Feb 16, 2021
Houston Mayor Press Conference on Severe Weather, Power Outages Transcript February 16
Houston, Texas Mayor Sylvester Turner held a press conference on February 16, 2021 to address the severe winter weather and power outages. Read the full transcript of the briefing here.
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Mayor Turner: (00:00)
… And with me, Chief Buenik who’s over the Office of Emergency Management, Chief Acevedo, of course, with police. Chief Peña, with fire and Kenny Mercado who’s with CenterPoint Energy. The Senior Vice President with CenterPoint is here as well. Let me just go over a few things and then I’m a first call on chief Buenik to follow me. I know that in our Houston region, that there are still approximately 1.3 million people without power. And a large segment of that group has been without power since Monday morning, two, three, four o’clock. So it’s been at least 24 hours plus that they’ve been without water. And again, and I know how frustrating it is and people have every right to be frustrated, to be angry. I get it. I understand it, especially for our senior citizens and critical care customers, family with children. It’s been a very difficult period and it’s even more difficult when you can tell people specifically, how much longer will they be without power or when can they expect the power to be restored.
Mayor Turner: (01:22)
I had a conversation this morning with the head of ERCOT. ERCOT is the state entity agency. That’s manages the Texas grid. I referred to ERCOT as the traffic stop cop, so to speak. They are the ones who work directly with power generators, even with our transmission and distribution companies like CenterPoint and like Oncur in that Dallas region. So I had a conversation with him this morning, and asked specifically, how much longer? What can you tell me that I can convey to the people here in the city of Houston? And as he put it, mayor, the major issue is getting generation back online. They’re needing to get generation back online. And that will help everyone. That will help CenterPoint, that will have Oncur.
Mayor Turner: (02:29)
It would help to push the power down to our retail electric providers who can get it down to the end users, to you the homeowners in our city. The hope is that some power will be restored sometime today. I do know that some households. Their power have been restored. And I specifically asked, can you quantify how many households’ power will be restored? And at that time, I didn’t get a specific response, but I do hear up to this point that about 400,000 households’ power will be restored sometime today. Now, that will be a significant improvement. But in view of the fact that there are 1.3 million customers that are without power in this Houston region, the CenterPoint territory, that means we still have a way to go. But it is important from what I’ve indicated to ERCOT, what I’ve indicated to our state officials at all levels is that it’s just critically, critically important for the power to be restored as quickly as possible.
Mayor Turner: (03:54)
That’s important. That’s the number one priority, especially for our seniors who are in these homes and freezer conditions. It’s cold on the outside, it’s cold in their homes, even as well. And then people with critical care customers, people who need, who are relying on medical devices, they’re needing oxygen, their batteries are getting low, their oxygen tanks are getting low. And so let me ask, for those individuals, critical care customers, senior citizens, if you find yourself needing additional assistance because your power is out, please notify 311. And let me address that. I know that there’s been some time lag in 311 because many of our operators, 31 operators, who have been working remotely, because the power’s out that it’s affecting their ability to take some of these 311 calls. I have asked them to come in to the HEC Center and to stay here for the rest of this event. And so that will help to shorten your time that when you are calling and getting someone on the other end.
Mayor Turner: (05:21)
But the point is, and what I will stress to everyone at the state level, to ERCOT, to our providers, that we need to get this power restored ASAP. And at the very minimum, got to give us some information so that we can tell people when they can expect the power to be restored. But that’s priority number one. In addition, you can imagine the pressure it is putting on our shelters. At the George R. Brown, for example, the initial group that we were targeting, our homeless population and people living on our streets, we’ve even had to expand that somewhat because of what is happening with the power being out. Where we had initially planned for 200 up to 500, now there are roughly 797 people within the warming center, the shelter at the George R. Brown. It is now maxed out. Because of COVID and the healthcare protocols, we simply can’t take any more. We’ve gone significantly over and above what we had scheduled, what we had planned with 797. I am grateful that Lakewood church has made itself available.
