The Texas senator was spotted at an undisclosed airport Thursday ahead of his trip to Mexico ‘for a few days at a resort he has visited before’, according to reports.
While he waited to board a flight to sunnier climes nearly 3.4 million Texans were still without electricity, and some also lost water service. The nationwide death toll from the storm is 31.
Texas officials ordered 7 million people — a quarter of the population of the nation’s second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking it following days of record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and froze pipes.
Ted Cruz is pictured on Wednesday afternoon at Houston Airport jetting to Cancun with his wife and kids on a United Airlines flight
Cruz is shown with his wife Heidi (right) and one of his two daughters (left)
Cruz narrowly missed out on a business class seat. He was on the list for an upgrade – his wife’s name wasn’t
Cruz in his seat in coach after boarding the plane on Wednesday afternoon
Rafael Edward Cruz is the Senator’s given name. Rafael Cruz was the second name on the standby list for a business class upgrade
Cruz acknowledged the woeful failure of Texan officials in preventing the energy crisis in a tweet earlier this week. He mocked California’s power outages last summer
Texas, which relies on its own electricity supply and grid, and is unprepared for winter conditions, has buckled so much so that Cruz’s Democratic rival Beto O’Rourke said on Wednesday that it was a near ‘failed state’.
BETO O’ROURKE – WE’RE NEAR A FAILED STATE
Beto O’Rourke, the failed Senate hopeful and former Congressman, said on Tuesday night that Texas was close to becoming a ‘failed state’ because of the energy crisis.
‘We’ve seen that extraordinary spike in demand and then the same storm has caused real challenges to the delivery of electricity to the supply, with wind turbines freeze and can’t run, the storm blows through and there’s .. you have problems with the equipment at some of these plants, they trip off and have to get fixed.
‘There’s a number of factors where a storm like this that’s been so historic and we haven’t seen much precedent for, pushes the system where demand up and supply down… the only way we can keep it in control is to do outages.’
He said that if ERCOT hadn’t switched power off, the systems would have completely broken and wouldn’t have been able to be turned back on, but he also failed to give a firm answer on when that will happen.
‘If we had let the system go into a stage where a blackout would happen, we wouldn’t be talking about when are we going to restore the power, when are we going to turn it back on. We would be talking about rebuilding portions of the electric system. We wouldn’t be able to do this in days.
‘The goal today is to find ways to get as many Texans back on as we possibly can,’ he said.
Magness admitted that the agency knew the storm was coming and tried to prepare for it but that the crippling of the infrastructure hindered the efforts.
But despite that Republican Cruz appeared carefree with pictures showing him on board the plane wearing the same mask he has worn on the Senate floor.
He had earlier been forced to admit he had ‘no defense’ after an August 2020 tweet mocking power outages in California resurfaced.
Cruz tweeted Wednesday: ‘I got no defense. A blizzard strikes Texas & our state shuts down. Not good. Stay safe!’
He had said: ‘California is now unable to perform even basic functions of civilization, like having reliable electricity.
‘Biden/Harris/AOC want to make CA’s failed energy policy the standard nationwide. Hope you don’t like air conditioning!’
After images of Cruz at the airport surfaced online Sawyer Hackett, senior advisor and communications for Mayor of San Antonio Julian Castro tweeted: ‘It appears in the middle of the worst energy crisis in the history of Texas, @tedcruz is on his way to Cancun with his family.’
Hackett later called for Cruz to ‘resign or be expelled immediately’.
Twitter user Elsa Ramon posted: ‘My 73-yo dad lives in Austin and is sleeping in full winter camping gear. He sits in his running truck with the heater on during the day for warmth, @tedcruz. Enjoy Cancun, you morally bankrupt piece of s***.’
National Weather Service lead forecaster Bob Oravec had earlier said of Texas: ‘There’s really no letup to some of the misery people are feeling across that area.’
Pictures then emerged of Cruz waiting in line to check in his bags and boarding the flight to Mexico.
This week’s extreme weather has been blamed for the deaths of more than 30 people, some of whom perished while struggling to keep warm inside their homes.
In the Houston area, one family succumbed to carbon monoxide from car exhaust in their garage. Another family died while using a fireplace to keep warm.
The president of the Texas power grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said he hoped many customers would see at least partial service restored by later Wednesday or Thursday.
