‘This is no longer just an emergency’: Harris County residents should expect power, water issues to linger through weekend

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo speaks at a Feb. 17 press conference. (Screenshot courtesy Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Managment)
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo speaks at a Feb. 17 press conference. (Screenshot courtesy Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Managment)

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo speaks at a Feb. 17 press conference. (Screenshot courtesy Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Managment)

The number of Harris County residents without power is the lowest it has been since the morning of Feb. 15, but there are still about 1 million CenterPoint Energy customers whose power has not been restored, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said at a press conference around 5 p.m. Feb. 17.

“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.

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.
By Danica Lloyd

Editor, Cy-Fair

Danica joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in 2016. As editor, she continues to cover local government, education, health care, real estate, development, business and transportation in Cy-Fair. Her experience prior to CI includes studying at the Washington Journalism Center and interning at a startup incubator in D.C., serving as editor-in-chief of Union University's student magazine and online newspaper, reporting for The Jackson Sun and freelancing for other publications in Arkansas and Tennessee.