Mayor Turner: (06:48)
And in some cases, we are transporting people by bus. And I want to thank Metro and Yellow Cab and others for assisting. We are transporting people over to Lakewood. So let me thank Lakewood for rising to the occasion and assisting. And then secondly, of course you can always count on Mattress Mack, Gallery Furniture. I want to thank him for opening up his business, Gallery Furniture, that will serve as a warming center as well. So recognizing that because of the power being out and the number of people being affected, we’re doing our very best to open additional warming centers to assist people. And then as a result of the weather this evening, we’re expecting tonight some of cold precipitation, freezing precipitation will come into the area tonight, lasting over until tomorrow morning. The weather’s going to be somewhat treacherous. For city employees, all this applies to all the city employees.
Mayor Turner: (07:55)
We’re going to delay your coming in for a couple of hours. That messaging is going out. You still will be expected to come in tomorrow, but we’re going to delay that for a couple hours because of the morning precipitation. And then with regards to testing and vaccines, that is not going to take place tomorrow. So there will be no testing, there will be no vaccine distributions or shots being given tomorrow by the health department because of the weather. And again, if you have an appointment, that will be rescheduled, and the odds are that will also apply to Thursday as well. So please take notes and they will be letting you know. There’ve been some questions as to whether or not the city is cutting out or suspending in terms of water service. Let me tell, you that is not the case.
Mayor Turner: (08:51)
We are not turning off water. We are not providing water, for example, to the medical center or any other subdivision. The pressure may be a little low because of what we are going through, but no water has been not provided. So I just want to deal with that. We will ask people, for example, with respect to your power, if you do have power, to conserve power on that end. But with respect to the water, the water pressure is lower than it would normally be, but all systems are still good and we’re doing everything we can to boost up the pressure. But no water is being curtailed at this time and I don’t see the need for that at this point. Let me stop at this right now. Come back a little bit later on. Let we first call up Chief Buenik with the Office of Emergency Management.
Chief Buenik: (09:47)
Great. Thank you, mayor for your leadership and guidance during this critical time, especially when a lot of the issues that we are dealing with are beyond the city’s control. The Office of Emergency Management is still coordinating with all the city departments. It’s a team effort, like I said yesterday. And what we’re mainly concerned about right now are life safety issues. We are connecting people that are in need with people that can provide services. As the mayor stated, the GRB is full. So we’re thankful for others that are opening up the warming centers. We also need neighborhood people to pitch in. It’s called neighbors helping neighbors. If you know of some seniors, access functional need people or people that are just within power in your neighborhood and you’re one of the fortunate ones that have power, invite people in, allow them to charge their devices up.
Chief Buenik: (10:37)
If we have businesses out there that have power, there’s a lot of people in need that have been calling that say they need to charge their cell phones, their computers. They need to be able to stay in touch. So if you can provide any of those types of service, we would appreciate it. If you have a community center or a church social hall in the neighborhoods that can open, at least, during the daytime to allow some people in, to get warm or to charge your devices, we would really appreciate it. Send us that information and we’ll publicize it. Thank you, mayor.
Mayor Turner: (11:10)
Thank you so very, very much. Now let me call on Chief Acevedo.
Chief Acevedo: (11:15)
Thank you, mayor. Thanks for your leadership. And for always being here with us. First and foremost, the police department wants to report that we’re fully operational. We are on tactical alert and we have all hands on deck. As of 11:00 AM this morning, between 1800, 6:00 PM on Valentine’s Day through 11:00 AM, the police department has worked 588 traffic crashes. Right now we have 88 calls holding and I’m happy to say that the vast majority are very low level calls. We’ve had two officers injured to slipping on ice. So be very careful out there. And unfortunately we’ve had three DOAs, losses of life, one homeless individual yesterday. Believe it be from the weather. And obviously the two family members from carbon monoxide poisoning yesterday. I know Chief Peña will talk about. And we’ve been very fortunate, we’ve only had one traffic fatality considering the conditions. But I think that the job that you’ve done in terms of keeping people off the roadway has helped us keep that down to one fatality.
