Some electricity restored in Texas, but water woes grow

Donated water is distributed to residents, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston. Houston and several surrounding cities are under a boil water notice as many residents are still without running water in their homes. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Donated water is distributed to residents, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston. Houston and several surrounding cities are under a boil water notice as many residents are still without running water in their homes. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Credit: David J. Phillip

Credit: David J. Phillip

Power was restored to more homes and businesses in Texas after a deadly blast of winter this week overwhelmed the electrical grid and left millions shivering in the cold

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Power was restored to more homes and businesses Thursday in states hit by a deadly blast of winter that overwhelmed the electrical grid and left millions shivering in the cold this week. But the crisis was far from over in parts of the South, where many people still lacked safe drinking water.

In Texas on Thursday, about 325,000 homes and businesses remained without power, down from about 3 million a day earlier, though utility officials said limited rolling blackouts were still possible.

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% 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 15 inches (38 centimeters) of snow in Little Rock, Arkansas, tying a 1918 record, the National Weather Service said.

The extreme weather was blamed for the deaths of more than four dozen 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 were killed 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 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 asked customers to conserve energy until at least Saturday night.

Texas' remaining outages were mostly weather-related, rather than forced blackouts, according to the state's grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. ERCOT Senior Director of System Operations Dan Woodfin said rotating outages could return if electricity demand rises as people get power and heating back, though they wouldn't last as long as outages earlier this week.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott warned that state residents "are not out of the woods," with temperatures still well below freezing statewide, south central Texas threatened by a winter storm and disruptions in food supply chains.

Adding to the state's misery, the weather jeopardized drinking water systems. Authorities ordered 7 million people — a quarter of the population of the nation’s second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking it, following record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and pipes.

Water pressure dropped after lines froze, and because many people left faucets dripping to prevent pipes from icing over, said Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Abbott urged residents to shut off water to their homes to prevent more busted pipes and 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.

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 coordinating donations of food to hospitals.

Some Austin hospitals lost water pressure and heat. But because the problem was statewide and affected other facilities, "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.

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

Emergency rooms were crowded "due to patients being unable to meet their medical needs at home without electricity,” Smith said.

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,” spokeswoman Jenn Jacome said.

The next phase of the state’s disaster response will be to test drinking water from systems knocked offline by the cold. As of Thursday afternoon, more than 1,000 Texas public water systems and 177 of the state’s 254 counties had reported weather-related operational disruptions, affecting more than 14 million people, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The weather also disrupted water systems in Southern cities, including New Orleans, and Shreveport, Louisiana, 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 and generators were used until electricity was restored.

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

Crews were pumping water to refill city’s tanks but faced a shortage of chemicals to treat the water, Lumumba said.

“We are dealing with an extreme challenge with getting more water through our distribution system,” he said.

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

About 85 seniors in one Jackson apartment building haven't had water since Monday and were relying on deliveries from a building manager, said resident Linda Weathersby.

Weathersby said she spent part of Thursday outside collecting buckets of ice to melt it so she could flush her toilet and said “my back's hurting now.”

As the storms headed east, 12 people had to be rescued Wednesday night from boats after a dock weighed down by snow and ice collapsed on Tennessee's Cumberland River, the Nashville Fire Department said. Elsewhere in the state, a 9-year-old boy was killed when the tube his father was pulling behind an ATV slammed into a mailbox.

In and around the western Texas city of Abilene, authorities said six people died of the cold — including a 60-year-old man found dead in his bed in his frigid home and a man who died at a health care facility when a lack of water pressure made medical treatment impossible.

A 69-year-old Arkansas man was found dead Wednesday after falling into a frozen pond while trying to rescue a calf. In Kentucky, a 77-year-old woman was found dead of likely hypothermia Wednesday night after two days without power and heat.

And a man fell through the ice on the Detroit River on Wednesday night and likely drowned, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said.

Before the wintry weather moved from Texas, the city of Del Rio along the U.S.-Mexico border, got nearly 10 inches (25.4 cm) of snow on Thursday, surpassing the city’s one-day record for snowfall. Up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) were forecast for San Antonio, and Mayor Ron Nirenberg urged residents to stay off treacherous roads.

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Bleed reported from Little Rock, Arkansas. Associated Press journalists Terry Wallace in Dallas; Juan Lozano in Houston; Leah Willingham in Jackson, Mississippi; Rebecca Reynolds in Louisville, Kentucky; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Kevin McGill in New Orleans; Darlene Superville in Washington; and Tammy Webber in Fenton, Michigan, contributed.

