7:33 p.m. ET, February 17, 2021
Texas official: "Residents are frustrated. They are angry. They are cold."
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo painted a dire picture of the area's current state Wednesday, saying they have "not seen sustainable improvements" since her briefing yesterday evening.
Critical resources like fire departments and hospitals still lack water. Residents bringing heating devices indoors in attempts to stay warm has led to carbon monoxide poisoning. And one million CenterPoint Energy customers in the region do not have power, though Hidalgo said this is the least number of customers without power since Monday morning.
"Residents are frustrated. They are angry. They are cold. What they're enduring and continue to endure is heartbreaking, and it's frustrating," Hidalgo said at the conference.
There is "reason to be optimistic" because the Electric Reliability Council of Texas has added energy generation capacity, Hidalgo said, but residents should prepare for a few more days without power.
Hidalgo noted that Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee is leading an initiative to prevent price gouging. Hidalgo and Menefee said these practices have been widespread, citing examples such as vacation home rentals with power charging $1,000 a night or stores selling water at two to three times the typical rates.
"We can't imagine something more cruel than taking advantage of people who are suffering right now in this disaster and have been suffering for days," Hidalgo said. "To those out there that are thinking that they can make a quick buck out of our community's pain, know that we will not tolerate any price gouging on our watch."
Menefee added that violators may be prosecuted, saying that it is illegal to charge exorbitant prices under Texas' state of emergency. Residents are encouraged to report such instances of price gouging.
"In the middle of this major disaster, the last thing that Harris County residents need to be concerned about is having to pay additional money for basic necessities as they work to survive freezing temperatures," Menefee said.
The primary concern for tonight, now that the second winter storm has passed, is that wet roads will refreeze and cause black ice. There is another "hard freeze" expected Thursday night and Friday morning when temperatures drop again, meteorologist Jeff Lindner said.