Tag Archives: Texas

Star Citizen Devs Angry, Forced to Work Through Life-Threatening Texas Storm

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The devastating snowstorm that hit Texas in mid-February killed at least 70 people and set record cold temperatures all across the state. Insufficiently winterized power infrastructure failed, plunging millions of people into darkness. Houses burned as homeowners attempted to light fires in dirty chimneys. A number of video game companies reached out to help their employees through the rocky time, including EA, Aspyr, Owlchemy, Certain Affinity, and Activision-Blizzard. Cloud Imperium Games also made public claims about helping to support its employees through a difficult time, but multiple people who work at the company have claimed this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Kotaku spoke with six employees at the company. As the storm moved in, a CIG office manager told employees to plan on working extra-long hours to make up for the shutdown, with “this week/weekend as a first option.” The manager continued, “Assuming roads are clear we also can manage a few people in the studio. If all else fails then enter PTO for whatever time you cannot make up.”

If you asked me to pick a game developer I trusted to understand the difficulty of any given task, Cloud Imperium Games would be at the bottom of my list. Image is of Austin following the February storm, from the ESA. CC BY-SA 2.0

CIG employees report organizing among themselves to share tips on surviving the Texas storm even as the head office made no attempt to do so. The company made no effort to distribute aid or information about where to go and what to do if you found yourself in a precarious and previously uncontemplated survival situation. CIG had no response for what employees who could not take PTO were supposed to do.

“I still felt obligated to check in on teams every couple hours,” said one source. “I just felt like I had to do it, even though most people weren’t talking those days. Everyone was just focusing on surviving.”

“I was talking to some other people in the [Austin] office, and apparently, some of the blowback from the other offices is that they were like ‘Oh, they just want a snow day. Why should we give them a snow day?’” another source told Kotaku.

An Amazing Explanation

CIG’s explanation for why its executives had so completely failed to respond to what was happening in Texas arrived in employee inboxes on Feb. 21, after the storm was over. According to management, the reason executives expected business as usual all week is that none of them had been paying attention to the news coming out of Texas.

This is incompetence or gaslighting in its purest form. It was literally impossible to glance at the news and not see something about the catastrophe in Texas that week. Any given individual might be utterly head-down in a project and working like crazy, but the idea that not a single person in the C-suites or their various assistants had the tiniest idea about the size of a disaster affecting one of its development studios implies either complete disengagement from the day-to-day business of running the company or an equally unacceptable inability to prioritize literal employee survival over the need to get a new spaceship texture turned in by Friday. Chris Roberts eventually sent out an email to the entire company stating that no employee pay would be affected by the storm.

Star Citizen has raised $ 31.3 million dollars since November from crowdfunding.

Star Citizen broke its own fundraising records for 2020. Last June, it announced it had raised over $ 300M. Currently, it’s raised over $ 350M. Here’s their funding graph, showing a monthly intake of between $ 3M and $ 16M per month going back to last August. That’s not everything CIG has ever raised; private investment has accounted for at least an additional $ 62M being pumped into the company over time. One estimate puts the total amount raised by CIG between $ 450M and $ 470M to-date. Star Citizen claims 604 developers and the median wage for a game programmer in Austin according to Glassdoor is $ 50,432 and $ 64,355 according to Salary.com. Giving its employees a week of unexpected time off to deal with an incredibly rare emergency was never going to break the corporate bank. Nor was it going to matter to Star Citizen’s release date, given that neither the single-player nor multi-player version of the game have one.

“While I think the company ultimately came to the right decision…CIG’s slow and hesitant response and general lack of communication hit hard for employees that are already low on morale and feel this company doesn’t care about them,” one source told Kotaku. “With all those things on top of a game that feels like it’s coming closer and closer to a gacha for expensive ships and no actual gameplay, useless features being constantly shoved in and removed, where marketing holds absolute power over any other department, employees start to feel disheartened after awhile.”

Feature image by CIG. 

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Tesla Is Secretly Building a Giant Battery in Texas

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A few years back, Tesla built a giant battery in southern Australia. Now, the company may be doing the same thing in Texas. The Australian battery has been hailed as a success since coming online, and someone in Texas has evidently had a similar idea.

Bloomberg reports that the new battery installation will be larger than 100MW and will store enough power to provide 20,000 homes with an hour of electricity on a hot summer day. The facility is being built by Gambit Energy Storage LLC, but Gambit’s headquarters are listed at the same address as a Tesla building near its Fremont auto plant.

This new battery installation is adjacent to a Texas-New Mexico power substation, but the utility’s name is a bit misleading in this case. TNMP moved all of its New Mexico-based business to a sister company back in 2006 and currently provides service only within Texas. The company claims some 255,000 customers. Interestingly, TNMP was itself recently acquired by Avangrid. The renewable energy division of Avangrid, Avangrid Renewables LLC, is said to be the third-largest wind power operator in the United States.

These particulars go some way to explaining why TNMP, specifically, might be investing in a large battery backup system, even before Texas’ massive winter storm. The Bloomberg story doesn’t say if the new battery installation was commissioned before or after the storm, but the additional stored energy could have been used to buffer demand as Texas struggled to keep its power generation capabilities online.

Tesla’s ‘Megapack’ battery. We presume this is an artist’s conception, given that nine out of ten experts agree: Putting a giant battery in the middle of the road is a bad idea.

