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Texas households face massive electricity bills, some as high as $17K, after winter storm

Some Texans say they're getting massive electric bills following the winter storm that caused chaos throughout the state this past week.

NBC News reports that some Texans are getting bills as high as $10,000, while local ABC News affiliate WFAA in Dallas says one man's bill shows him owing more than $17,000.

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Jose Del Rio told NBC News that the bill for his two-bedroom home is usually between $125 to $150 a month, but this month his bill exceeded $3,000. Rio claims the house, which is empty and for sale, only ran the heater at 60 degrees to prevent pipes from freezing, but that lights and other utilities remained turned off.

Another woman told NBC that her one-bedroom apartment usually uses enough electricity to result in a $63 bill, but her next bill is projected to be as much as $133.

A Willow Park family that says they were fortunate enough not to lose their power told NBC News that the bill for their three-bedroom home has climbed by nearly $10,000 in the last few days.

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The families who saw their bills spike were reportedly on variable-rate plans with Griddy, an electricity provider in the state.

Griddy had recommended that customers switch to a different provider this week, warning them to find fixed-rate plans instead as it predicted the climbing cost of electricity due to the spiking demand. But many customers who tried to switch said other companies were not accepting new customers until weeks into the future, leaving them stuck with their large bills.

Ty Williams told WFAA in Dallas that he normally spends $660 for his home, guest house and office electric bills each month. His new bill after the rate spike exceeded $17,000.

He told the outlet that he ultimately managed to switch to another provider and was hoping to work out a way to pay his massive bill. But Williams described the situation as "being held hostage and there isn't anything you can do about it."

Some groups, such as Reliant Energy, say they are willing to work with customers and offer flexible bill payment options following the storm. 

The spike in people's bills was due to the skyrocketing demand for power during the freezing conditions, which overloaded the unprepared Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages power for around 90 percent of the state. That demand increased the price of power, but only those on variable rates directly saw their bills impacted.

That meant that while millions were without power, variable-rate electric customers who still had electricity saw their bills spike. WFAA noted that variable-rate plans are rarer than fixed-rate plans in the state. 

The news out of Texas adds to the fallout from the snowstorms, which left at least 47 people dead, left millions without power and even harmed thousands of sea turtles.