical needs of the families affected," according to a statement from the White House released Thursday night. He also said he would tell other federal agencies to look into other steps that they could take to help Texans.

"President Biden conveyed his support to the people of Texas in this trying time," the statement said.

10:05 p.m.: MedStar says it has responded to four motor vehicle crashes from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday and has already responded to six crashes between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. — four of which were on highways, and two of which were rollovers crashes, according to MedStar's chief transformation officer Matt Zavadsky.

10:03 p.m.: The Texas Division of Emergency Management said so far, nine generators and 81,000 liters of water have been distributed from the supplies FEMA gave the state.

“TDEM and FEMA are working around the clock in partnership with our local officials to fulfill additional requests for assistance," the government agency said.

8:47 p.m.: FEMA has delivered emergency supplies to a staging area in Fort Worth to aid in response to the winter storms. The supplies include:

  • 60 generators, along with fuel, for hospitals and water plants
  • 729,000 liters of water
  • 10,000 wool blankets
  • More than 60,000 blankets
  • 225,000 meals

Some items, like water and blankets, have already been distributed. Hospitals, nursing homes, water treatment plants and communication facilities are first priority, according to a White House email sent Thursday night and obtained by WFAA.

"FEMA is staging generators, diesel fuel, meals, water and other supplies in support of Texas and any other states that may need it," according to the email.

Rep. Marc Veasey tweeted earlier Thursday he was aware that the materials were in Fort Worth and was trying to help make sure people in need were not delayed in receiving them.

7:25 p.m.:  Oncor said as of 7:00 p.m., approximately 145,000 customers are without power. Of those, 63,000 outages are from cold weather and lack of generation impacts experienced earlier this week. Oncor said a substantial amount of those customers will be restored by Friday evening.

The remaining 82,000 outages are the result of late Wednesday and Thursday’s winter storm in the Palestine, Lufkin and Nacogdoches areas. Crews will continue to work around the clock to ensure power can be restored as quickly and safely as possible.

2:10 p.m.:  State Farm says it has received as many insurance claims for damage from busted water pipes in Texas over the course of the past week as it had for the entire U.S. throughout 2020. The insurance company expects many more claims to be filed as the state thaws out.

2 p.m.: More Texans are seeing power restored. Outages now total around 410,000 in the state.

1:55 p.m.: North Richland Hills is the latest city in North Texas telling all residents to boil their water. Water customers should also use water only for emergency purposes. Those with heat in their homes should stop dripping faucets. Water demand is far outpacing water suppling in the city. 

"If customers fail to conserve it is possible the city could run out in 48 hours," a news release from the city said.

To report broken water lines, call 817-427-6440.

1:45 p.m.: Around 35,000 Oncor customers were still without power this morning in Fort Worth, Mayor Betsy Price said. Many of those outages were because of storm damage to power lines.

Price also said since water sampling was not able to be finished yesterday, the boil water notice in North Fort Worth will not end until Friday at the earliest.

The city is also dealing with a number of water line breaks. Officials are asking people to report any breaks to 817-392-4477 or MyWaterAccount@FortWorthTexas.gov.

Those in need of bottled water can get more information on distribution here.

12:45 p.m.: Arlington ISD officials are now reporting 23 facilities, including 21 schools, were damaged due to the winter weather. Yesterday that number was 15. 

That's out of the district's 78 campuses and 17 other facilities.

The locations that were damaged are:

  • Annex V Administration
  • Bailey Junior High
  • Bebensee Elementary School
  • Beckham Elementary School
  • Bowie High School
  • Dunn Elementary School
  • Gunn Junior High
  • Lamar High School
  • Martin High School
  • Moore Elementary School
  • Morton Elementary School
  • Nichols Junior High
  • Ousley Junior High
  • Pearcy STEM Academy
  • Professional Development Center (administration)
  • Remynse Elementary School
  • Roark Elementary School
  • Sam Houston High School
  • Seguin High School
  • Short Elementary School
  • Thornton Elementary School
  • West Elementary School
  • Workman Junior High

12:30 p.m.: Sen. Ted Cruz confirmed in a statement that he had flown to Mexico with his daughters Wednesday. He was planning to fly back today.

RELATED: Sen. Ted Cruz returning to Texas from Cancun as residents struggle with power outages, lack of potable water

When asked if President Joe Biden had a reaction to Cruz’ Mexico trip, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a briefing that the White House was focused on working on "the crisis at hand."

