Dangerous attempts to keep warm after losing power have killed at least six people in Texas amid a historic winter storm, with four perishing in a fire and two dying by carbon monoxide poisoning.
In Houston, a mother and daughter were killed after running a car inside a closed garage, while a blaze in Sugar Land killed a grandmother and her three young grandkids when they tried to use a fire to stay warm.
Houston police were called to the home on the 8300 block of La Roche Lane for a welfare check early on Tuesday, and found a family of four suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.
The mother and daughter were dead on the scene, while the father and son were rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment.
In Sugar Land, a city on the southwest outskirts of Houston, a grandmother and her three young grandchildren perished in a house fire on Tuesday
Houston police were called to the home on the 8300 block of La Roche Lane for a welfare check early on Tuesday, and found a mother and daughter dead from carbon monoxide
‘Initial indications are that car was running in the attached garage to create heat as the power is out,’ the department said in a statement. ‘Cars, grills and generators should not be used in or near a building.’
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo called the deaths of the mother and daughter ‘heartbreaking.’
‘Please bundle up and be aware of the extreme danger carbon monoxide poses for us. Praying for this family,’ he added.
Officials also warn that sitting in a running car outdoors to stay warm can likewise pose a carbon monoxide danger, if the tailpipe is blocked by snow accumulation.
Meanwhile, in Sugar Land, a city on the southwest outskirts of Houston, a grandmother and her three young grandchildren perished in a house fire on Tuesday.
Authorities believe that they were attempting to burn something indoors to keep warm after losing power, but the cause of the blaze remains under investigation.
Officials say social media posts indicate that the family was using a fireplace to stay warm and may have also been using candles
Sugar Land Fire and EMS spokesman Doug Adolph said that when firefighters arrived after the call at about 2am, the house was fully engulfed and the 41-year-old mother of the children and her female friend were outside of the home and suffering from burns.
He said a responder had to restrain the mother from running back inside the house in a desperate attempt to save her children. Both women who survived have been taken to a hospital.
Officials say social media posts indicate that the family was using a fireplace to stay warm and may have also been using candles, according to KTRK-TV.
It comes as more than three million Texans remained without power on Tuesday evening, according to PowerOutage.Us.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Tuesday demanded an investigation into the state’s main power grid operator.
‘The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours… Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable,’ Abbott said.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees the state’s main power grid, is still struggling to restore power after failing to keep up with heightened demand. ERCOT provides electricity to about 90 percent of the state.
A Home Depot parking lot is covered in snow in the Westbury neighborhood, Monday, in Houston. Millions in Texas remain without power after a historic winter storm
The deep freeze that has paralyzed Texas by knocking out its power grid and sparking an energy crisis saw 5 million homes plunged into darkness amid unprecedented rolling blackouts. Pictured above is homes in Houston without power but empty offices still lit up
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a midday news conference that 1.3 million people in his city remain without power. The city is looking for businesses that still have power to open their doors as warming centers.
‘It’s critically, critically important to get the power restored as quickly as possible. It’s priority number one!’ Turner said.
Robyn Harrison, a mother of two in the Houston suburb of Bellaire, told DailyMail.com that her family has been without power since 4am on Tuesday, and is using their home’s gas fireplace to keep warm.
‘We have no electricity. No water. The water main broke. No cell service,’ she said. ‘It’s been in the low 20s and teens.’
When her husband Keith Harrison drove to the family’s business to pick up a generator, he discovered a burst pipe at the offices, she said.
For now, Robyn Harrison said that residents in her neighborhood were focused on surviving the historic winter storm safely — but that they would have hard questions for ERCOT officials once the crisis passes.
‘Once we get power and water and all the other creature comforts, then people will be pissed,’ she said. ‘I think people will be irate when they have hundreds if not thousands of plumbing repairs.’
WHY IS TEXAS FACING AN ENERGY CRISIS?
What is happening in Texas:
Freezing temperatures currently being experienced in Texas led to record demand for electricity as Texans tried to heat their homes.
ERCOT says demand reached a record of 69,150 megawatts on Sunday night, which is more than 3,200 MW higher than the previous winter peak in January 2018.
Experts have said that as people were turning up their heat, power plants and pipelines were freezing or being taken offline due to the temperatures.
At least five oil refineries in Texas have shut down operations because of the storm. Natural gas facilities and pipelines in Texas also closed after wellheads started to freeze up or get blocked with ice and compressors lost power.
Natural gas makes up about half of the state’s power generation but much of what was available was used to enable people to heat their homes instead of generating more electricity.
Half of Texas homes use natural gas for heat and the other half use electricity. Half of the state’s power plants also use natural gas to produce electricity.
Due to a shortage in the natural gas supply but record gas consumption, gas lines were depressurizing, according to experts.
If natural gas power plants can’t get the pressure they need to operate, they have to shut down.
Widespread power outages or instability of external power supply can force shutdowns at refineries.
Some experts say part of the issue is because the power grid in Texas is mostly prepared for heat waves rather than winter storms.
They say it is an unprecedented strain on both natural gas and electricity grids that is ‘way beyond what they were designed to handle’.