Lights come back on in Texas as water woes rise in the South

AUSTIN, TEXAS (AP) — Many of the millions of Texans who lost power for days after a deadly winter blast overwhelmed the electric grid now have it back, but the crisis was far from over in parts of the South with many people lacking safe drinking water.

About 325,000 homes and businesses remained without power in Texas on Thursday, down from about three million a day earlier, though utility officials said limited rolling blackouts were still possible. The storms also left more than 450,000 from West Virginia to Louisiana without power and 100,000 in Oregon were still enduring a week-long outage following a massive ice and snow storm.

The snow and ice moved into the Appalachians, northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania, and later the Northeast as the extreme weather was blamed for the deaths of at least 56 people, with a growing toll of those who perished trying to keep warm.

In the Houston area, a family died from carbon monoxide as their car idled in their garage. A woman and her three grandchildren were killed in a fire that authorities said might have been caused by a fireplace they were using. Utilities from Minnesota to Texas used rolling blackouts to ease strained power grids. But the remaining Texas outages were mostly weather-related, according to the state’s grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Rotating outages for Texas could return if electricity demand rises as people get power and heating back, said the council’s senior director of system operations Dan Woodfin.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott warned that state residents “are not out of the woods”, with temperatures still well below freezing statewide, south central Texas threatened by a winter storm and disruptions in food supply chains.

Donated water is unloaded at a distribution site in Texas. PHOTO: AP