US Deadly Winter Storm Update: Power still off, no heat for millions, governors got criticized
|Morgan Handley, left, trying to convince people to move to a warming shelter in San Antonio on Tuesday. (Photo: AP)|
US Storm Updates in a gist:
- There is no heat for millions in places unaccustomed to frigid weather.
- Hours without power intensify challenges of pandemic life for Texans.
- At least 23 people have died in storm-related incidents.
- Patients poisoned by carbon monoxide flood Houston emergency rooms.
- Texas officials order investigations into power failures.
- The storm is hampering coronavirus vaccination efforts.
- About 3,500 sea turtles are rescued from the frigid temperatures in Texas.
Power is still off for millions after winter storm
More than 4 million Texans have lost power after a weekend storm crippled the state’s energy infrastructure. The storm, which Gov. Greg Abbott declared a statewide disaster Friday, has led to at least 25 deaths, most of them in Texas, a state whose energy infrastructure was not built for a storm of this magnitude. At least two are dead in a household that tried to warm up by running their car in their garage, leading to carbon monoxide poisoning.
The crisis has made the state's energy grid the focus of fresh scrutiny, primarily due to its independence from the rest of the U.S. Critics say that allowed its infrastructure to shirk federal regulations that require cold-weather capabilities. “This has been an extraordinary event for Texas,” said Bill Magness, the CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees about 90 percent of Texas’ energy production and has ordered rolling outages across the state, said NBC.
CenterPoint Energy, which serves the Houston area, announced Tuesday that its directed outages, currently affecting 1.27 million people, “could last several more days.” Austin Energy, the community-owned electric utility for the state's capital, said Tuesday evening that ERCOT had ordered more outages, and that "it could be days before all customers have power." Texas has been battered with single-digit temperatures, snow and sleet since Thursday, with more expected. The Dallas area saw temperatures below zero Tuesday, the coldest recorded temperature since 1949, with additional precipitation expected Wednesday.
More than four million Texas residents don’t have power after a historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures, according to reports. The freezing temperatures created an increased demand for electricity that, along with temperatures, collapsed the state’s power grid and caused widespread blackouts. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has already called for an investigation of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s power grid. Authorities are telling citizens to boil their water as potential widespread water outages are also expected to come. The state expects to face continued freezing temperatures in the next couple of days, said CNBC.
|Crews from the fire department in Abilene, Texas, fought a house fire on Monday.Credit... (Photo: AP)|
Texas governor faces criticism over handling of winter storm fallout
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is coming under intense scrutiny over his handling of mass power outages in the state caused by harsh winter weather conditions, as he prepares to run for reelection next year on the heels of two major disasters. The state’s Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa accused Abbott of “playing politics with alternative sources of energy” in a statement on Monday, saying that as Lone Star State residents struggle, the governor “continues to relax and wait.”
Julián Castro, the former Democratic mayor of San Antonio and secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former President Obama, tweeted that Abbott “failed to prepare for this storm, was too slow to respond, and now blames everyone but himself for this mess.” Millions of Texas residents were left without power as the state experienced unusually cold weather, with a number of areas recording temperatures in the single digits. And forecasts show more cold weather on the way, said The Hill.
Democrats have long worked to create a “blue wave” in Texas in hopes of flipping the traditionally red state, but their efforts have fallen short. Still, Democrats in the state point to progress over the past several years. President Biden lost the state to former President Trump by 6 points, down from former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s 9 point loss to Trump in 2016. And former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) came within points of unseating Sen. Ted Cruz (R) in 2018. Margaret Bentley, a Texas native, told The Hill Tuesday that she had just regained power at her West Texas home in Alpine after being without it for two days, during which time her water heater burst and the temperature dropped to around 40 degrees inside. “I have no idea how the elderly or people who were ill or on oxygen or struggling with COVID might have fared,” she added.
|A man carried gas cans to refill his generator in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday. (Photo: New York Times)|
COVID-19 measures face challenges
Storms dumped snow and ice from Ohio to the Rio Grande through the long Presidents Day holiday weekend, and treacherous weather was expected to grip much of the United States through Friday. Forecasters predicted up to 4in of snow and freezing rain from the southern plains into the north-east. The weather also threatened to affect the nation’s Covid-19 vaccination effort. Joe Biden’s administration said delays in vaccine shipments and deliveries were likely, according to Guardian.
The blackouts forced Harris county to scramble to get more than 8,000 doses of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine into people’s arms after the county public health facility lost power and its back-up generator also failed. Officials distributed the doses at three hospitals, Rice University, and the county jail. Hidalgo said she didn’t believe any vaccines were lost. The conditions also delayed vaccine shipments. State officials said Texas, due to receiving more than 400,000 doses this week, did not expect deliveries until at least Wednesday.
Elderly and homeless people were most vulnerable. Cities implemented “emergency warming centers” but it was not clear how they could follow Covid-19 safety protocols. More than 500 people were at one shelter in Houston but the mayor, Sylvester Turner, said others had to be shut because they lost power.
|A street in Austin on Monday night, when much of the city was without power. (Photo: New York Times)|
Air travel still affected
Air travel was also affected. At midday, more than 2,700 US flights had been canceled, led by more than 800 at Dallas Fort Worth international airport and more than 700 at Bush Intercontinental in Houston. Authorities pleaded with residents to stay home on Tuesday. Nearly 900 flights to and from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, American Airlines' biggest hub, were canceled on Tuesday, more than half of the schedule. Close to 1,000 flights were canceled there on Monday as the storm snarled travel at the end of the Presidents Day weekend. American was putting airport staff up at hotels to help avoid commuting problems.
George Bush Intercontinental/Houston Airport, a major United Airlines hub, and the city’s William P. Hobby Airport, a Southwest Airlines hub, said they would remain closed until 4 p.m. CT. More than 100 flights in and out of Chicago were also canceled on Tuesday after the region received more snow.
Airline schedules have been drastically reduced because of the Covid pandemic, but the storm struck after carriers saw a bump in demand for the long weekend. The Transportation Security Administration’s daily U.S. airport screenings topped 1 million on Thursday and Friday for the first time since early January, said CBS.
About 100 school systems closed, delayed opening, or switched to remote classes in Alabama, where forecasters said conditions might not improve until temperatures rise above freezing on Wednesday afternoon.
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