Texas power grid officials say they do not know when outages caused by the record-breaking winter storms to hit the state will end.
Officials at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said on Tuesday that they are trying to prevent a total blackout in the state by asking energy companies to cut power to customers.
“We needed to step in and make sure that we were not going to end up with Texas in a blackout, which could keep folks without power — not just some people without power but everyone in our region without power — for much, much longer than we believe this event is going to last, as long and as difficult as this event is right now,” said ERCOT CEO Bill Magness said.
When asked how long that may last, neither Mr Magness nor Senior Director of System Operations Dan Woodfin could give a definitive answer, reports the Dallas Morning News.
Mr Magness admitted that an uncontrolled blackout could leave the state without power for “an indeterminate amount of time.”
The unrelenting winter storms tearing across the southern US forced the temporary closure of more than 500 Walmart stores.
According to its website, Walmart has temporarily shut down 501 between Texas and Kentucky as a result of the storm.
The storms have dumped snow and ice across the region, resulting in numerous power outages and vehicle pile ups, including one in Texas where six people were killed.
Walmart issued a statement regarding its closures.
“Due to winter storms in many areas of the US, we’re closing some locations for the safety of our associates and customers,” the company said in a tweet.
A large number of closures happened in Texas, where the winter storm has hit resident especially hard.
On Monday, it was estimated that 3.6million Texans had lost power. The outages began when the Electric Reliability Council of Texas – which manages the state’s power grid independent of the rest of the country – had to begin rolling blackouts across the state in order to meet demand without completely shutting off services to some areas.
Judge Lina Hidalgo in Harris County, Texas, described the situation as “dire,” and said that after the storms passed and power had been restored she planned to demand answers from ERCOT about the massive power failure.
“I want people to know that once this is over, I will be advocating on behalf of all of our residents in Harris County because all of us deserve answers as to what exactly went wrong. Why wasn’t ERCOT prepared? We all knew this weather was coming, so why did they not have electricity ready and stored? Why were they not resilient to deal with this situation? We’re going to have to ask questions, because we’re going need changes to be made so this doesn’t happen again,” Ms Hidalgo said.
Blackouts have also begun in Kansas, Missouri, and 12 other south and central US states.
Further east, the storm stirred up tornadoes in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.
Northeastern states are likely to feel the remnants of the winter storm on Tuesday.
Just because the current storm is shifting towards the north does not mean the South is done with winter storms, however.
Forecasters now believe a second storm will tear through the South beginning Wednesday. Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas are all expected to see more snow and ice.