POINT PLEASANT BEACH, N.J. — Another fierce winter storm brought more snow and ice across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic on Thursday, and warnings extended as far south as weather-weary Texas.
The storm will continue to loosen its grip on the region Friday, but “abnormally cold temperatures will hang around through the weekend,” said the National Weather Service.
“Record cold daily maximum and minimum temperatures are likely to transpire in the South-Central U.S. through Saturday morning,” the weather service forecasted.
As for the mid-Atlantic, much of the heaviest snowfall amounts has already fallen, with some additional snow Friday. A little farther south, one should expect icy temperatures and slippery travel through Friday.
Late Thursday night, more than 224,000 customers in Texas were still without power after frigid temperatures kicked large shares of the state’s power plants off its grid this week, leaving more than 4 million in the dark and triggering outrage. Tens of thousands of people across Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky and Oregon were also without electricity, according to poweroutage.us, a utility tracking website.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden declared states of emergency in Texas and Oklahoma and authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide generators and supplies to states affected by the severe winter weather.
Specifically, FEMA has provided 60 generators and fuel to support water treatment plants, hospitals, and nursing homes in Texas, according to Liz Sherwood-Randall, Homeland Security advisor in the White House. This is addition to 729,000 liters of water, 10,000 wool blankets, 50,000 cotton blankets, 225,000 meals and other supplies as requested by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
“Jill and I are keeping Texas, Oklahoma and other impacted states in our prayers,” Biden wrote on Twitter.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said there are currently no plans for Biden to visit Texas or other states affected by the winter storm.
At least 56 people have died this week in the extreme weather. Traffic accidents have claimed the most lives, but some people have died as a result of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning while struggling to find warmth inside their homes.
The heaviest snow was expected in parts of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, and isolated patches could get up to a foot of accumulation in the Appalachians, the weather service said.
“Significant and disruptive” ice was expected farther south, up to half an inch of accumulation in North Carolina and southern Virginia, forecasters said. “The result will be dangerous travel conditions, numerous power outages and extensive tree damage.”
Back-to-back storms left 15 inches of snow in Little Rock, Arkansas, tying a 1918 record, the weather service said.
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In New York City, forecasters anticipated up to 8 inches of snow by Friday and a “light glaze of ice” over the New York and New Jersey region. Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that the city could run out of vaccine Thursday because of storm-related delays.
In the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, some COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites closed as snow caused dangerous conditions on the roads.
Farther north, the storm was likely to drop half a foot of snow from the Hudson Valley to the southern parts of New England, the weather service said.
“This storm and its predecessor a couple of days earlier, accompanied by once-in-a-generation outbreak of frigid air, has left behind an absolute mess in the South Central states and is on the move,” AccuWeather meteorologist Bernie Rayno said.
Boil advisory in Texas for now; cities in Mississippi without water;
Freezing temperatures lingered Thursday in parts of Texas.
“My elderly family members have had to live off candles and hot stoves for the last couple days,” said Bertha Rendon, who has been living with her aunt and uncle in East Austin, Texas, this week. “That’s when it really hit me. I mean, I’m young – I’m 41 years old – and I can take this, but they can’t. So many people in my area are going through the same thing.”
The cold weather damaged infrastructure and pipes, and officials warned 7 million people, a quarter of the state’s population, to boil drinking water before use.
In Austin, some hospitals faced low water pressure and no heat. Gov. Greg Abbott urged Texans to turn off their water, if possible, to prevent damage to the water system and pipes.
Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said people let their faucets drip to prevent frozen pipes, and frozen lines led to low water pressure across the state.
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Grid manager Electric Reliability Council of Texas said late Wednesday that it had restored power to approximately 8,000 megawatts, or about 1.6 million households, since the morning.
“We are working around the clock to restore power to Texans,” ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said. “We made progress today, but it will not be good enough until every person has their power back.”
Warmer weather could allow frigid power facilities to roar back to life, restore natural gas production, open roads for skilled workers to make power repairs and cut demand from consumers, ERCOT managers said.
The power outages prompted Abbott to call for changes. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate electricity transmission, and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which oversees reliability across the USA, Mexico and Canada, announced this week they would launch an inquiry into the the bulk-power system.
And in Mississippi, almost all of Jackson, a city of around 150,000 people, is now without water, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said Thursday night.
Lumumba said public works crews are working to pump as much water as they can to refill the city’s tanks. The city is approaching a critical shortage in chemicals used to treat the city’s water, the mayor said. Road closures are making it difficult for distributors to make needed deliveries.
“We are dealing with an extreme challenge with getting more water through our distribution system,” he said. “This becomes increasingly challenging because we have so many residents at home, and while the residents are at home, that means that people are utilizing or attempting to use the water at a higher rate.”
Beyond the immediate needs, Sherwood-Randall said the recent extreme weather events across the country, show the urgency to address the country’s infrastructure, which she characterized as ill-equipped to handle the effects of climate change. Biden has said he wants to include significant infrastructure spending in an upcoming “Build Back Better” jobs proposal but hasn’t laid out a timeline for its introduction.
“Climate change is real and it’s happening now, and we’re not adequately prepared for it,” she said. “And in particular, power grids across our country, particularly in Texas, are overloaded by the demands that are placed to them under these circumstances. And the infrastructure is not built to withstand these extreme conditions.”
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In Dallas, the weather service said, “the worst of the weather is behind us.” But roads will remain dangerous as they partially melt and refreeze. “This means more black ice and bumpy ruts through Saturday.”
Some warmer weather was in sight. Temperatures were forecast to be in the 50s in Dallas, Houston and Austin this weekend, and San Antonio expected a 62-degree high Sunday.
Oregon faces ‘dangerous’ power outages
In the Pacific Northwest, the weather service expected snow in the range of 1 to 2 feet to pile up along the Cascade Range. Mountain ranges in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming could see up to a foot of snow, the weather service said.
Power outages in the Portland, Oregon, area were the worst in 40 years, said Maria Pope, CEO of Portland General Electric. More than 350,000 customers at the peak of the storm lost power, and more than 100,000 in Oregon are still in the dark.
“These are the most dangerous conditions we’ve ever seen in the history of PGE,” said Dale Goodman, director of utility operations.
The outage prompted a grocery store to throw away perishable food after the store lost power. The incident led to a clash between police and people who were searching the dumpster for the food.
Contributing: Joey Garrison and Elinor Aspegren, USA TODAY; Katie Hall and Asher Price, Austin American-Statesman; The Associated Press
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