Texas’s woes are an excellent argument for battery backups regardless of whether said battery is deployed as part of a renewable installation. Texas didn’t lose power because it relies partly on renewable energy to meet its energy needs. It lost power because the vast majority of its energy-generating equipment wasn’t winterized. Wind turbines and natural gas wellheads both froze in the storm, cutting off the supply of energy right when Texans needed it the most. The new 100MW+ facility won’t just be useful during freak cold snaps. It can also deliver additional electricity for air conditioning at times when conventional generation facilities are strained by demand.

The advantage to batteries, in these instances, is that they can deliver peak power instantly, with no spin-up period. The battery is then recharged when demand is lower, typically through the night and into the early morning hours.

The 100MW battery Tesla installed in Australia has performed well enough that a different Australian company, Neoen, has partnered with Tesla to build an even larger facility. A new 300MW/450MWhr facility is under construction in Victoria. In addition to providing backup power, it will serve as a load-balancing facility, ensuring peak power can be delivered to Victoria and New South Wales. There’s also a new facility in California, the 250MW Gateway Energy Storage. Like this new Tesla project in Texas, the Gateway Energy Storage project is designed to provide instantaneous power at peak demand and to help prevent the rolling blackouts that hit California last year.

It is difficult to find hard data on how the various efforts to create battery-backed microgrids have performed, long-term. The grid that Tesla built on American Samoa back in 2016 appears to be performing well. COVID-19 disrupted plans to expand the use of microgrids and solar there, but work is expected to resume in 2021. Puerto Rico has also approved plans that call for the construction of microgrids across the island to improve its energy security. Negative and more positive reports have covered the long-term impact of microgrids in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, but the island is betting on microgrids as a key part of its future. Solar power currently accounts for just 1.4 percent of Puerto Rico’s power generation, but there are plans to add 2.7GW of solar capacity by 2025.

The feature image shows Tesla battery installation on the island of Ta’u. 

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Texas freeze led to release of tonnes of air pollutants as refineries shut

The largest U.S. oil refiners released tonnes of air pollutants into the skies over Texas this past week, according to figures provided to the state, as one environmental crisis triggered another.

Refiners and petrochemical plants along the U.S. Gulf Coast scrambled to shut production as an arctic air mass spread into a region unused to frigid temperatures.

The extreme cold, which killed at least two dozen people in Texas and knocked out power to more than 4 million at its peak, also hit natural gas and electric generation, cutting supplies needed to run the plants.

Shutdowns led to the refineries flaring, or burning and releasing gases, to prevent damage to their processing units. That flaring darkened the skies in eastern Texas with smoke visible for kilometres.

“These emissions can dwarf the usual emissions of the refineries by orders of magnitude,” said Jane Williams, chair of the Sierra Club’s National Clean Air Team.

She said U.S. regulators must change policies that allow “these massive emissions to occur with impunity.”

Top polluters

The five largest refiners emitted nearly 152 tonnes (337,000 pounds) of pollutants, including benzene, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide, according to preliminary data supplied to the Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ).

Valero Energy said in a filing with the TCEQ that it released 35 tonnes (78,000 pounds) over 24 hours beginning Feb. 15 from its Port Arthur refinery, citing the frigid cold and interruptions in utility services.

The 53 tonnes (118,100 pounds) of emissions from Motiva’s Port Arthur, Texas, refinery between Feb. 15 and Feb. 18 were more than three times the excess emissions that it declared to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the whole of 2019.

Marathon Petroleum’s Galveston Bay Refinery released 6.4 tonnes (14,255 pounds) over less than five hours on Feb. 15, equivalent to about 10 per cent of its total releases above permitted levels in 2019.

WATCH | Biden declares major disaster in Texas after winter storm:

U.S. President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in Texas after a devastating winter storm left more than 13 million people struggling to access basic necessities such as clean water. 3:11

Exxon Mobil said its Baytown Olefins Plant emitted nearly one ton of benzene and 68,000 tons of carbon monoxide, citing in its disclosure the halting of “multiple process units and safe utilization of the flare system.”

Exxon blamed the shutdown of two Texas refineries on the freezing weather and loss of natural gas supplies. A spokesman said its petrochemical plants in Texas and Louisiana have supplied 560 megawatts to local communities, helping power about 300,000 homes.

Valero did not have an immediate comment. Motiva and Marathon did not respond to requests for comment.

Final figures on pollution releases are due to be submitted to the state in two weeks.

‘No safe amount’

The flaring continued through the week as refiners kept plants out of service.

“We had six or seven flares going at one time,” Hilton Kelly, who lives in Port Arthur, home to refineries operated by Motiva, Valero and Total SE, said on Friday. “It’s still happening now.”

Sharon Wilson, a researcher at advocacy group Earthworks, said the releases are alarming, in part because “there is no safe amount of benzene for human exposure.”

State data showing oil and gas producers were flaring methane this week “is just making things worse, and it could have been prevented” by winterizing facilities, she said.

Texas oil and gas companies filed 174 notices of pollution releases above permitted levels between Feb. 11 and Feb. 18, four times the number the prior week, according to TCEQ data.

Total pollution at Houston-area facilities during the cold snap totalled approximately 318 tonnes (703,000 pounds), about 3 per cent of the total pollution over permitted amounts for all of 2019 and almost 10 per cent of 2018’s releases, according to TCEQ data analyzed by advocacy group Environment Texas.