Chief Acevedo: (12:18)
As of right now, we have closures at 610 at Scott, North Freeway, Southbound at Beltway, I-10 between 45 Northbound ramp and exit 768A, 59 Southbound I-10 at the I-10 East West split. 288 Northbound on Bellfort, Northbound Gulf Freeway South of the Loop and South Post Oak ramp at Main and North Shepherd off ramp at 34th. Please, if you see barricades up, do not go past the barricades. Do not move the barricades and don’t run over the barricades. In most instances, there’ll be police officers that you may not see on those ramps and you’ll end up either getting yourself arrested or cited, or you might hurt someone. The other thing that I want to make sure that the community knows, especially to the criminal element, we will have a lot of officers out and about in the city and police cars and unmarked cars, keeping an eye on commercial facilities, on pawn shops, on gun stores and an all other critical infrastructure. We are fully operational and we’re all hands deployed. Mayor, thank you again. And that’s my report.
Mayor Turner: (13:26)
Thank you. Chief Peña.
Chief Peña: (13:29)
Thank you, mayor. Good morning, everyone. Before I begin, I want to thank the men and women of the Houston Fire Department for the incredible work that they’ve been doing throughout this crisis. I don’t get a chance to thank them individually and personally, but to them, to all first responders, to public safety workers, public workers, public employees, I want to say their work during the freezes or floodings or pandemics, thank you. For the fire department, our report is over the last 24 hours, we’ve run over 2200 calls for-
Chief Peña: (14:03)
Over the last 24 hours, we run over 2200 calls for service. We’re up about 180% above our normal call volume. Our resources are really being stretched thin. We had 56 fire calls over the last 24 hours and we responded to over 90 calls for carbon monoxide poisoning. I want to take this moment, Mayor, to talk a little bit about the dangers of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is colorless and it’s odorless, but it’ll punch victims when they least expect it, especially in their sleep. Carbon monoxide is produced when you burn fuels. So if you use stoves to heat your homes, if you use the ovens to heat your homes, if you’re using grills inside your homes, or if you’re using generators that are too close to any openings in your home, you can quickly fill up that space with carbon monoxide. It doesn’t take much and a little bit can begin to be lethal for people inside those homes. The other thing that we’re seeing is people that are doing whatever they need to do to try to stay warm and they’re using their vehicles. They’re getting in their vehicles, turning on the vehicles to try to stay warm. If you do that, do not do so inside your garages. Even if the garage door is open, that carbon monoxide can quickly fill up that space, and it becomes lethal. The signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide, headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, loss of consciousness. All those things are signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide. If you’re experiencing those signs, go outside immediately and call 911 for an evaluation. It is critical that you understand the dangers of using open flames inside your homes to try to heat up your homes.
Chief Peña: (15:53)
In regards to fires, as I mentioned, we responded to 56 fires in the last 24 hours. Those families that don’t have electricity that are part of the blackouts at this moment, what I recommend is that you unplug all your devices. When the power comes back up, that’s going to avoid any possible shortages and possible fires. Again, please, we’re in the middle of this crisis. It’s going to get cold tonight. People are going to resort to different ways of trying to heat their homes. Be very cautious with how you do that. We recommend, as the Mayor mentioned, if you can, seek assistance at any of the warming centers, reach out to your families, to your friends or somewhere where you can go and stay warm if you cannot do so in your home safely, but do not use grills, do not use propane heaters or generators too close to the home because carbon monoxide is a definite risk, is a silent killer. We’ve already responded to 90 calls in the last 24 hours. And sadly, we had two fatalities. That’s my report, Mayor. Thank you.
Mayor Turner: (17:06)
Thank you very much. Carol Haddock, public works.
Carol Haddock: (17:11)
Good afternoon. Thank you Mayor for giving us this opportunity to provide this update. And I also want to echo my colleagues sentiments and thanking all city of Houston employees for stepping up to the plate and taking care of Houstonians as we do this every single day. I want to start off with our streets and bridges. We need to not let today’s weather and the fact that we have beautiful sunshine out here, and we’re seeing a lot of the ice melt off lull us into a sense of security. As the temperatures drop off tonight, we will begin to see some of those areas where the roads are still wet. They will freeze back up. And so we need to make sure that people stay off these roads and make sure that you keep yourselves and your family safe by not being out in these conditions, particularly as the sunsets and this ice freezes back up. We will see that not just on bridges and overpasses, but we’ll see that on the freeways as well. So we want to make sure that we’re taking care to do that.