“Many people across the state who are without power, without the resources they need, and we expect that would be the focus of anyone in the state or surrounding states who was elected to represent them,” Psaki said. 

12 p.m.: FEMA has given a number of supplies to Texas officials as the state deals with numerous problems arising from the winter storms. 

So far, the federal agency has provided: 

  • 60 generators along with fuel for hospitals/water plants 
  • 29,000 liters of water
  • More than 10,000 wool blankets 
  • 50,000 cotton blankets 
  • 225,000 meals

Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall said during a Thursday briefing that FEMA was deploying additional supplies “as we speak.” 

RELATED: FEMA supplying 60 generators, fuel, water and 60,000 blankets to Texas

11:50 a.m.: Fort Worth is still dealing with significant water problems, officials say. 

The city's water system has had 193 confirmed water main breaks since Sunday. Of those, 96 have been repaired. They also have another 169 additional possible water main breaks they need to investigate.

11:45 a.m.: The city of River Oaks in Tarrant County is still working to restore water service after issuing a boil water advisory yesterday. 

The city's water plant had to be shut down because intakes from Lake Worth froze, officials said, and the city's emergency backup, the city of Fort Worth, is dealing with their own water supply problems. Water pressure dropped below 20 PSI, leading to the boil water advisory. 

Residents can contact city hall for help getting water. Burgers Lake at 1200 Meandering Road is also offering to fill jugs or buckets with as much as people need until 6 p.m. today. 

"Their water is spring pure and tested for purity," a news release said.

11:30 a.m.: The next concern from this wintry weather? Cobblestone ice. As temperatures are expected to rise above freezing during the day and then fall again at night, North Texans could be dealing with the rock-hard formations in roadways throughout the region for the next few days. 

RELATED: 'Cobblestone ice' will make a return to North Texas in the next few days. Here's what that means

11:25 a.m.: Some Dallas ISD schools have been damaged due to the power outages as well as burst pipes. The district does not yet know the full extent of the damage.

11:15 a.m.: Around 500,000 Texans remain without power.

10:55 a.m.: ERCOT CEO Bill Magness said Texas' electric grid was "seconds and minutes" away from a massive grid blackout during the peak.

Officials will now use a new kind of winter storm risk assessment scale following this storm.   

"This one changes the game. It was so much bigger, so much more severe. We haven't seen anything like this," Senior Director of System Operations Dan Woodfin added.  

Rotating outages could continue if needed until Texans see more power restoration happen. 

10:45 a.m.: The city of University Park said its boil water notice is due to "reduced distribution system pressure." 

Texans should boil water vigorously for at least two minutes and then let it cool before using it.

10:35 a.m.:  The city of Fort Worth has extended a boil water notice into western portions of the city, affecting hundreds of thousands of residents. Water officials said it now impacts customers from Montgomery Street westward, mostly along Camp Bowie. Officials said Aledo, White Settlement and Westover Hills, who all buy drinking water from Fort Worth have been notified. 

Earlier in the week, these other cities were also placed under a water boil order: Haslet, Keller, Lake Worth, Northlake, Roanoke, Saginaw, Southlake, Trophy Club and Westlake. 

RELATED: Multiple cities in North Texas under a boil water order as power outages continue

10:30 a.m.: State electric officials explained much of the power supply problems were due to wellheads freezing up. Wind generated supply actually exceeded typical winter season expectations during this storm period. 

"The amount of wind that was being produced at various points in time, even though we had half of the installed capacity of the wind turbines that were out of service, the half that were in service during the kind of worst part of the event were actually producing more output than what we counted upon in our seasonal assessment during winter peak-type conditions," Dan Woodfin said.

Woodfin added the regulation of wellheads could help avoid a future situation like this one.

"One potential path of regulation might be to make sure those wellheads, that would help with this situation from my perspective is, make sure those wellheads don't freeze up so that we have enough gas in these kinds of cold weather events."

10:25 a.m.: ERCOT did not determine where the outages occurred, officials said. The agency instead told transmission owners how many megawatts they needed to cut, and those owners then determine outages.

10:15 a.m.: ERCOT officials say they are starting to gain back some of the power generation needed to power Texas. CEO Bill Magness said those who have had power outages for days as a result of the grid's load shed order should now see their power restored. 