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Power restored to more Texas residents, but water crisis persists during deep freeze

Power was restored to more homes and businesses in Texas on Thursday after a deadly blast of winter this week overwhelmed the electrical grid and left millions shivering in the cold. But the crisis is far from over, with many people still in need of safe drinking water.

Fewer than a half million homes remained without electricity, although utility officials said limited rolling blackouts could still occur.

The storms also left more than 320,000 homes and businesses without power in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. About 70,000 power outages persisted after an ice storm in eastern Kentucky, while nearly 67,000 were without electricity in West Virginia.

And more than 100,000 customers remained without power Thursday in Oregon, a week after a massive snow and ice storm. Maria Pope, the CEO of Portland General Electric, said she expects power to be restored by Friday night to more than 90 per cent of the customers still in the dark.

Meanwhile, snow and ice moved into the Appalachians, northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania, and later the Northeast. Back-to-back storms left 38 centimetres of snow in Little Rock, Ark., tying a 1918 record, the National Weather Service said.

The extreme weather has been blamed for the deaths of at least 40 people, some while trying to keep warm. In the Houston area, one family died from carbon monoxide as their car idled in their garage. A woman and her three grandchildren died in a fire that authorities said might have been caused by a fireplace they were using.

Utilities from Minnesota to Texas implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on strained power grids. Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities covering 14 states from the Dakotas to the Texas Panhandle, said rolling blackouts were no longer needed, but it asked customers to conserve energy until at least Saturday night.

Drinking water affected

In Texas on Thursday, about 325,000 homes and businesses remained without power, down from about three million on Wednesday. The state’s grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said the remaining outages are largely weather-related, rather than forced outages that were made early Monday to stabilize the power grid.


A sign advises customers entering a convenience store that they have no running water. Residents of Arlington, Texas, were told to conserve and boil water after a potential water main break. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News/The Associated Press)

“We will keep working around the clock until every single customer has their power back on,” said ERCOT senior director of system operations Dan Woodfin.

Woodfin warned that rotating outages could return if electricity demand rises as people get power and heating back, though they would not last as long as outages earlier this week.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott warned that state residents “are not out of the woods,” with temperatures remaining well below freezing statewide and south-central Texas threatened by a winter storm.

Adding to the state’s misery, the weather jeopardized drinking water systems. Authorities ordered seven million people — a quarter of the population in the nation’s second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking it following days of record-low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and pipes.

Water pressure has fallen across the state because lines have frozen, and many residents are leaving faucets dripping in hopes of preventing pipes from freezing, said Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Abbott urged residents to shut off water to their homes, if possible, to prevent more busted pipes and to preserve pressure in municipal systems.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he expects that residents in the nation’s fourth-largest city will have to boil tap water before drinking it until Sunday or Monday.

Hospitals cancel some surgeries

In Austin, some hospitals faced a loss in water pressure and, in some cases, heat.

“Because this is a state-wide emergency situation that is also impacting other hospitals within the Austin area, no one hospital currently has the capacity to accept transport of a large number of patients,” said David Huffstutler, CEO of St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, in a statement.


A patient at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center is prepared for transport. Earlier on Wednesday, hospital officials said some patients at the facility would be moved over to other hospitals in the area after the building began losing heat due to low water pressure. (Bronte Wittpenn/Austin American-Statesman/The Associated Press)

Two of Houston Methodist’s community hospitals had no running water but still treated patients, with most non-emergency surgeries and procedures cancelled for Thursday and possibly Friday, said spokesperson Gale Smith.

Emergency rooms were crowded “due to patients being unable to meet their medical needs at home without electricity,” Smith said. She said hospital pipes had burst but were repaired.

Texas Children’s Hospital’s main campus at the Texas Medical Center and another location had low water pressure, but the system was adequately staffed and patients had enough water and “are safe and comfortable,” spokesperson Jenn Jacome said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent generators to support water treatment plants, hospitals and nursing homes in Texas, along with thousands of blankets and ready-to-eat meals, officials said. The Texas Restaurant Association also said it was co-ordinating donations of food to hospitals.

WATCH | Some Texas gas stations run out of fuel:

Extreme winter weather in Texas has delayed delivery of gasoline to some fuel stations in northern Texas, leaving drivers to scramble. 0:42

Mayor resigns 

The now former mayor of Colorado City, Texas, said he had already turned in his resignation when he wrote a controversial Facebook post on Tuesday.

Tim Boyd said it was not the local government’s responsibility to help those suffering in the cold without power. “Only the strong will survive and the weak will parish,” the typo-ridden post, which was made as millions in Texas were without power following the storm, said.

Boyd also wrote that he was “sick and tired” of people looking for handouts and that the current situation is “sadly a product of a socialist government.”

Boyd deleted his post but stood by the sentiments in a follow-up message. He also wrote that his original message was posted as a private citizen, not the mayor of Colorado City.


Father John Szatkowski, left, and Deacon Bob Bonomi of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Richardson sweep water out of the church. (Tony Gutierrez/The Associated Press)

“I was only making the statement that those folks that are too lazy to get up and fend for themselves but are capable should not be dealt a handout,” Boyd’s follow-up post said.

Turtles rescued from cold

Thousands of sea turtles unused to cold temperatures have been washing up on the beaches of South Padre Island, off the southern coast of Texas.

