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5 things for Houstonians to know for Thursday, Feb. 18

Cy-Fair Fire Department responds to a 1-alarm fire in the 4800 block of Pine Cliff Drive on Feb. 16, 2021, in Houston
Cy-Fair Fire Department responds to a 1-alarm fire in the 4800 block of Pine Cliff Drive on Feb. 16, 2021, in Houston (Cy-Fair Fire Department)

Here are things to know for Thursday, Feb. 18:

1. At least 20 dead as millions endure record cold without power

Millions of Americans endured another frigid day without electricity or heat in the aftermath of a deadly winter storm as utility crews raced to restore power before another blast of snow and ice sowed more chaos in places least equipped to deal with it.

Nearly 3.4 million customers around the U.S. were still without electricity, and some also lost water service. 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.

The latest storm front was certain to complicate recovery efforts, especially in states that are unaccustomed to such weather — parts of Texas, Arkansas and the Lower Mississippi Valley.

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2. Firefighters respond to several fires across Houston area as power outages continue

Local firefighters have been responding to several home and apartment fires as millions go without electricity and heat for days.

On Monday, there was an apartment fire that left 80 residents displaced and two other house fires, one being fatal.

Due to the weather and power outages, many cities are experiencing low water pressure, making it more difficult for firefighters to battle the fires.

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3. Texas blackouts fuel false claims about renewable energy

With millions of Texas residents still without power amid frigid temperatures, conservative commentators have falsely claimed that wind turbines and solar energy were primarily to blame.

“We should never build another wind turbine in Texas,” read a Tuesday Facebook post from Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. “The experiment failed big time.”

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“This is a perfect example of the need for reliable energy sources like natural gas & coal,” tweeted U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, on Tuesday.

In reality, failures in natural gas, coal and nuclear energy systems were responsible for nearly twice as many outages as frozen wind turbines and solar panels, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s power grid, said in a press conference Tuesday.

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4. Power outages: ERCOT says ‘significant progress’ could be made overnight at restoring power

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said progress is being made at restoring power to the millions of Texans who have been in the cold in dark for three days.

ERCOT officials said about 8,000 megawatts of the power missing from grid was restored Wednesday, which equates to enough energy for 1.6 million homes. More power plants have also come online, which has allowed the agency to restore about 1,000 megawatts per hour.

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“We’re at a point in the restoration where we’re going to keep energizing circuits as fast as we safely can until we run out of available generation,” said ERCOT Senior Director of System Operations Dan Woodfin. “We hope to make significant progress overnight.”

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5. This is when Houston city officials say water pressure will be restored

Contending with frigid winter weather and continuing power outages, Houston residents Wednesday were warned to boil their water -- if they had the power to do so-- after water pressure plummeted throughout the Houston-area.

City officials urged residents to conserve water while crews work to restore service.

“Use water for critical uses only,” said Carol Haddock, director of public works. “Do not run dishwashers or washing machines or use water outside your home.”

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