Allan Woodson rests in a warming shelter at St. Martin's Lutheran Church on West 15th Street in downtown Austin, Texas, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Church members opened the shelter Sunday and have been sheltering and feeding more than 20 homeless people during the winter storm. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
Allan Woodson rests in a warming shelter at St. Martin's Lutheran Church on West 15th Street in downtown Austin, Texas, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Church members opened the shelter Sunday and have been sheltering and feeding more than 20 homeless people during the winter storm. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Credit: Jay Janner

Credit: Jay Janner

A water bucket is filled as others wait in near freezing temperatures to use a hose from public park spigot Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston. Houston and several surrounding cities are under a boil water notice as many residents are still without running water in their homes. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
A water bucket is filled as others wait in near freezing temperatures to use a hose from public park spigot Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston. Houston and several surrounding cities are under a boil water notice as many residents are still without running water in their homes. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Credit: David J. Phillip

Credit: David J. Phillip

Donated water is unloaded at a distribution site, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston. Houston and several surrounding cities are under a boil water notice as many residents are still without running water in their homes. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Donated water is unloaded at a distribution site, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston. Houston and several surrounding cities are under a boil water notice as many residents are still without running water in their homes. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Credit: David J. Phillip

Credit: David J. Phillip

A man walks across a frozen lake at Cottonwood Park in Richardson, Texas, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Temperatures in the region continue to remain below freezing heading into Friday. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
A man walks across a frozen lake at Cottonwood Park in Richardson, Texas, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Temperatures in the region continue to remain below freezing heading into Friday. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Credit: Tony Gutierrez

Credit: Tony Gutierrez

Snow begins to accumulate as San Antonio police officers gather near the Alamo, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in downtown San Antonio. Snow, ice and sub-freezing weather continue to wreak havoc on the state's power grid and utilities. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Snow begins to accumulate as San Antonio police officers gather near the Alamo, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in downtown San Antonio. Snow, ice and sub-freezing weather continue to wreak havoc on the state's power grid and utilities. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Credit: Eric Gay

Credit: Eric Gay

A woman living on the streets uses blankets to keep warm, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in downtown San Antonio. Snow, ice and sub-freezing weather continue to wreak havoc on the state's power grid and utilities. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
A woman living on the streets uses blankets to keep warm, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in downtown San Antonio. Snow, ice and sub-freezing weather continue to wreak havoc on the state's power grid and utilities. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Credit: Eric Gay

Credit: Eric Gay

Joggers run down a street empty of cars Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Nolensville, Tenn. A second winter storm in a week is bringing more snow to much of Tennessee. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Joggers run down a street empty of cars Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Nolensville, Tenn. A second winter storm in a week is bringing more snow to much of Tennessee. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Credit: Mark Humphrey

Credit: Mark Humphrey

Victor Hernandez, left, and Luis Martinez fill their water containers with a hose from a spigot in Haden Park, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021 in Houston. Texas officials have ordered 7 million people to boil tap water before drinking it following days of record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and froze pipes. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)
Victor Hernandez, left, and Luis Martinez fill their water containers with a hose from a spigot in Haden Park, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021 in Houston. Texas officials have ordered 7 million people to boil tap water before drinking it following days of record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and froze pipes. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Credit: Brett Coomer

Credit: Brett Coomer

Tom Keller walks across the gymnasium floor in a warming shelter at St. Martin's Lutheran Church on West 15th Street in downtown Austin, Texas, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Church members opened the shelter Sunday and have been sheltering and feeding more than 20 homeless people during the winter storm. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
Tom Keller walks across the gymnasium floor in a warming shelter at St. Martin's Lutheran Church on West 15th Street in downtown Austin, Texas, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Church members opened the shelter Sunday and have been sheltering and feeding more than 20 homeless people during the winter storm. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Credit: Jay Janner

Credit: Jay Janner

A Park Policeman patrols along the River Walk as snow falls, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in San Antonio. Snow, ice and sub-freezing weather continue to wreak havoc on the state's power grid and utilities. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
A Park Policeman patrols along the River Walk as snow falls, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in San Antonio. Snow, ice and sub-freezing weather continue to wreak havoc on the state's power grid and utilities. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Credit: Eric Gay

Credit: Eric Gay

Ximena Carrizalez, 11, of Tulsa, laughs while riding down a hill while sledding at Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, Okla. on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP)
Ximena Carrizalez, 11, of Tulsa, laughs while riding down a hill while sledding at Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, Okla. on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP)

Credit: Ian Maule

Credit: Ian Maule

A man is loaded onto a bus for a trip to a hotel on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021 in Charlotte, N.C.  Residents of the homeless encampment "Tent City" are being required to vacate the area within 72 hours after health risks from rodent infestation was found in the area.  (Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer via AP)
A man is loaded onto a bus for a trip to a hotel on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021 in Charlotte, N.C. Residents of the homeless encampment "Tent City" are being required to vacate the area within 72 hours after health risks from rodent infestation was found in the area. (Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer via AP)

Credit: Jeff Siner

Credit: Jeff Siner

People stand in line outside an HEB grocery store in the snow Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Austin, Texas. The store did not have milk, eggs, meat or refrigerated items. Temperatures dropped into the single digits as snow shut down air travel and grocery stores.(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
People stand in line outside an HEB grocery store in the snow Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Austin, Texas. The store did not have milk, eggs, meat or refrigerated items. Temperatures dropped into the single digits as snow shut down air travel and grocery stores.(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Credit: Ashley Landis

Credit: Ashley Landis

A man makes his way down a snowy sidewalk against a backdrop of murals after several inches of snow fell on the area, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A man makes his way down a snowy sidewalk against a backdrop of murals after several inches of snow fell on the area, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Credit: Kathy Willens

Credit: Kathy Willens

A couple walk through falling snow, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in downtown San Antonio. Snow, ice and sub-freezing weather continue to wreak havoc on the state's power grid and utilities. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
A couple walk through falling snow, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in downtown San Antonio. Snow, ice and sub-freezing weather continue to wreak havoc on the state's power grid and utilities. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Credit: Eric Gay

Credit: Eric Gay

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