"We are not an enforcement agency," Magness said. 

He explained ERCOT does not hand out penalties for generators that are unable to provide power. He says those types of rules come from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). 

9 a.m.: AT&T is waiving data overage charges to its customers across 2,416 zip codes in Texas from Feb. 17 through Feb. 21, a spokesperson announced. The company is waiving the fees for customers with billing addresses or phone numbers in the directly impacted zip codes automatically.

8:30 a.m.: The Mustang Special Utility District has issued a boil notice for some of its customers, officials said. The problem stems from the fact that its supplier, the Upper Trinity Regional Water District, is unable to send enough water to supply their system. 

The areas under the boil notice are: 

  • Those in and around Sutton Fields, Sandbrock Ranch, Winn Ridge, Arrowbrooke, Union Park and Savannah; or on or near the 1385 corridor 
  • Customers along the US 380 corridor 
  • Those south of US 380, including Cross Oak Ranch, Wildridge, Shahan Prairie, Shahan Lake View, Woodridge, Prairie Oaks, Hillstone Pointe, and all Mustang customers in the Oak Point area
  • All customers south of Fishtrap Road in Cross Roads 
  • Paloma Creek
  • The Landing in Providence Village 

8:15 a.m.: ERCOT officials said energy emergency conditions remain in place as the power providers work to bring the rest of Texans without power back online.

But, transmission owners are now able to bring back any load they can as things get restored, according to officials. Those who are still without power are likely being affected now by:

  • Outages due to ice storm damage 
  • Are in areas that need to be restored to the grid manually by a crew at the location 
  • Large industrial facilities that voluntarily turned off during the electric emergency

More than 40,000 megawatts of power generation remain on a forced outage from the wintry weather, officials said, though no additional load shed is happening. 

23,500 of that is thermal power; 16,500 is solar and wind.  

ERCOT officials warn that "some level of rotating outages may be needed over the next couple of days to keep the grid stable."

About 500,000 Texans remain without power.

8 a.m.: The city of Fort Worth is now giving out bottled water as long as supplies last at the below four fire stations:

  • Station 9, 2575 Polaris Drive
  • Station 31, 4209 Longstraw Drive
  • Station 37, 4721 Ray White Road, Keller, TX
  • Station 38, 13280 Park Vista Blvd.

Residents can also pick up water at this school location:

  • Trinity Springs Middle School (Keller ISD), 3350 Keller Hicks Road, Fort Worth, TX.

You can also call 817-392-1234 for additional water distribution locations. Because supplies are limited, each household is limited to one case.

7:45 a.m.: Carter BloodCare urgently needs people to donate blood now that they've reopened their doors today. Blood supply has become limited as a result of the winter weather but volunteers that give blood today can have their donations be used as soon as tomorrow, officials with the nonprofit said.

“Nationwide, the blood supply is crippled," said Veronica Moore, a vice president of the organization. "We have struggled daily to meet hospital demands for patients throughout the pandemic, but the effects of this winter storm amplify an already insufficient supply.”

To find a donation center that is open near you, go to carterbloodcare.org. Walk-ins are welcome, but you can also text 800-366-2834 to make an appointment.

7 a.m.: At least 550,000 Texans are without power, data shows. That is down significantly from the millions who were without yesterday.

6:45 a.m.: Arlington water officials said they were able to take steps overnight to restore water service to businesses and homes following a drop in pressure. The citywide boil water notice remains in effect.

5:45 a.m.: Lewisville has issued a boil-water notice for one of its water service areas after water pressure dropped below 20 PSI, which is the safety standard, city officials said.

RELATED: Multiple cities in North Texas under a boil water order as power outages continue

Credit: City of Lewisville
Map of Lewisville areas impacted by water boil notice.

Texans under the orders should boil their water for at least two minutes prior to drinking it, washing with it, or brushing their teeth, according to officials. Water should be boiled vigorously and then cooled before it is consumed.

5:30 a.m.: Oncor announced rolling and controlled power outages will come to an end. More power plants have come back online and demand has stabilized.

The company is still dealing with power outages for about 150,000 of their customers, but those are mainly due to damage to electrical equipment from the winter storm itself, and not as a result of the ERCOT outages.

 About 600,000 Texans remain without power across the state.

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