“This is no longer just an emergency. It’s clear that it is a disaster,” Hidalgo said. “Since we last stood here 24 hours ago, we’ve not seen sustainable improvements just yet in the power situation.”
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been able to add generation capacity in that time, but more capacity is still needed to supply power to all residents. While about 200,000 CenterPoint Energy customers had power restored Feb. 17, Jason Ryan, senior vice president of regulatory services and government affairs, said customers should continue to plan for sustained outages.
In addition to the power supply issue, Hidalgo said, many are experiencing decreased water pressure, including local hospitals and fire departments. Hidalgo said residents should conserve water and avoid dripping faucets.
Residents should also assume they are under a boil-water notice unless they confirm otherwise with their local municipal utility districts. This means water should be boiled for two minutes before drinking because bacteria could seep into pipes while pressure is low.
A hard freeze is expected the night of Feb. 18 and the morning of Feb. 19, but once temperatures warm up after Feb. 19, some challenges, such as boil-water notices, may still linger.
Wednesday, February 17th update from Judge Hidalgo on the current crisis. pic.twitter.com/jBRNKO3uMK
— Office of Judge Lina Hidalgo (@HarrisCoJudge) February 17, 2021
Those who choose to travel should drive with caution, as there may still be ice on roads, and traffic lights may not be functioning at this time, Hidalgo said. She also warned against overstocking on supplies. A list of grocery stores that are open can be found at www.readyharris.org.
During the press conference, county officials announced efforts to identify cases of price gouging and plans to penalize those taking advantage of vulnerable residents during this time.
“If my office finds your business price gouging—selling or leasing fuel, food, water or other necessities at an excessive price—we will call you out, we will stop you and, where appropriate, we will go to court and ask a judge to impose stiff penalties,” Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said.
Residents can report instances of price gouging at www.readyharris.org or by texting information—including photos of products and prices, when possible—to 346-354-7459.