Carol Haddock: (18:06)
The next thing I’m going to talk about is our water system. We are working very hard to keep the water system functioning throughout the city of Houston. And right now we do have pressures throughout the city of Houston. If you don’t have water at your specific house, you probably have some pipes that have frozen up during this. And so we’re asking that you get prepared for that and that you know where the shutoff is to your house and that you know where the shutoff is in the meter, if you don’t know where the shutoff is in your house. We’re going to be providing information to the media this afternoon on how to turn the water off to your house. As it does begin to fall out, you’ll begin to encounter those areas where we may have had pipes that have burst.
Carol Haddock: (18:44)
We are working to prioritize returning all of our groundwater wells back into service right now to continue to boost that pressure. But it’s going to be a little while before we catch back up on raising the pressures to what we normally see citywide. However, we are in a good shape for the pressures that we are staying above regulatory thresholds at this point. The water is safe. If you do have water, that’s being delivered to your house, it meets all the requirements, it is safe to drink, it is safe to cook with, but we are asking that you do remain vigilant and careful. We’re also asking if you do have water to use it sparingly, to use it for health and safety needs, and to keep that water on the system, that help keeps the pressure up for everybody else as well. So thank you.
Mayor Turner: (19:32)
Thank you, Director Haddock. Let me call up, Kenny Mercado, senior vice president of CenterPoint.
Kenny Mercado: (19:39)
Thank you Mayor. And thank you for your leadership as we’ve gone through this crisis, and it’s really an honor to be here. And I want to just mention a couple of things very briefly. Number one is you heard the Mayor talk earlier about the electricity issues across our area. For us, we own and we manage the transmission and distribution systems. So we’re the wires business. And we went through the storm as the city has done as well, and I want to report today that our transmission system is 100% recovered. It’s ready and it is operating perfectly. So we’re in great shape on our transmission grid.
Kenny Mercado: (20:10)
Secondly, our distribution system that serves all of our homes across the greater Houston area, it’s also in great shape. Some small damages were reported. Most of those damages were addressed yesterday. We’re finishing up some issues today, Mayor. We have a distribution system that will be ready to go today for the next storm. And as soon as we get the generation back on across the greater Eastern area, then you will see the power delivered to the customers very efficiently, very safely, as quickly as we can.
Kenny Mercado: (20:39)
Secondly, I want to mention to you for those who do have the long extended outages, we’re working hard to try to move you out of that outage situation. We got started last night on this process and we were very successful with it. The good news is, is we were able to get some of our customers who’ve had the extended outages back on last night. Then we had to stop and we had to stop because ERCOT was now asking for more load to be reduced across our area, so we had to stop the process.
Kenny Mercado: (21:12)
As we sit here now, we’re beginning to get a little bit more opportunity to do this again. So we’re moving forward with more of our customers trying to make a trade-off. We still have to have the same amount of power outages, but we’re trying to trade off those who’ve been out for the extended period of time and replace them with customers haven’t been out. And that process is ongoing right now. If ERCOT continues to give us some relief, we hope that we can do that for the rest of the day today.
Kenny Mercado: (21:39)
In addition, there is some new generation that is beginning to come online. We’re optimistic that that will help and give us some relief as you heard from the Mayor today. As that generation comes online and as ERCOT gives us the authority, then we will get customers back on as quickly as we can. And then lastly, I’ll tell you, as I said yesterday on many TV outlets, conserve, conserve, conserve. We need every watt savings as we can. If you save a lot of power, we won’t have to put out a lot of power. We appreciate everybody’s efforts in conserving electricity as we go through this process together. Thank you for your time.
Mayor Turner: (22:17)
And thank you very, very much. Let me address a few things that I’m seeing. For example, the lights being on in the downtown buildings. And certainly I have asked the downtown management district to assist, also CenterPoint to assist in notifying those building owners and managers to turn off their lights. A couple of days ago we asked everybody to conserve their power, not just homeowners, but businesses across the board to conserve power. I go on to ask again for those buildings, for example, downtown, or really anywhere in the city of Houston that are not being utilized, occupied, especially in the evening times, to turn off those lights. With respect to the downtown area, you can’t turn everything off downtown because all of the hotels are full because people are utilizing those hotels because they don’t have power at homes. So that’s one.
