Frozen pipes, electric woes remain in southern U.S. as cold snap eases grip

On Saturday, higher temperatures spread across the southern United States, providing relief to a winter-weary region facing difficult cleaning and expensive repairs after days of extreme cold and widespread power outages.

In Texas, where millions have been warned not to drink, boil tap water, warming up should take several days. The thaw caused pipes to burst across the region, adding to the list of suffering in severe conditions blamed for more than 70 deaths.

The sun had risen in Dallas on Saturday afternoon and temperatures were approaching the 50s. After days indoors, people showed up to run and jog in residential areas. Many roads had dried up and patches of snow had melted. Snowmen slumped.

Linda Nguyen woke up Saturday morning in a Dallas hotel room with a certainty she hadn’t had in almost a week: she and her cat had a place to sleep with electricity and water.

The power supply to her home was restored on Wednesday. But when Nguyen came home from work the next evening, she found a soaked carpet. A pipe had burst in her bedroom.

“It’s essentially non-viable,” said Nguyen, 27, who works in real estate. “Everything is completely ruined.”

Weather-related deaths include a man at a health facility in Abilene where lack of water pressure made medical treatment impossible. Officials also reported deaths from hypothermia, including homeless people and people in buildings with no electricity or heat. Others died in car accidents on icy roads or from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.

About half of the deaths reported to date have occurred in Texas, with several deaths also occurring in Tennessee, Kentucky, Oregon, and a few other southern and midwestern states.

A Tennessee farmer died trying to rescue two calves from a frozen pond.

President Joe Biden’s office said Saturday it had declared a major disaster in Texas and directed federal agencies to help with the recovery.

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, tweeted Saturday that she helped raise more than $ 3 million for relief. She asked for help from a Houston grocery bank, one of 12 Texas organizations that she said would benefit from the donations.

The storms left more than 300,000 people across the country without power on Saturday, many in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

More than 50,000 Oregon electricity customers were among those without electricity more than a week after an ice storm devastated the electricity grid. Portland General Electric was hoping to serve all but 15,000 customers by Friday night. However, the utility discovered additional damage in previously inaccessible areas.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown ordered the National Guard to go door-to-door in some areas to check on the welfare of residents. At its peak, the worst ice storm in 40 years cut off electricity to more than 350,000 customers.

In West Virginia, Appalachian Power was working on a list of approximately 1,500 locations that needed repair because approximately 44,000 customers in the state were left without power after consecutive ice storms on February 11th and 15th. More than 3,200 workers as they tried to bring electricity back online, their efforts were spread across the six hardest-hit districts on Saturday.

In Wayne County, West Virginia, workers had to replace the same pole three times because trees kept falling on it.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott met with lawmakers from both parties on Saturday to discuss energy prices as Texans face massive power spikes after wholesale energy prices skyrocketed while power plants were offline.

“We have a responsibility to protect Texans from an increase in their energy bills,” he said in a statement.

Water problems have caused misery for the people in the south who have been able to do without heat or electricity for days after the ice. Snow storms drove power outages from Minnesota to Texas.

Robert Tuskey was pulling tools from the back of his pickup truck Saturday afternoon as he prepared to fix a water pipe at a friend’s house in Dallas.

“Everything was frozen,” said Tuskey. “I even had one in my own house … of course I’m happy to be a plumber.”

Tuskey, 49, said his plumbing business had received numerous calls for help from friends and relatives with burst pipes. “I plan to help another family member,” he said. “I know she has no money at all, but they have no water at all and they are older.”

In Jackson, Mississippi, most of the city of around 161,000 residents lacked running water, and officials blamed the city for water pipes that are more than 100 years old and were not built for freezing weather.

The city provided water for flushing toilets and drinking. But residents had to pick it up, leaving the elderly and those who live on icy roads vulnerable.

Incoming and outgoing passenger flights at Memphis International Airport resumed Saturday after all flights were canceled on Friday due to water pressure issues. The problems had not been resolved, but airport officials set up temporary toilets.

Prison rights advocates said some correctional facilities across Louisiana had intermittent electricity and frozen pipes, affecting toilets and showers.

The men who are sick, elderly, or held not in dormitories but in cell blocks – small rooms surrounded by concrete walls – were special, according to the Voice of the Experienced, a grassroots organization founded and run by former detainees endangered. The group said a man at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center south of Baton Rouge described a thin layer of ice on its walls.

Cammie Maturin said she spoke to men at the 6,300 inmates Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola who had not been taken extra precautions to protect themselves from the cold.

“You don’t give them extra blankets. Nothing extra. For them it was only a matter of course, ”said Maturin, President of the non-profit HOPE Foundation.

In many areas, water pressure fell after the pipes froze and because the taps were dripping to keep the pipes from icing over, authorities said.

As of Saturday, 1,445 public water systems in Texas had reported malfunctions, said Toby Baker, executive director of the state environmental quality commission. Government agencies used mobile laboratories and coordinated to expedite water tests.

That’s more than 1,300 reports on Friday afternoon. But Baker said the number of customers affected had decreased slightly. Most were under boiling water orders, 156,000 had no water supply service.

“It seems like we saw some stabilization in water systems across the state last night,” Baker said.

The thaw on Saturday after eleven days of freezing temperatures in Oklahoma City left residents with burst water pipes, inoperable wells and ovens due to brief power outages.

Rhodes College in Memphis said Friday that about 700 students were being accommodated in residential areas in hotels in the suburbs of Germantown and Collierville after school baths stopped working due to low water pressure.

Firefighters put out a fire late Friday at a fully occupied 102-room hotel in Killeen, Texas, about 110 kilometers north of Austin. The hotel’s sprinkler system did not work because of frozen pipes, the authorities said on Saturday.

Flames shot from the top of the four-story hotel and three people needed medical attention. Displaced persons were taken to a nearby Baptist church.

Texas power grid operators said power transmission returned to normal after the historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures, causing a surge in demand that brought the state system to a standstill.

Minor outages persisted, but Bill Magness, president of the Texas Electric Reliability Council, said the grid could now power the entire system.

Abbott ordered an investigation into the failure of a state known as the US energy capital. ERCOT officials defended their preparations and decision to begin forced outages on Monday when the network hit the breakpoint.

The blackouts resulted in at least two lawsuits against ERCOT and utilities, including one brought by the family of an 11-year-old boy believed to have died of hypothermia. The court cases alleged that ERCOT had ignored repeated warnings of weaknesses in the state’s energy infrastructure.

In addition, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed civil investigative claims against ERCOT and utility companies. His investigation will look at power outages, contingency plans, energy prices and much more related to the winter storm.

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