WATCH | Hundreds of sea turtles shelter in Texas convention centre to escape cold:

Volunteers in South Padre Island, Tex., have rescued about 2,500 sea turtles who ran ashore to escape icy waters and are now being warmed at a convention centre. 1:10

Ed Caum, executive director of the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the turtles are “cold-stunned.” That’s a condition where cold-blooded animals suddenly exhibit hypothermic reactions such as lethargy and an inability to move when the temperature in the environment around them drops.

Volunteers have brought some 4,700 of them to the convention centre, where they are being kept in tubs and enclosures before they can be released when the weather warms up.

Although, as this Tik Tok user demonstrated on Tuesday, fish weren’t faring much better in their indoor tanks during the blackouts.

‘An extreme challenge’ in Mississippi

The weather also disrupted water systems in several southern cities, including New Orleans and Shreveport, La., where fire trucks delivered water to hospitals and bottled water was brought in for patients and staff, Shreveport television station KSLA reported.

Power was cut to a New Orleans facility that pumps drinking water from the Mississippi River. A spokesperson for the Sewerage and Water Board said on-site generators were used until electricity was restored.

And in Jackson, Miss., Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said almost the entire city of about 150,000 was without water Thursday night.


A person warms up using a combination of towels, clothes and gloves in the warming shelter at the Johnnie Champion Community Center in Jackson, Miss., on Wednesday. Some people at the shelter had lost power, water and heat at their homes following winter storms, but many are people experiencing homelessness. (Rogelio V. Solis/The Associated Press)

Crews were pumping as much water as possible to refill the city’s tanks, but there was a shortage of chemicals to treat the water, and road closures made it difficult for distributors to make deliveries, Lumumba said.

“We are dealing with an extreme challenge with getting more water through our distribution system,” he said. “This becomes increasingly challenging because we have so many residents at home.”

Drinking water was made available at fire stations throughout Jackson, and officials also planned to set up bottled water pickup sites.

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Texas power outages below 500,000, but water crisis persists during deep freeze

Power was restored to more Texans on Thursday, with fewer than a half-million homes remaining without electricity, but many still were without safe drinking water after winter storms wreaked havoc on the state’s power grid and utilities this week.

Meanwhile, the Appalachians, northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania braced for heavy snow and ice. Snow fell in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. Little Rock, Ark., got 38 centimetres of snow in back-to-back storms, tying a 1918 record, the National Weather Service said.

More than 320,000 homes and businesses were without power in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. In Tennessee, 12 people were rescued from boats after a dock weighed down by snow and ice collapsed on the Cumberland River on Wednesday night, the Nashville Fire Department said.

The extreme weather has been blamed for the deaths of more than three-dozen people, some of whom perished while struggling to keep warm. In the Houston area, one family succumbed to carbon monoxide from car exhaust in their garage. A woman and her three grandchildren died in a fire that authorities said might have been caused by a fireplace they were using.


Father John Szatkowski, left, and Deacon Bob Bonomi of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Richardson sweep water out of the church. (Tony Gutierrez/The Associated Press)

Cruz acknowledges Mexico travel

Meanwhile, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz acknowledged on Thursday that he had travelled to Mexico for a family vacation this week, leaving his home state as thousands of constituents struggled after the powerful winter storm.

The high-profile Republican, a potential White House candidate in 2024, said in a statement that he had accompanied his family after his daughters asked to go on a trip with friends, given that school was cancelled for the week.

“Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon,” Cruz said after The Associated Press and other media outlets had reported details of the trip.

“My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas,” Cruz said. “We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm.”

The revelation drew immediate criticism from Democrats and Republicans in Texas and beyond as Cruz, a key ally of former president Donald Trump, contemplates the possibility of a second presidential run. The two-term senator’s current term expires in early 2025.

“That’s something that he has to answer to his constituents about,” state Republican Party Chairman Allen West said when asked whether Cruz’s travel was appropriate while Texans are without power and water.

“I’m here trying to take care of my family and look after my friends and others that are still without power. That’s my focus.”


Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is under fire following the revelation he travelled to Mexico on Wednesday for a family vacation as his home state struggled with extreme weather. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

Earlier, Cruz’s office had declined to answer specific questions about the family vacation, but his staff reached out to the Houston Police Department on Wednesday afternoon to say the senator would be arriving at the airport, according to department spokesperson Jodi Silva. She said officers “monitored his movements” while Cruz was at the airport.

Silva could not say whether such requests are typical for Cruz’s travel or whether his staff has made a similar request for his return flight.

The Texas senator, who once described Trump as a “pathological liar,” championed the-then president’s call to block the certification last month of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory. That stand led to calls for Cruz’s resignation after a violent mob stormed the Capitol as Congress was affirming Biden’s win.

“Ted Cruz had already proven to be an enemy to our democracy by inciting an insurrection. Now, he is proving to be an enemy to our state by abandoning us in our greatest time of need,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said Thursday. “For the 21st time, the Texas Democratic Party calls on Ted Cruz to resign or be expelled from office.”

Drinking water affected

In Texas, just under 500,000 homes and businesses remained without power, down from about three million on Wednesday. The state’s grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said the remaining outages are largely weather-related, rather than forced outages that were made early Monday to stabilize the power grid.