Mayor Turner: (23:24)
Secondly, the George R. Brown, we’ve got close to 800 people that are there as a homeless shelter. So that’s downtown. And then thirdly, bear in mind, you’ve got thousand peoples in your County jails that are downtown as well. But with respect to all of the other buildings, let’s be sensitive with respect to the fact that they are many residential homeowners, for example, and others that are in the dark. It doesn’t make sense to have these buildings, these lights illuminated on, especially when there are very few people that are in them, especially at night. Let’s all participate in conserving the energy, such that we can get this power restored.
Mayor Turner: (24:10)
Secondly, as I indicated to ERCOT, they must provide CenterPoint, Encore, all of your transmission distribution providers, what they need to restore power as quickly as possible. That must take place. We have to have more generation in this state. It is simply unacceptable at this point for people to be without power at the coldest time in our history in the last 30 years. It’s just unacceptable. So we have to have more generation and then ERCOT has to provide the flexibility.
Mayor Turner: (24:53)
And so I’m calling on the state leaders to assess because ERCOT is a state entity that oversees and manages the entire Texas grid. I don’t have that power, I don’t have that authority, if I did, I would use it, but I don’t. So it is important for ERCOT state leadership to provide as much flexibility to do everything that they can to increase generation that can be provided to the transmission and distribution systems so that that power can get to the people who are in these homes, in these apartments, and they are in very cold conditions. So that’s very important.
Mayor Turner: (25:37)
And then lastly, let me just say this. As we deal with this cold weather, I don’t want us to lose sight of the fact, Congresswoman, we are still dealing with COVID. So I don’t want us, we have to deal with COVID and the cold weather all at the same time. And so again, one of the reasons why we just can’t add additional people to the George R. Brown is because of the healthcare protocols. We still have to have the social distancing, the sanitizers. I mean, all of the medical protocol we have to adhere to. So that’s critically important.
Mayor Turner: (26:12)
So don’t forget about COVID. The coronavirus is still very much present in our community. So we have to deal with both at the same time, but depending on the weather, it does appear that the testing and the vaccine shots will commence probably more so on Friday, rather than even on, I know it won’t take place tomorrow, depending on the weather. Thursday is problematic. I bet it will take place on Friday. Congresswoman, you are here, please. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: (26:46)
Thank you very much, Mayor. The task of a member of Congress is to work closely with their local officials, the Mayor and the County judge. The Mayor and I met yesterday and he tasked me with a few assignments that I had been working on. And I wanted to thank him very much for this ongoing leadership and really want to take the time to thank Chief Acevedo, Chief Peña, all of them have been getting individual calls from all of us about, Mayor, our constituents stuck in their homes.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: (27:17)
I think it’s important to give a little color to individuals, the senior that fell down in the dark, broke his leg, seniors who had to be taken out by ambulance last evening, freezing. These are all city services, OME staff, CenterPoint, and of course public work. So it’s my task of course to say thank you. My district happens to lay on top of the city. And so we say 1.3 million, a whole lot of those individuals are in the 18th congressional district from Fallbrook to Veterans Memorial Spring, all the way to our inner city areas like Third Ward, Fifth Ward, Acres Homes, Southeast parts and beyond, a lot of seniors-
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: (28:03)
… southeast parts and beyond. A lot of senior citizens, we get calls about blankets. So we’re really in a desperate set of circumstances. In the last two days, I have met by phone with the United States Department of Energy, and they are now working for the requests that we have made, Mayor, on behalf of the city. And I’d like to give a report as to where we are. First of all, I think it’s important to note that the Mayor is correct, this infrastructure belongs to the state. The U.S. Department of Energy, because we deregulated some years ago, energy is less controlled by the government. When I say that, the federal government, because of deregulation. I asked them why our state seemed to be the most devastated because their surrounding states that have similar weather conditions that may be doing a little bit better.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: (28:58)
