GALVESTON

The lights and the heat were still out Wednesday in most of Galveston County, and there was no clear answer about when power would be fully restored.

Although some progress was made restoring power on Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, hundreds of thousands remained without lights and heat for the third day in a row.

The situation continued to frustrate city officials.

“They give them electricity and then they take electricity back,” Galveston Mayor Craig Brown said Wednesday morning.

In a message to city residents, Brown warned blackouts could continue into the weekend.

The prolonged outage in Galveston County can be compared only to times when hurricanes caused widespread damage to transmission lines and buildings. But the problems caused by the winter storm are different than those caused by a hurricane. The problem this time isn’t transmission but generation.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas on Wednesday said about 40 percent of the state’s power generation capacity went offline Monday, leading ERCOT to ask electrical transmission companies to reduce power to their customers through forced blackouts.

Most of those blackouts have persisted since Monday morning. As of Wednesday morning, 2.7 million households across Texas were without power.

CenterPoint Energy and Texas-New Mexico Power Co., the two largest distributors in the county, Wednesday reported about 138,000 outages across the county. That’s 10,000 fewer than reported Tuesday morning.

CenterPoint reported about 82 percent of homes and businesses in Galveston were without power, down from the 95 percent reported Monday.

The progress was little comfort to local officials and residents driven from their homes by the weather and related crises. While more homes had some, often short, periods of power in the preceding 24 hours, some residents of Galveston and Bolivar Peninsula reported reaching 60 straight hours without power.

Galveston County residents should be prepared to go without power for “at least several more days” as officials struggle to produce enough energy to meet demand during the recent cold front, according to CenterPoint Energy officials.

CenterPoint had no timeline or more details about what “several more days” might mean.

“Unfortunately that’s not something we know at this time, since the current shortage of power capacity from the grid is not something that CenterPoint Energy directly controls, said Alejandra Diaz, a media relations contact for the company.

“We are ready to restore service to customers as soon as additional power is available,” Diaz said.

In a best-case scenario, neighborhoods across the state could begin to see consistent rotations of power availability by as soon as Wednesday evening, ERCOT officials said during a news conference. But full restoration could take days. Much depends on cold weather abating, allowing downed generators to restart and decreasing demand from people looking to stay warm.

Forecasts have wide swaths of Texas remaining near freezing over the next two days. Temperatures are forecasted to rise going into the weekend.

But local officials said they weren’t satisfied with those explanations. In a tweet at 1:30 p.m., Galveston County said it was continuing to pressure state leaders and power provides to restore power to the county as soon as possible.

No one was able to provide the county with an estimate on power restoration, the statement said.

Parts of the small city of Hitchcock went into a blackout rotation Wednesday, said Mayor Randy Stricklind. It was better than earlier in the week, when the entire city was without power, Stricklind said.

Stricklind, a retired lineman who once worked for CenterPoint, said he was receiving little information about what to expect in terms of full restoration.

“To tell you the truth, I think people are watching the news, and that’s all the information we’re getting,” he said. “As it warms up, services are going to get better.”

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com.

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(1) comment

Bailey Jones

People can help out by conserving power. I set our thermostat at 65 which, with rolling blackouts, keeps our house between 60 and 65, which is tolerable if not comfortable. But I know people who set theirs at 79. And I know from my FB feed of people in North Texas who ran their pool heaters to keep their pools from freezing. That's crazy. There are still way too many people without power to be wasting it.

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