Problems first began with Winter Storm Uri – a brutal weather system that is sweeping the country. Every other state in the storm’s path has been able to withstand it because they operate on a shared power source which means that if one state’s supply goes down, it can draw from the shared reserve.
But furious Texans now want to know why the state’s infrastructure wasn’t properly prepared, especially after a similar storm in 2011 caused the same problems. The Texas Tribune reports that not all of the generators in the state were upgraded after 2011 to tackle the issue.
Jeff Dennis, managing director of Advanced Energy Economy, said: ‘Where did those recommendations go, and how were they implemented? Those are going to be some pretty key questions.’
The upgrades are what’s called ‘winterizing’ the energy system but experts say it is regularly put off because the changes are expensive. Texas’ deregulated energy market gives little financial incentives for operators to prepare for the rare bout of intensely cold weather, an issue critics have been pointing out for years.
Eric Bennis sits with his children inside a furniture store which opened as a shelter Wednesday in Houston; Millions in Texas still had no power after a historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures created a surge of demand for electricity
People wait in line to fill propane tanks Wednesday in Houston. Customers had to wait over an hour in the freezing rain to fill their tanks
Leonel Solis and Estefani Garcia use their car to heat their home in East Dallas area of Dallas on Wednesday. The couple, who lost power on Sunday, have been using electricity from a neighbor’s generator and heat from their car to stay warm
Water pressure has fallen across the state because lines have frozen, and many residents are leaving faucets dripping in hopes of preventing pipes from freezing, said Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott urged residents to shut off water to their homes, if possible, to prevent more busted pipes and preserve pressure in municipal systems.
Travel remains ill-advised in much of the United States, with roadways treacherous and thousands of flights canceled.
There are also delays to the COVID-19 vaccine distribution and many doses that were being stored are under threat because the freezers storing them can’t operate without power.
And there are also fears that without any new gas becoming available soon, prices are about to skyrocket by as much as 20 cents per gallon.
Texas’ perfect storm: How the Lone Star state’s independent electric grid, shoddy winter infrastructure and ‘wild west’ approach to energy regulation left millions in the cold
Millions of people in Texas awoke on Wednesday without heat again, as catastrophic power failures continued to plague the state following a historic winter storm that has killed 23 people so far.
A week of below-freezing temperatures has knocked about a third of the state’s generating capacity offline, resulting in the greatest forced blackout in U.S. history and exposing the weaknesses of Texas’ unique approach to power grid management.
Experts blame Texas’ independent energy grid, which avoids regulation in favor of market incentives, for allowing generators to shirk preparations for a once-in-a-decade winter storm.
Texas is the only contiguous state with its own power grid, meaning it is not linked to other states and so cannot borrow power from them.
It’s a ‘Wild West market design based only on short-run prices,’ Matt Breidert, a portfolio manager at a firm called TortoiseEcofin, told the Washington Post.
Nearly 3 million people in Texas were without power early Wednesday, including 1.4 million people in the Houston metropolitan area. A quarter of homes in Dallas were dark.
Though some have blamed the catastrophe on frozen wind turbines, the power grid in Texas relies heavily on natural gas, responsible for nearly half the electricity generated.
Alone among the contiguous states, Texas maintains its own power grid that does not cross state lines, in order to avoid federal regulation. It is called the Texas Interconnection
Wind shutdowns accounted less than 13 percent of the 30 to 35 gigawatts of total outages, said Dan Woodfin, a senior director at the state’s grid operator.
Poor winter infrastructure in Texas has brought the natural gas system grinding to a halt, with drilling fluid freezing in gas pipes, frozen wellheads unable to produce, and diesel-fueled pumps refusing to start.
Even coal plants went offline as coal piles were frozen to the ground, and one of the two reactors of the South Texas Nuclear Power Station had to be shut down after the cooling pumps froze.
While similar facilities in the Northern states are equipped to handle extended temperatures below freezing, Texas, which hasn’t experienced a similar cold snap in a decade, simply didn’t have the infrastructure in place to weather the storm.
As the state’s electrical supply plunged, demand soared to levels normally only seen during the hottest summer days. Texans, many in poorly insulated homes, were trying desperately to keep warm, plugging in electric heaters and cranking up their thermostats.
