Millions of Americans endure another chilly day without electricity or heat after a deadly winter storm as the relief team competed to restore power before another snow and ice blew more chaos in places least equipped to deal with it.
Nearly 3.4 million customers around the United States were still without electricity, and some also lost water services. Texas officials ordered 7 million people – a quarter of the nation’s second-largest state – to boil tap water before drinking it after days of record-breaking temperatures that damaged infrastructure and frozen pipes.
The recent storm front was sure to complicate recovery efforts, especially in states not accustomed to such weather – parts of Texas, Arkansas and the Lower Mississippi Valley.
“There’s really no obstacle to any of the misery that people feel over that area,” said Bob Oravec, leader of the National Weather Service, referring to Texas.
The system was expected to move into the northeast on Thursday. More than 100 million people live in areas covered by some type of winter weather warning, clock or advice, says the weather service.
This week’s extreme weather has signaled the deaths of more than 30 people, some of whom disappeared while struggling to stay warm in their homes. In the Houston area, a family gave in to carbon monoxide from car exhaust in their garage. Another family died when using a fireplace to stay warm.
Weather-related outages have been particularly stubborn in Oregon, where some customers have been without power for nearly a week.
The worst outages in the United States have been by far in Texas, where 3 million homes and businesses remained without power from Wednesday’s dinner. More than 200,000 more customers were in the dark in four Appalachian states, and nearly as many in the Pacific, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks power outage reports.
The president of the Texas Electricity Network, Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said he hoped many customers would see at least one partial service restored by later Wednesday or Thursday.
Dashawn Walker, 33, was happy to find the power again in her Dallas apartment. He stayed at a suburban hotel Tuesday night after being without power since Sunday, but said he was charged $ 474 for one night.
“It’s crazy,” Walker said. “I mean, why would you go up to a hotel in the middle of a crisis?”
Water pressure has dropped across the state due to freezing lines, and many residents are leaving taps dripping in hopes of preventing pipes from freezing, said Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott urged residents to turn off water to their homes, if possible, to prevent more busted pipes and maintain pressure in municipal systems.
The outage in and around Portland, Oregon, affected nearly 150,000 customers nearly a week after a massive snowstorm hit many trees and cut hundreds of miles of power lines.
The damage to the electrical system was the worst in 40 years, says Maria Pope, CEO of Portland General Electric. At the height of the storm, more than 350,000 customers in the Portland area were in the dark.
“These are the most dangerous conditions we’ve ever seen in PGE’s history,” said Dale Goodman, chief operating officer, who declined to predict when all customers would have power restored.
Tools from Minnesota to Texas implemented rolling outages to reduce the load on strained power grids. Southwest Power Pool, a group of tools covering 14 states, said blackouts were “a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electrical system as a whole.”
The weather also disrupted water systems in several southern cities, including New Orleans and Shreveport, Louisiana, where city fire trucks delivered water to several hospitals and bottled water was brought in for patients and staff, Shreveport TV station KSLA reported.
The power was sent to a facility in New Orleans that pumps drinking water from the Mississippi River. A spokeswoman for the sewer and water board said that generators on site were used until electricity was restored.
In the southwestern Louisiana town of Lake Charles, Mayor Nic Hunter said Wednesday that water reserves remained low and local hospitals faced the possibility of transferring patients to other areas.
Travel is still poorly recommended in large parts of the United States, with roads treacherous and thousands of flights canceled. Many school systems delayed or interrupted personal classes. But staying at home also carries risks in places without electricity.
Authorities said a fire that killed three young children and their grandmother in the Houston area was likely caused by the fireplace they used to stay warm. In Oregon, authorities on Tuesday confirmed that four people died in the Portland area from carbon monoxide poisoning.
The crisis also gave stories of kindness.
In Clinton, Mississippi, Army veteran Evelyn Fletcher has cooked and delivered meals to suspended truck drivers, travelers and people staying in hotels after losing power at home.
“They are stranded, they are isolated – people need support right now,” Fletcher said.
On Monday, Fletcher made 85 meals. On Tuesday, she made 30 plates, while a local restaurant, T’Beaux’s Crawfish and Catering, cooked 75 plates of shrimp and gumbo that she and other volunteers delivered. And on Wednesday, Fletcher cooked a pot of turkey noodle soup in hopes of being able to deliver another 70 meals.
“People are worried about more snow,” she said. “We will keep people fed and keep them hopeful.”