The arctic air that poured into Texas caused an unprecedented demand for power as temperatures plummeted with the grid eventually overwhelmed.
Texans have expressed their anger at Houston‘s empty skyscrapers remaining brightly lit up while millions in the winter storm-hit state struggle without power.
More than 4 million people in Texas have lost electricity because of the strain put on the power grid by record-breaking freezing temperatures, including more than 50 per cent of CenterPointEnergy customers in Houston.
At least 17 deaths have been linked to the storm, with many people turning to dangerous methods of heating their homes.
Exasperated Houston residents took to Twitter to post pictures of the city’s lit-up skyline, surrounded by neighbourhoods plunged into darkness.
“Considering Dallas and Ft Worth shut off the lights in their downtown to conserve energy, an empty Downtown Houston must look great at a distance from many areas (over 50 per cent of the city) which are blacked out. Do Better Bayou City,” tweeted @HtownTigah.
Anna Veselova said on Twitter: “Ok so we lowered our a/c and kept the minimum usage of electricity all day long because we feel so lucky to have it! But why downtown Houston empty office buildings lit up like nothing is happening?”
Houston mayor Sylvester Turner explained that the situation was not controlled by the city or county but by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
“ERCOT is the traffic manager of the electric grid which reports to the state. Neither the City nor the County controls or regulates ERCOT or the power generators. That is solely the responsibility of the state,” he tweeted.
A woman and girl died from carbon monoxide poisoning and two people were hospitalised in Houston after a car was left running in a garage to heat a home, which was without power.