The result was an epic crisis of supply unable to meet demand. In other states, broad regional power grids allow states to tap into their neighbors’ generating supply during a crisis, but Texas is unique.
Alone among the contiguous states, Texas maintains its own power grid that does not cross state lines, in order to avoid federal regulation.
Called the Texas Interconnection, the grid is managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) — the system operator that has faced heavy backlash for the planning failures that led to the catastrophe.
Even as its own projections showed a crisis in the making last week, ERCOT has been accused of downplaying the issue and failing to properly warn Texans of impending widespread outages.
On Monday, ERCOT sent out a tweet urging people not to do laundry on Valentine’s Day to conserve energy — a measure some viewed as inadequate in proportion to the crisis.
People seeking shelter from below freezing temperatures rest inside a church warming center Tuesday in Houston. Millions in Texas still had no power on Wednesday
ERCOT officials still can’t say when power will be restored. ‘I know it’s frustrating we can’t offer a time certain, but it’s a process we’re engaged in to get the grid back in balance,’ ERCOT chief executive officer Bill Magness said during a news conference Tuesday.
Ed Hirs, an energy fellow at the University of Houston, said the problem was a lack of weatherized power plants and a statewide energy market that doesn’t incentivize companies to generate electricity when demand is low.
In Texas, demand peaks in August, at the height of the state’s sweltering summers.
He rejected that the storm went beyond what ERCOT could have anticipated.
‘That’s nonsense. It’s not acceptable,’ Hirs said. ‘Every eight to 10 years we have really bad winters. This is not a surprise.’
The outages are the widest Texas’ grid has suffered but hardly a first in winter.
A decade ago, another deep February freeze created power shortages in Texas the same week the Super Bowl was played in Arlington. A federal report later flagged failures in the system, including power plants that are unable to stand up to extreme cold.
The latest breakdown sparked growing outrage and demands for answers over how Texas – whose Republican leaders as recently as last year taunted California over the Democratic-led state’s rolling blackouts – failed such a massive test of a major point of state pride: energy independence.
And it cut through politics, as fuming Texans took to social media to highlight how while their neighborhoods froze in the dark Monday night, downtown skylines glowed despite desperate calls to conserve energy.
‘We are very angry. I was checking on my neighbor, she´s angry, too,’ said Amber Nichols, whose north Austin home has had no power since early Monday. ‘We´re all angry because there is no reason to leave entire neighborhoods freezing to death.’
She crunched through ice wearing a parka and galoshes, while her neighbors dug out their driveways from six inches of snow to move their cars.
‘This is a complete bungle,’ she said.
The toll of the outages was causing increasing worry. Harris County emergency officials reported ‘several carbon monoxide deaths’ in or around Houston and reminded people not to operate cars or gasoline-powered generators indoors.
Authorities said three young children and their grandmother, who were believed to be trying to keep warm, also died in a suburban Houston house fire early Tuesday.
In Galveston, the medical examiner’s office requested a refrigerated truck to expand body storage, although County Judge Mark Henry said he didn’t know how many deaths there had been related to the weather.
Republican Governor Greg Abbott called for an investigation of the grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. His indignation struck a much different tone than just a day earlier, when he told Texans that ERCOT was prioritizing residential customers and that power was getting restored to hundreds of thousands of homes.
But hours after those assurances, the number of outages in Texas only rose, at one point exceeding 4 million customers. ‘This is unacceptable,’ Abbott said.
By late Tuesday afternoon, ERCOT officials said some power had been restored, but they warned that even those gains were fragile and more outages were possible.
The grid began preparing for the storm a week ahead of time, but it reached a breaking point early Monday as conditions worsened and knocked power plants offline, ERCOT president Bill Magness said.
Some wind turbine generators were iced, but nearly twice as much power was wiped out at natural gas and coal plants. Forcing controlled outages was the only way to avert an even more dire blackout in Texas, Magness said.
‘What we’re protecting against is worse,’ he claimed.
On Tuesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Texas had requested 60 generators and that hospitals and nursing homes would get priority.
Thirty-five warming shelters were opened to accommodate more than 1,000 people around the state, FEMA said during a briefing. But even they weren’t spared from the outages, as Houston was forced to close two on Monday because of a loss in power.