Texas outages hit water supplies as thousands struggle without power for a fourth day

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Propane tanks are placed in a line as people wait for the power to turn on to fill their tanks in Houston, Texas on February 17, 2021.

Mark Felix | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Power outages continue to plague Texas — and now neighboring Louisiana and Mississippi — as winter conditions curb supply just as demand rises.

The problems are spreading, and Texas’ water supply is now in jeopardy after thousands of pipes burst. Officials are urging Texans to boil tap water for drinking.

More than 560,000 customers in Texas still do not have power, according to data from PowerOutage.us. The new numbers do represent progress — at one point on Tuesday more than 4 million customers had no power — but for some it’s now been multiple days of frigid conditions with no heat.

More than 100,000 customers are without power in Louisiana, while nearly 200,000 customers have been impacted in Mississippi, PowerOutage.us found.

“We do our best to plan for events, but I mean this is beyond anything that I believe any reasonable person would have said would have happened at the same time,” Joshua Rhodes, research associate at The University of Texas at Austin, said Thursday on CNBC’s “Worldwide Exchange.” “It is somewhat of the perfect storm.”

Wintery conditions affected power production from natural gas, coal, renewables and other sources, just as consumers turned up their thermostats amid the frigid temperatures. The grid couldn’t match supply and demand dynamics, and had to shut off power for millions of customers.

An estimated 3 million barrels per day of oil production remained offline. At least a fifth of U.S. refining output has been shut down. Some are simply too cold to operate, while others cannot receive delivery because of frozen pipelines, among other things.

Energy prices continue to jump. Natural gas gained more than 1% on Thursday, and is up more than 10% this week. Meanwhile West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose to $62.26, its highest level since Jan. 8 2020. Gasoline futures hit a high of $1.8486, the highest level since July 2019.

“Unprecedented price spikes in power and natural gas, with other energy commodities also reacting, highlight domino effects across markets,” noted Citi analysts.

On Wednesday night Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order directing natural gas providers to stop any shipments outside of the state.

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