Texas outages below half-million but water crisis persists

Customers wait in line to enter a Frontier Fiesta store in Houston Texas on Feb 17 2021

Snow and ice moved into the Appalachians, northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania, and later the Northeast.

Compounding the problem was the fact that much of Texas was still experiencing cold weather and snowstorms Thursday, part of a havoc-inducing bout of winter weather that also prompted winter storm warnings in parts of New York, New Jersey and CT through Friday night.

More than 30 storm-related deaths have been reported by U.S. media since the cold weather arrived last week, many in traffic accidents.

Houston police said a woman and a girl died from carbon monoxide poisoning after sitting in a vehicle in a garage with the engine running to keep warm. Elsewhere, a grandmother and three children died when flames escaped the fireplace they were using to keep warm.

The White House said on Thursday a severe winter storm engulfing Texas and nearby states was the type of extreme weather event that climate change is triggering, rejecting assertions by Texas officials that "green energy" caused widespread power outages.

Adding to the misery, the snowy weather has jeopardized drinking water systems throughout the state. Officials in Texas order millions of people to boil tap water before drinking it due to damaged pipes and infrastructure.

St. David's HealthCare said in a statement to CBS News on Thursday that its South Austin Medical Center lost water pressure and was restricting water usage.

Donated water is distributed to Houston residents. St. David's added that "because this is a state-wide emergency situation that is also impacting other hospitals within the Austin area, no one hospital now has the capacity to accept transport of a large number of patients".

A tractor trailer is stuck in the slick ice and snow on State Highway 195 on February 18, 2021 in Killeen, Texas.


Weather-related power cuts have been particularly stubborn in OR, where some customers have been without power for nearly a week. A Portland supermarket without power threw perishable food into dumpsters, leading to a clash between scavengers and police. About 70,000 power outages persisted after an ice storm in eastern Kentucky, while almost 67,000 were without electricity in West Virginia.

The damage to the power system was the worst in 40 years, Maria Pope, chief executive of Portland General Electric (PGE) said. At the peak of the storm, more than 350,000 customers in the Portland area were in the dark, and more than 100,000 OR customers remained without power Thursday.

White House homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall told reporters earlier that 1 million or more people were still suffering power outages as a result of the storm and blamed it on climate change, which some Republican officials in affected states have denied or downplayed.

"These are the most risky conditions we've ever seen in the history of PGE", Dale Goodman, director of utility operations, said.

The unusually cold Arctic storm hit Texas this week and created a surge in demand for power, causing the state's electricity grid to fail. 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 10 p.m. Saturday.

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

A similar advisory was in effect in Austin, the state capital, after a power failure at the city's largest water treatment facility.

Gross said he had been without power for 36 hours and the temperature inside his home had fallen into the 30s when the pipe burst.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), a cooperative responsible for 90% of the state's electricity, said on Thursday it had made "significant progress" in restoring power.

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