“We will keep working around the clock until every single customer has their power back on,” said ERCOT senior director of system operations Dan Woodfin.

Adding to the misery, the snowy weather has jeopardized drinking water systems throughout the state.

Texas officials ordered seven million people — a quarter of the population in 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.

In Austin, some hospitals faced a loss in water pressure and, in some cases, heat.


A patient at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center is prepared for transport. Earlier on Wednesday, hospital officials said some patients at the facility would be moved over to other hospitals in the area after the building began losing heat due to low water pressure. (Bronte Wittpenn/Austin American-Statesman/The Associated Press)

“Because this is a state-wide emergency situation that is also impacting other hospitals within the Austin area, no one hospital currently has the capacity to accept transport of a large number of patients,” said David Huffstutler, CEO of St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, in a statement.

Water pressure has fallen across the state because lines have frozen, and many residents are leaving faucets dripping in hopes of preventing pipes from freezing, said Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott urged residents to shut off water to their homes, if possible, to prevent more busted pipes and to preserve pressure in municipal systems.

Supplies run short

Grocery store shelves have gone bare in several Texas cities, including Austin and Lewisville. Frozen goods had to be disposed of after the blackouts.

Gas shortages have also hit parts of the state as people search for fuel for their vehicles and back-up generators. Some oil production facilities, responsible for an estimated three million barrels per day, remain offline.

WATCH | Some Texas gas stations run out of fuel:

Extreme winter weather in Texas has delayed delivery of gasoline to some fuel stations in northern Texas, leaving drivers to scramble. 0:42

Mayor resigns over insensitive comments

The now former mayor of Colorado City, Texas said he had already turned in his resignation when he wrote a controversial Facebook post on Tuesday.

Tim Boyd said it was not the local government’s responsibility to help those suffering in the cold without power. “Only the strong will survive and the weak will parish,” the typo-ridden post said.

Boyd also wrote that he was “sick and tired” of people looking for handouts and that the current situation is “sadly a product of a socialist government.”

The post was made as millions in Texas were without power following the storm. Utilities from Minnesota to Texas and Mississippi implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on power grids straining to meet extreme demand for heat and electricity.

Boyd deleted his post but stood by the sentiments in a follow-up message. He also wrote that his original message was posted as a private citizen, not the mayor of Colorado City.


A woman collects ice cream that had been thrown out because of power outages at a Kroger store in Arlington. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News/The Associated Press)

“I was only making the statement that those folks that are too lazy to get up and fend for themselves but are capable should not be dealt a handout,” Boyd’s follow-up post said.

Turtles rescued from cold

Thousands of sea turtles unused to cold temperatures have been washing up on the beaches of South Padre Island, off the southern coast of Texas.

Ed Caum, executive director of the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the turtles are “cold-stunned.” That’s a condition where cold-blooded animals suddenly exhibit hypothermic reactions such as lethargy and an inability to move when the temperature in the environment around them drops.

WATCH | Hundreds of sea turtles shelter in Texas convention centre to escape cold:

Volunteers in South Padre Island, Tex., have rescued about 2,500 sea turtles who ran ashore to escape icy waters and are now being warmed at a convention centre. 1:10

Volunteers have brought some 4,700 of them to the convention centre, where they are being kept in tubs and enclosures before they can be released when the weather warms up.

Although, as this Tik Tok user demonstrated on Tuesday, fish weren’t faring much better in their indoor tanks during the blackouts.

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Several million without power in Texas as temperatures plunge as low as -20 C

A rare deep freeze in Texas that raised demand for power forced the U.S. state’s electric grid operator on Monday to impose rotating blackouts that left nearly three million customers without electricity.

The cold snap sweeping Texas reached the northern part of neighbouring Mexico as well, where authorities said 4.7 million users lost power early on Monday.  Around midday, service had been restored to almost 2.6 million of them.

The PowerOutage.us website, which tracks power outages, said 2,820,764 Texas customers were experiencing outages around 2 p.m. CT

U.S. President Joe Biden approved the state’s emergency declaration, unlocking federal assistance to tackle the rare deep freeze, where temperatures ranged from – 2 to -22 C.

WATCH | Winter storm hits Texas:

With Texas under a disaster declaration, a winter storm blanketed much of the state in snow and wind chill warnings were issued, possibly for the first time ever in some parts. 0:58

Apart from Texas, much of the United States from the Pacific Northwest through the Great Plains and into the mid-Atlantic states has been in the grip of bone-chilling weather over the weekend, featuring snow, sleet and freezing rain.

“The Texas power grid has not been compromised. The ability of some companies that generate the power has been frozen,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wrote on Twitter on Monday. “They are working to get generation back on line.”


The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) sought to cut power use in response to a winter record of 69,150 megawatts (MW) on Sunday evening, more than 3,200 MW higher than the previous winter peak in January 2018.

About 10,500 MW of customer load was shed at the highest point, enough power to serve approximately two million homes, it said, adding that extreme weather caused many generating units across fuel types to trip offline and become unavailable.

“Controlled outages will continue through today and into early tomorrow, possibly all of tomorrow,” Dan Woodfin, director of systems operations at ERCOT, said at a Monday briefing.


Heavy snow blanketed highways in Austin, Texas, Feb 15. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via The Associated Press)

The freeze also took a toll on the energy industry in Texas, by far the country’s largest crude producer, shutting oil refineries and forcing restrictions from natural gas pipeline operators.