One of the issues is that the Mayor presides over one of the largest cities in the nation. We are urban and rural, and so we’re dense. And what has been discerned by the U.S. Department of Energy is one of the problems is that our system is an isolated system. Texas never worked to inter-mingle with surrounding states, so it makes it very difficult for surrounding states to help us because we have very few sites to receive the information. They have indicated that they’re going to help me legislatively, that’s down the road, I know we can’t deal with that now, to get huge funding to redo what we don’t have. We don’t have, it’s almost like, if I might, you’ve got five cars and you’ve got a one car garage and you can’t get your five cars into a one car garage. So we do not have the sites to receive this. But what we have begun to do, and I need to have an explanation from ERCOT, because I don’t think they have given this information, I don’t know if Center Point has it, have given this information to local authorities. Based on my request yesterday for them to go out hunting for resources, they have asked the Southwest Power Administration that falls under the Department of Energy to extend us power. They have sent us hydro power. They have already sent that power to the state. I think it is important for ERCOT to let us know where that power is being used. I’ve asked them to continue, they are now going back to do as I asked, which is, they’re going to go to New York, they’re going to go to California, and try to see whether or not we can get any sources between now and then. Obviously, the distributors have to be involved as well, but the federal government is now asking New York and California if they can help us.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: (31:02)
I even asked Mexico, but Mexico is in dire straits right now, because they didn’t get the natural gas that they needed to get. My good friends at Center Point, I’m not sure whether they can reach there and maybe they’ll respond. We’ll talk offline. New Mexico is also a viable entity in terms of some of our distribution companies. But, Mayor, I will say to you that we are pushing them as hard as we can to see whether or not we can get any swaps, any loans, that’s my terminology, that can get in here for the next couple of days. My concern is that we thought we’d be finished by Wednesday, but I understand that the weather reports suggest that we may be going into Thursday. If that’s the case, then we need to have an additional resource.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: (31:52)
Let me conclude by indicating all of our hearts are broken by the lives that have been lost. Carbon monoxide, fires, they’re all around. Grandmothers, children, it’s very painful, and seniors who are by themselves who need help as well. I just hope to encourage all of those who are able to hear, those who are able to help, to check on our seniors and people with special needs and to inform people that cars and garage tragically probably don’t work, and tragically we just beg people. I called churches this morning. I know the Mayor’s been calling churches. They’re out of power. So they can’t even open their sites for us. But I beg people to be very careful with their fireplaces, their cars, and certainly to check on seniors. I’ve had homeowners offer their homes to be able to open them up to a variety of people. That’s what Houstonians are all about.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: (32:57)
I do want to, again, give the address of 16605, which I gave to the Mayor and the city, Air Center Boulevard. That warming center has showers, hot showers for men and women. They have hot food. They have 100 cots, and maybe in the daytime, you could utilize the daytime and get warmed up. Get your children warmed up. They have space, 115,000 square feet, and if you can carefully get there, they’re ready now to receive you. And I hope that people who are freezing in their homes may take a moment, I know the cold weather is coming, and they may take a moment to take advantage of that particular center. With that in mind, Mayor, thank you. We will continue to reach out and see what we can get. They will be reporting back to me on those two states, and Southwest has already given hydro-power to the state right now. The question is where that utilization is. It needs to be down here in Houston, Texas.
Mayor Turner: (34:02)
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: (34:02)
Among other areas. Thank you.
Mayor Turner: (34:04)
Thank you, [inaudible 00:34:04]. We’ll stop and take any questions you may have to any one.
Speaker 1: (34:14)
[inaudible 00:34:14] can you let the residents know [inaudible 00:34:18].
Mayor Turner: (34:18)
Well, you can’t blame the city on something that the city has no control over. The Texas grid is run by the state of Texas. ERCOT is a state entity. It is the manager of the Texas grid. Power generation, those are your private generators, but they provide the power that the transmission and distribution system utilizes. Your Center Points, your Encore. Then it goes to your retail electric providers and then to the end users. The city does not oversee ERCOT. That’s a state entity. And I know people see me standing before them on a regular basis, and I know quite frankly at the end of the day, for people who are without power, they don’t care who’s in control, who’s in charge. They don’t care. The only thing people want is that they want the heat in their homes. They want the power. So they don’t really care.
