At Least 40 Dead Due to Extreme Weather

Snow and ice in East Austin
Snow and ice grips a neighborhood in East Austin on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. Day six of the statewide freeze and still millions of Texans are without power. (Bronte Wittpenn /Austin American-Statesman via AP)

The extreme weather was blamed for the deaths of at least 40 people as of Thursday, some while trying to keep warm during record freezing weather in America’s central and southern states.

In the Houston area, one family died from carbon monoxide as their car idled in their garage. A 75-year-old woman and her three grandchildren were killed in a fire that authorities said might have been caused by a fireplace they were using.

In Arkansas, officials say 69-year-old Jessie Roberts was found dead Wednesday after falling into a frozen pond in Magazine, about 90 miles northwest of Little Rock.

A 77-year-old Kentucky woman was found dead Wednesday night likely died of hypothermia after going without power and heat for two days, a coroner said. She was found by maintenance workers who were checking on her, Boyd County Coroner Mark Hammond told news outlets.

Three people died in a tornado in North Carolina. Three more fell through ice, into a pond in Tennessee, a lake in Oklahoma and a swimming pool in Louisiana.

A 9-year-old boy was killed while having fun with his father in Tennessee. His dad was pulling him on a tube behind an ATV on an icy street when the boy slammed into a mailbox.

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PORTLAND, Ore. — More than 100,000 customers remained without power Thursday in Oregon, a week after a massive snow and ice storm swept into the Pacific Northwest and brought the most dangerous conditions seen recently by utility workers.

Maria Pope, the CEO of Portland General Electric, said during a news conference Thursday that she expects power to be restored to more than 90% of the remaining customers who are still in the dark by the end of Friday. Pope says many of the places without power are in more remote areas or have extensive damage.

As for when the remaining customers in the dark will receive power again, Pope says that the timeline is still being determined, but updated information can be found on Portland General Electric’s website.

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DEL RIO, Texas —- As some parts of Texas began to slowly warm up from this week’s winter weather, other areas dealt with another round of snowfall on Thursday.

Del Rio, located along the U.S.-Mexico border in the southwestern part of the state, had received nearly 10 inches (25.4 cm) of snow on Thursday, surpassing the city’s record for snowfall in one day, according to the National Weather Service. With snow still falling, that number was expected to grow.

While power was being restored to many parts of Texas, officials in Del Rio asked residents to conserve electricity or risk having the local system lose power.

About 150 miles (241 km) east of Del Rio, residents in San Antonio also dealt with snowfall and frigid temperatures. Forecasters called for up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) of snow in the city.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, in a Facebook post, asked residents to stay home as local roadways were becoming treacherous due to the snowfall.

Meanwhile, power was restored to more homes and businesses in Texas on Thursday. But the crisis was 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.

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DALLAS — The head of the Texas power grid operator says the agency removed the names of its board members from the website after they received threats during power outages that affected millions of Texans stuck in a brutal winter storm.

“Threats were being made to board members,” Bill Magness, president and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said Thursday. “We were very concerned about both employee and board member safety because of the things we have been receiving the past few days.”

Magness said the agency will put the directors’ contact information back on the website in the next few days because it is public information. ERCOT has caught the wrath of Texans stuck in dark, freezing homes after the agency ordered utilities to cut back service when power demand outstripped supply.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Southwest Power Pool says it’s no longer under an emergency alert for the utilities it covers in 14 states.

The 14 states in the central United States have seen intermittent, rolling blackouts this week as utilities face surging demand for energy during frigid, wintry weather. The states stretch from the Texas Panhandle to the Dakotas, and it does not include the majority of Texas.

Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities covering 14 states from the Dakotas to the Texas Panhandle, says customers should still conserve energy until at least 10 p.m. Saturday but that rolling blackouts are not needed under current conditions.

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JACKSON, Miss. — Linda Weathersby, an administrative assistant for the mayor’s office in Jackson, lives in an apartment building for seniors in in the city.

There are 85 seniors who have been living in her building without water since Monday, Weathersby, said. The assistant manager at her building bought bottled water and was bringing to residents door-to-door.

Weathersby said she’s spent part of the day outside with a bucket collecting ice to melt and use to flush her toilet.

“I’ve been out there getting water, and my back’s hurting now,” she said.

The city of Jackson has made non-drinking water available at fire stations throughout the city, and are working to set up locations for people to pick up bottled water.

Still, Weathersby said she worries about elderly people like her who won’t be able to get to those locations. She knows many people are struggling not only with the loss of water, but electricity, too.

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DETROIT — Crews are unlikely to safely rescue a man who fell through ice on the Detroit River, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said.