The National Weather Service said that an Arctic air mass had spread southwards, well beyond areas accustomed to freezing weather, with winter storm warnings posted for most of the Gulf Coast region, Oklahoma and Missouri.

The storms knocked out nearly half the wind power generation capacity of Texas on Sunday.

Of the 25,000-plus megawatts of wind power capacity normally available in Texas, 12,000 megawatts was out of service on Sunday morning, an ERCOT spokesperson said.


A young girl creates a snow angel in Austin, Texas, on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021. Much of the state was experiencing snow and freezing temperatures over the Presidents Day weekend. (Bronte Wittpenn /Austin American-Statesman via The Associated Press)

The spot price of electricity on the Texas power grid spiked more than 10,000 per cent on Monday, according to data on the grid operator’s website.

Real-time market prices on the power grid operated by the ERCOT have climbed as high as $ 11,000 Cdn per megawatt hour. A typical price on the grid, which supplies most of the electricity for Texas, is less than $ 100 per megawatt hour.

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Texas, California among U.S. states reporting record new COVID-19 cases

The latest:

Texas and California, the country’s two most populous states, were among those recording a record number of new COVID-19 cases across the U.S. on Tuesday, while Florida faced an impending shortage of intensive care unit hospital beds.

Authorities have reported alarming upswings of daily caseloads in roughly two dozen states over the past two weeks, a sign that efforts to control transmission of the novel coronavirus have failed in large swaths of the United States.

Hawaii, Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma on Tuesday also shattered their previous daily record highs for new cases. About 24 states have also reported disturbingly high infection rates as a percentage of diagnostic tests conducted over the past week.

In Texas alone, the number of hospitalized patients more than doubled in just two weeks.


Cars line-up at a COVID-19 testing site in Houston on Tuesday. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

The trend has driven many more Americans to seek out COVID-19 screenings. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said on Tuesday it was adding short-term “surge” testing sites in three metropolitan areas in Florida, Louisiana and Texas.

In Houston, a line of more than 200 cars snaked around the United Memorial Medical Center as people waited for hours in sweltering heat to get tested. Some had arrived the night before to secure a place in line at the drive-thru site.

In Florida, more than four dozen hospitals across 25 of 67 counties reported their intensive care units had reached full capacity, according to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration. Only 17 per cent of the total 6,010 adult ICU beds statewide were available on Tuesday, down from 20 per cent three days earlier.

Additional hospitalizations could strain healthcare systems in many areas, leading to an uptick in deaths from the respiratory illness that has killed more than 131,000 Americans to date.

In Arizona, another hot spot, the rate of coronavirus tests coming back positive rose to 26 per cent for the week ended July 5, leading two dozen states with positivity rates exceeding 5 per cent. The World Heath Organization considers a rate over 5 per cent to be troubling.


What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 8:45 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had 106,167 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 69,883 of the cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,755. 

Ontario introduced new legislation Tuesday to enable the extension of some pandemic emergency orders over the next year, as the province reported 112 new cases. 

Meanwhile, Toronto and Ottawa joined Kingston in requiring non-medical face coverings inside businesses open to the public, starting Tuesday.


People wear face masks at a Toronto’s Eaton Centre mall on Tuesday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

B.C.’s provincial health officer says the controversy over airborne transmission of the coronavirus has been overblown, after hundreds of scientists signed a letter calling for the World Health Organization to revise its recommendations.

In an open letter to the WHO, 239 scientists in 32 countries have reportedly argued particles smaller than what has previously been reported can carry the novel coronavirus and infect people. According to a story in the New York Times, those scientists want the global health body to begin treating the novel coronavirus as an airborne illness.

But Dr. Bonnie Henry suggested Monday that the letter was designed “to foment a bit of controversy,” and the disagreement is part of an ongoing discussion about how coronaviruses and other illnesses like influenza are spread.

With airborne viruses like the measles and smallpox, tiny disease-carrying particles can float in the air for hours, even travelling down hallways and through ventilation systems.

“We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19,” Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic at WHO, told a news briefing in Geneva.

Benedetta Allegranzi, WHO’s technical lead for infection prevention and control, said there was evidence emerging of airborne transmission of the coronavirus, but that it was not definitive.

WATCH | WHO says evidence of airborne coronavirus transmission not definitive:

While discussing potential airborne transmission of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization detailed its systematic science- and evidence-based approach to reach its conclusions.  3:34

Here’s what’s happening around the world

In the Americas, Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro says he has tested positive for the coronavirus after months of downplaying its severity.

Bolsonaro, 65, confirmed the results while wearing a mask and speaking to reporters in the capital Brasilia. He said he is taking hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as a result of the positive test.

On Monday, the president told supporters in Brasilia that he underwent an X-ray of his lungs that showed they were clean, and that he would be tested for coronavirus. On Tuesday, he told CNN Brasil that his fever had subsided.

WATCH | Reaction to Bolsonaro’s positive COVID-19 test:

Oliver Stuenkel of the Fundação Getulio Vargas in São Paulo talks with the CBC’s Andrew Nichols about the inevitability of the Brazil leader’s test result 7:07

In Europe, thousands of protesters fought running battles with police and tried to storm the parliament building in the Serbian capital of Belgrade on Tuesday after the president announced that a coronavirus lockdown will be reintroduced.