Mayor Turner: (35:24)
And I know people are looking for someone to blame and I’m not here to be pointing fingers, but the facts are important and the truth is important. For those things that the city can control or the County can control, we will take 100% ownership and I’ll take 100% ownership. But on this, the city has no control. And I am saying to the state, to ERCOT, to those who are supplying the power, distributing the power, it is critically important for so many Houstonians, especially critical care customers, seniors, and children that they need their power restored, quite frankly, yesterday. No one imagined in more than 24 hours, people would be still would be without power at the coldest point in 30 years. No one would have imagined. But with all due respect, this does not belong at the feet of the city or the county.
Speaker 2: (36:38)
[inaudible 00:36:38] capacity at this point?
Mayor Turner: (36:40)
Speaker 2: (36:41)
What happens to people who want to come in and take [crosstalk 00:36:44]?
Mayor Turner: (36:46)
Yeah. George R. Brown is beyond capacity because of the circumstances, the dire circumstances. We didn’t want to turn any one away. So there are 797 people at George R. Brown. Initially, we were going up to 500, so we’ve almost doubled the capacity. Now, we are redirecting people, for example, to Lakewood Church. And in some cases, thanks to Metro and Yellow Cap and others, we’re even transporting people over to Lakewood. And then we’re also transporting people to Gallery furniture. And then if you want to go further north, the Congresswoman has been instrumental in coming up with another site. The address on that site again, Congresswoman.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: (37:29)
16605 Air Center Boulevard. And they have cots, warm space, room for 500 plus, and heated showers. And we’d appreciate Metro and officers and Yellow Cab referring them there.
Mayor Turner: (37:48)
So there are multiple warming sites as well, and we’re helping to direct people. We’re not just telling people these sites exist, but we’re also helping to transport them to those sites as well.
Speaker 3: (38:00)
Mayor, sorry I missed the beginning of this, but can you just give me a synopsis of what I missed?
Mayor Turner: (38:11)
Well, number one, we recognize that there’s still 1.3 million customers in this Houston region that are without power. I did have a conversation, for example, with the head of ERCOT earlier this morning to express my discontent. In all candor, he reached out to me and pointed that the number one issue is getting generation back online. And that is true, that’s the number one issue. And ERCOT and all of the power providers need to do everything that they can, state leaders, to get this generation up as much as possible, and take advantage of any other energy sources, as the Congresswoman indicated, that has been forwarded here. So that’s number one, what people are looking for. They want to be able to have power in their homes, because it’s cold on the outside. But let me tell you, when you’re in a home, it just seems like it’s even colder in your home, and you can never get warm enough.
Mayor Turner: (39:14)
So that’s number one. Now, I am told that ERCOT and others have, I want to say freed up, but provided additional power for about 400,000 in the Houston region. That’s a step in the right direction. When that power is going to be restored, I can’t tell you exactly, but there are 1.3 million customers without it right now. And so, in some cases, as Center Point indicated, for those who have been without power the longest, they’re going to try to provide. Some people may come off in order for others who have been out for a long time to come on. But the optimum solution is to get everybody’s power on as quickly as possible. And so really insisting, urging ERCOT and the state leadership to do everything within their power to provide the necessary power to restore people’s power.
Mayor Turner: (40:18)
At the same time, the shelters are available. George R. Brown is now at full capacity, so we are redirecting people elsewhere, Lakewood Gallery’s furniture, and then there will be no testing or vaccine distribution in the city of Houston tomorrow, and it probably won’t pick up again until Friday morning because of the weather. Tonight, there’s going to be some freezing precipitation starting tonight going into tomorrow morning, so the roads are going to be dangerous, treacherous in the morning. For all city employees, we’re going to delay start time for a couple of hours. But please, tonight, you need to stay off the road again. This is one of those extended cold periods. And though the sun may be out during the day, at night time, it becomes very dangerous. So tonight, you need to be off the road. And quite frankly, you need to be very, very careful.
Mayor Turner: (41:14)
I would recommend that you not even be on the road in the morning, because it’s going to be freezing precipitation on the roads in the morning. So probably like today, you need to wait a few hours before getting on the road tomorrow. But we’ll be in this frigid state probably through Thursday, with things really warming up again on Friday.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: (41:37)
May I offer him a word.