The man was with a couple of other people when he walked out onto the ice just off Belle Isle about 5 p.m. Wednesday and began “jumping up and down,” Lt. Jeremiah Schiessel said. It was “not likely” that the search would end in a rescue, he said.

“It’s not looking like this will have a good outcome,” he said. Crews were unable to get to the spot where the man was last seen because the ice was too thin, Schiessel said.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina vaccine providers have yet to receive tens of thousands of COVID-19 vaccines the federal government was set to deliver this week, state health officials announced Thursday morning.

The Department of Health and Human Services is now asking clinics to plan to postpone appointments because of the delays fueled by severe winter weather.

None of the more than 163,000 first and second doses of the Moderna vaccine scheduled to arrive this week have been delivered by President Joe Biden’s administration, the state health department said. The state also noted that only a limited number of the nearly 127,000 expected Pfizer vaccines have been shipped.

North Carolina health officials said they are working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce the consequences of the delay.

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HOUSTON —- The winter storm had various hospitals in the Houston area on Thursday working through problems due to having no water or low water pressure at their facilities, forcing the cancellation of some surgeries

At Houston Methodist, two of its community hospitals were working without running water but still taking care of patients, said spokeswoman Gale Smith.

Low water pressure is resulting in the canceling of most nonurgent surgeries and procedures for Thursday and possibly Friday and pipes were bursting across Methodist’s hospitals but being repaired as they happened, Smith said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Sylvester Turner said he expects that residents in the nation’s fourth-largest city will have to continue boiling their tap water before drinking it until Sunday or Monday because of damaged infrastructure and frozen pipes from this week’s winter storm.

Turner said Thursday the city’s water system has to be properly pressurized and stabilized and then water samples have to be lab tested before it can be determined it is safe to drink.

To help residents in need of drinking water until the city’s system is deemed safe, officials planned to start distributing bottled water to residents at locations throughout the city starting Thursday afternoon.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The White House announced Thursday that President Joe Biden has approved Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s request for a disaster declaration in response to a winter storm.

Biden on Wednesday approved the request made by Stitt after the storm dumped snow and ice on the state and brought days of subfreezing temperatures and power outages, according to the White House statement.

Biden’s approval allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts and it allows for federal funding to reimburse cities, counties and tribes for the costs of emergency measures responding to the storm, including providing shelter for displaced residents.

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NEW YORK — Snow is falling in the northeastern United States, with up to 8 inches expected in the New York and New Jersey through Friday. The winter storm also is bringing ice and rain in some areas, prompting authorities to shutter at least three of New Jersey’s coronavirus vaccination sites.

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said the so-called mega-sites in Burlington, Middlesex and Morris counties will reschedule appointments for the coming days. Murphy also ordered state government offices to close except for essential workers. He’s restricting commercial vehicles on highways and asking people to stay home.

New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti recommends watching a good movie. She says “‘Frozen’ is always a good choice.”

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AUSTIN, Texas — The next phase of the state’s disaster response is testing the drinking water from local systems knocked off by the freezing cold.

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 1,000 public water systems and 177 of the state’s 254 counties reported weather-related operational disruptions, affecting more than 14 million people and many of which led to boil-water notices, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — More than 320,000 homes and businesses were without power in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama early Thursday after a wave of storms dumped as much as 4 inches of snow and ice across a region that still had some remnants of wintry precipitation left over from earlier in the week.

Dozens of school systems canceled classes, switched to online learning or opened late, and conditions might not improve much in some places until Friday afternoon, when temperatures are finally supposed to rise above freezing for a few hours.

The largest concentration of outages was in a band across central Mississippi. Much of the rest of the Deep South was spared the worst weather.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Twelve people have been rescued from boats after a dock weighed down by snow and ice collapsed on the Cumberland River in Tennessee, the Nashville Fire Department said.

Fire crews and the Office of Emergency Management responded Wednesday evening to the Blue Turtle Bay Marina after a report that people were trapped in multiple boats when the roof over the dock collapsed, authorities said.

Nashville Fire Department spokeswoman Kendra Loney told news outlets that everyone known to be on the dock was accounted for and no one was injured. She said the weight of the ice and snow on the roof of the dock caused the collapse.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Gov. John Bel Edwards wrote President Joe Biden on requesting a presidential emergency declaration for Louisiana, citing three deaths and thousands without electricity and water in the severe cold.

Edwards said the “extreme winter weather, including record low temperatures, snow, sleet and freezing rain, has been destructive for many areas of Louisiana, most notably through continued power and water outages across the state.”

The Democrat said federal assistance would be particularly welcome in communities still recovering from last year’s hurricanes. He said nearly a million Louisianans are having to boil their water, more than 48,000 Louisianans lack water altogether, and thousands remain without power.

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