Texas storm exposes massive oversight issues with state power grid

CBS News senior national correspondent Mark Strassmann reports on the devastating winter storm that impacted residents across the entire state with power and water outages.

Video Transcript

MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning, and welcome to "Face the Nation." We've got a lot to get to today, and we begin with the dire situation in Texas. Here's Mark Strassmann.

MARK STRASSMANN: The heat's back, but Texas swagger has burst like these pipes in Metro Dallas.

- So that's what I've been dealing with all day long.

MARK STRASSMANN: In much of Austin, running water is a crisis. Houston has a boil-water advisory through tomorrow. This past week's Arctic storm was generational, Texas exceptionalism. The state's self-image froze with everything else. Nationally, last week's storms could total $50 billion in damages. In Texas, it's predicted as the most costly disaster in state history.

- This past week has been an enormous challenge.

MARK STRASSMANN: At its peak, four million people lost power.

- In the morning when you wake up, it's-- it's high 30s, low 40s inside the house.

MARK STRASSMANN: Victims died of hypothermia in bedrooms and backyards. Texans shivered and boiled all at once.

- I just got power on after 36 hours. I'm over it. We need some help.

MARK STRASSMANN: Blistered by critics-- ERCOT, the state's main grid operator. Utilities also failed to winterize gas-fueled plants and pipes. Governor Greg Abbott-- he blamed green energy in a state beholden to fossil fuels. And especially Senator Ted Cruz-- he left with his family for tropical Mexico and was whacked like a pinata.

- Ted Cruz! Ted Cruz!

MARK STRASSMANN: He raced home for redemption, handing out water to Texans who could only dream of Cancun. Last night, Senator Cruz's office told "Face the Nation," "Before the storms hit, Senator Cruz spoke with a meteorologist about the seriousness of the projected storms. Senator Cruz connected the meteorologists to Governor Abbott and warned Texans early on to take the storm seriously." Beyond Texas, last week's snowstorms also threw a three-day delay into the COVID-vaccine rollout from coast to coast. Wintry weather shut down the FedEx hub in Memphis and the UPS one in Louisville. FEMA reported more than 2,000 vaccine sites lost power. 6 million doses have been delayed.

At vaccination centers like Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium, ripples from those delays could continue into this week. It's another wrinkle to the rollout in a nationwide race against the clock. Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mark Strassman in Atlanta, thank you.