Speaker 4: (41:39)
Mayor Turner: (41:42)
I’m sorry. [inaudible 00:41:42].
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: (41:44)
What I added to the Mayor’s representation is the work of the federal government. In talking to the Mayor, in talking to County officials, over the last couple of days, the question has been, what the federal government can do, and spoke-
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: (42:03)
The question has been what the federal government can do? I spoke earlier this morning about the request that we made yesterday and so the federal government, now the U.S. Department of Energy has said several things. Unfortunately, Texas has one of the worst energy infrastructure. It’s shocking to know, we are a very wealthy state, it appears, certainly there are impoverished people, but from the state perspective, we are viewed as a more wealthier state. We’re doing far worse than any other state in the country that’s experiencing this right now.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: (42:39)
But they have been asked by me, to look to other entities that could give us energy resources. One they have asked, is a federal agency under the Department of Energy is called the Southwest Power Administration, they have hydro power. They have already given, in the last 24 hours, power, and maybe before, power to the state. I think the question has to be, what is being done with that power? What is ERCOT doing with that power?
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: (43:13)
Additionally, they’re going to ask New York, California, and some others, maybe New Mexico, in this short period of time, what they can give to us. I’m concerned about the entire state, but because we are so urban, and we have so many people here, the mayor has 1.3 million out, or in the county, or in the city. I’m hoping that they will direct that energy here to this area because as the mayor has said, all people want to know is when they can turn on the lights.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: (43:45)
We have had seniors who are calling for blankets, seniors taken to hospitals, and certainly there are critical needed people, seniors who have broken their leg because of the darkness, and have to be taken away to some kind of medical care. Hopefully I will have, obviously, the congressional delegations concern is for the people. Hopefully we will have some response as to how much we received and one of the things that I think is missing, is I think ERCOT’s face should be seen. They should give a public reckoning as to what they’re doing with the energy, or why they’re having roll offs, or why they’re taking back resources. My district sits on top of the city. It has most of all the city areas, along with some of my colleagues, but I go from Veterans Memorial, to Humble… well Humble’s not in the city, but to Fallbrook and Spring, all the way over to Fifth Ward, Third Ward and otherwise.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: (44:48)
So what we’re hoping for is getting… in addition to what ERCOT is doing, can they take some of what we can manage to get from other states to be helpful, to turn the energy on, the lights on here in Houston.
Speaker 5: (45:06)
[inaudible 00:45:06] reports that there have been some brown water, so can we confirm that [inaudible 00:45:12]-
Mayor Turner: (45:12)
There’s some who?
Speaker 5: (45:13)
Some brownish water and are we issuing a boil water notice?
Carol Haddock: (45:21)
So we’re just now getting those reports ourselves. We’re sending out investigators to look at them. At this point, our pressures are good. We’re tight. I won’t lie about that, but our pressures are maintaining, they’re good and we are not at that point that we anticipate issuing a boil water notice, but we will stay on top of it. We’ll keep a close eye on it, and we’re doing everything in our power to stay out of that.
Mayor Turner: (45:47)
I will tell you normally, a boil water notice is given when the pressure falls below 20 PSIs, and we are above 20 PSIs. This was a situation that we looked at very closely during Harvey, so I’m quite familiar with it. But at this point in time, we are above and so there is no boil water notice having to be given. And then we’re doing everything we can with all of the power outages, to make sure that we maintain power at our facilities and get the pressure up. That’s why we’re asking everybody to do their part, so that we can maintain the necessary pressure for the fourth largest city in the United States of America.
Mayor Turner: (46:31)
So for now, things are good, but like everything as [inaudible 00:46:35] said, we’re having to monitor things very, very closely. Okay, anything else?
Speaker 5: (46:44)
I think we’re done. I think we want to get a little bit in Spanish if everybody… if we’re done, let’s do a little bit in Spanish.
Mayor Turner: (46:51)
Okay, and then let me defer to Chief Pena, or Chief Acevedo on the Spanish. I would do it, but I’ve got to get ready for a city council meeting, so I’m not going to be able to do the Spanish today myself. [crosstalk 00:47:05]. Okay, no problem. Thanks.