Police fired several rounds of tear gas at the protesters, some chanting “Resignation! Resignation!” as they gathered in front of the downtown parliament building in the Serbian capital. Some of the protesters briefly managed to enter the parliament by force, but were pushed back by riot police.

The protesters responded by hurling flares, stones, bottles and eggs at the police. Several clashes erupted between some of the most extremist rioters apparently belonging to far-right groups and the baton-wielding police.

In Asia-Pacific, India’s death toll has passed 20,000, with case numbers surging past 700,000.

Saudi Arabia issued guidelines for about 1,000 pilgrims who will be allowed to participate in the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca later this month. Pilgrims will only be able to drink holy water from the Zamzam well in Mecca that is packaged in plastic bottles, and pebbles for casting away evil that are usually picked up by pilgrims along hajj routes will be sterilized and bagged ahead of time. Pilgrims will also have to bring their own prayer rugs.

In Australia, the city of Melbourne and surrounding regions are locking down again as cases spike.

WATCH | Almost 5 million Australians under lockdown after spike in coronavirus cases:

Lockdown in Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, includes the closure of the state border, creating headaches for people who routinely work or travel between Victoria and New South Wales. (Ross/AAP Image/Reuters) 1:08

In Africa, South Africa’s confirmed cases have surpassed 200,000 as the country continues to post some of the highest daily numbers in the world.

The health ministry reported 8,971 new cases, bringing the total to 205,721. Nearly one third are in the new hot spot of Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria.

The African continent overall has more than 477,000 confirmed cases.


Protesters clash with police in front of the National Assembly building in Belgrade, Serbia, on Tuesday. (Andrej Isakovic/AFP via Getty Images)

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Victim of Texas Walmart shooting succumbs to injuries, raising death toll to 23

A man shot in the Aug. 3 attack targeting Latinos in an El Paso, Texas, Walmart died after months in the hospital, raising the death toll from the attack to 23, according to a hospital official.

“After a nearly nine-month fight, our hearts are heavy as we report Guillermo ‘Memo’ Garcia, our last remaining patient being treated from the El Paso shooting, has passed away,” said Del Sol Medical Center CEO David Shimp.

Garcia and his wife, Jessica Coca Garcia, were fundraising for their daughter’s soccer team in the Walmart parking lot when the suspected gunman opened fire that Saturday morning.

Garcia is survived by his wife, who suffered leg wounds but recovered. A week after the shooting, she rose from her wheelchair to give a speech across the road from the county jail where the suspected shooter was being held.

“Racism is something I always wanted to think didn’t exist. Obviously, it does,” she said.


Jessica Garcia speaks at a gathering in El Paso, Texas, in August 2019. (Cedar Attanasio/The Associated Press)

The suspect, 21-year-old Dallas-area man Patrick Crusius, remains in the same jail awaiting trial. State prosecutors have charged him with murder and are pursuing the death penalty, and federal prosecutors charged him with hate crimes.

Police said they arrested Crusius near the shooting after he surrendered to officers, telling them he was targeting “Mexicans.” They also attributed to him a four-page racist screed that decried a Hispanic “invasion” of Texas and the U.S., and called for ethnic and racial segregation.

The shooting was the largest terrorist attack targeting Hispanics in modern history, and spread fear throughout the Latino community.

In the wake of the attack El Paso police said the Walmart had previously hired armed off-duty police officers to guard larger stores, but removed them at some point.


A Texas state trooper walks back to his car while providing security outside the Walmart store in the aftermath of a mass shooting in El Paso in August 2019. (Andres Leighton/The Associated Press)

The Garcia family joined a number of victims who sued the Walmart over lack of security on the busy Saturday shopping day when about 3,000 people were in the store. The lawsuit is ongoing.

Following the attack, the Bentonville, Ark.-based company added armed and unarmed officers to all of its stores. It stopped selling handguns and short-barrel rifle ammunition.

The store where the shooting took place reopened in November.

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Texas, Vermont to open some businesses Monday, Trump says

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday that Texas and Vermont will allow certain businesses to reopen on Monday while still observing coronavirus-related precautions and Montana will begin lifting restrictions on Friday.

“We continue to see a number of positive signs that the virus has passed its peak,” Trump told reporters at a daily briefing.

Some state governors have warned that they will not act prematurely to reopen their economies until there is more testing for the virus, however. Business leaders have also told Trump the country needs to have widespread testing in place before their companies can return to normal operations.

Trump said “our testing is getting better and better,” but offered no concrete evidence.

He said both Republican and Democratic governors “have announced concrete steps to begin a safe and gradual phased opening.” Texas and Vermont “will allow certain business to open on Monday while still requiring appropriate social distancing precautions,” he said.

Several dozen protesters gathered in the Texas capital of Austin on Saturday, chanting “USA! USA!” and “Let us work!”


A protester holds up a sign at the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, joining other protesters across the U.S. calling for the economy to be opened up despite the risk of COVID-19. (Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

Trump also said the $ 500 million US that the United States has been giving to the World Health Organization can be spent more efficiently elsewhere.

The president announced earlier in the week that he has directed a halt of U.S. payments to WHO pending a review of its warnings about the coronavirus and China.

He also said there should be consequences for China if the country was “knowingly” responsible for the coronavirus outbreak.

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Officer who shot black woman in her Texas home resigns, could face criminal charges

A white police officer who shot and killed a black woman in her Fort Worth, Texas, home in the presence of her eight-year-old nephew acted inappropriately and has resigned, the chief of police said Monday, after Atatiana Jefferson’s surviving family called for the man to be fired and charged.

Interim police Chief Ed Kraus said a criminal investigation is underway and he expects an update by Tuesday on whether the officer — a member of the force since April 2018 — will be charged.

Kraus said the officer could face state criminal charges and that he has also submitted a case to the FBI to review for possible federal civil rights violations.

Dean has had no previous incidents, aside from a traffic accident, Kraus said. He added that had Dean not resigned, he would have been fired.

In a statement released on the weekend, Fort Worth police said officers responded about 2:25 a.m. Saturday after a neighbour called a non-emergency line to report Jefferson’s front door had been left open.

The department said officers saw someone near a window inside the home and that one of them drew his gun and fired after “perceiving a threat.” The body camera video released by police shows two officers searching the home from the outside with flashlights before Dean shouts, “Put your hands up! show me your hands!” and immediately fires.

The video included images of a gun inside a bedroom. The police chief said Monday that he had no information on whether Jefferson was holding it when she was shot.


Lt. Brandon O’Neil, seen at a news conference on Sunday, said Jefferson’s eight-year-old nephew was in the room with her when she was shot by the officer. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News/The Associated Press)

He said in hindsight, releasing the images was “a bad thing to do,” noting that many Texas homeowners keep guns nearby for self defence.

The family lawyers said Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew.

In the video, the officer does not identify himself as police.

“Nobody looked at this video and said that there’s any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately,” Kraus said.

“I feel like we had some failures here,” Fort Worth Police Officers Association President Sgt. Manny Ramirez told reporters after the news conference. “It never should have happened.”

At a previous news conference at police headquarters on Sunday, police Lt. Brandon O’Neil confirmed the officer did not announce he was police before he fired the fatal shot, and his failure to do so is part of the department’s investigation.

O’Neil also confirmed Jefferson’s nephew was in the room when she was shot. He said representatives of the police department have spoken with the woman’s family and “shared our serious and heartfelt concern for this unspeakable loss.” Her family has said she was watching her nephew at the time.


In this Jan. 26, 2017, file photo, civil rights activist Cory Hughes, centre, speaks as lawyer Lee Merritt, right, listen during a Dallas press conference about police brutality in Fort Worth. (LM Otero/The Associated Press)

“You didn’t hear the officer shout, ‘Gun, gun, gun,”‘ family lawyer Lee Merritt said after viewing video taken from an officer’s body camera. “He didn’t have time to perceive a threat. That’s murder.”

“Why this man is not in handcuffs is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community,” Merritt said at a news conference on Monday.

Merritt said the officer’s firing was “the least we should expect.” 

“We are not looking for a slap on the wrist,” said community activist Cory Hughes. “We are demanding that he be charged like the criminal he is.”

“It’s another one of those situations where the people that are supposed to protect us are actually not here to protect us,” said Jefferson’s sister, Amber Carr.

It makes you not want to call the police department.– James Smith, neighbour

“You know, you want to see justice, but justice don’t bring my sister back,” Carr said.

An aunt, Venitta Body, said the family does not understand why Jefferson was killed.

“It’s like from the moment we got the call, it’s been more and more inconceivable and more confusing. And there has nothing been done in order to take away that confusion,” Body said.

A large crowd gathered outside Jefferson’s home Sunday night for a vigil after earlier demonstrations briefly stopped traffic on part of Interstate 35.

‘Atatiana Jefferson should be alive’

James Smith, who called a police non-emergency number about the open door, told reporters he was just trying to be a good neighbour.

“I’m shaken. I’m mad. I’m upset. And I feel it’s partly my fault,” Smith said. “If I had never dialled the police department, she’d still be alive.”

Smith said Jefferson and her nephew typically lived with an older woman, who’s been in the hospital.

“It makes you not want to call the police department,” he said.


Protesters on Sunday gather outside the house where Jefferson was shot and killed on Saturday night. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News/The Associated Press)

In an audio recording of Smith’s call that was released by police, the neighbour said it was “not normal” for the house to leave its front door open for hours at that time of day.

Merritt said Jefferson’s family expects “a thorough and expedient investigation.”

The Fort Worth Police Department said it released bodycam footage soon after the shooting to provide transparency, but any “camera footage inside the residence” could not be distributed due to state law. However, the video released to media included blurred still frames showing a gun inside a bedroom at the home. It’s unclear if the firearm was found near the woman, and police have not said the officer who shot her thought she had a gun.

The police statement released Saturday said only that officers who entered the residence after the shooting found a firearm. Police did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Sunday.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, on Sunday called on the Justice Department to investigate.


Jefferson was a 2014 graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, the university said. 

Merritt told the Star-Telegram that Jefferson was working in pharmaceutical equipment sales and was considering going back to medical school.

According to a demographics report released by the Fort Worth Police Department, nearly two-thirds of its 1,100 officers were white as of June 30. Just over 20 per cent were Hispanic or Latino and about 10 per cent were black.

Relations with the public have been strained after other recent Fort Worth police shootings. In June, the department released body camera footage of officers fatally shooting a man who ignored repeated orders to drop his handgun. He was the fourth person Fort Worth police had fired upon in 10 days.

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