Some electricity restored in Texas, but water woes grow

  • A water bucket is filled as others wait in near freezing temperatures to use a hose from public park spigot Thursday in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

AUSTIN, Texas — Power was restored to more homes and businesses Thursday in states hit by a deadly blast of winter that overwhelmed the electrical grid and left millions shivering in the cold this week. But the crisis was far from over in parts of the South, where many people still lacked safe drinking water.

In Texas on Thursday, about 325,000 homes and businesses remained without power, down from about 3 million a day earlier, though utility officials said limited rolling blackouts were still possible.

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The storms also left more than 320,000 homes and businesses without power in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. About 70,000 power outages persisted after an ice storm in eastern Kentucky, while nearly 67,000 were without electricity in West Virginia.

And more than 100,000 customers remained without power Thursday in Oregon, a week after a massive snow and ice storm.

Maria Pope, the CEO of Portland General Electric, said she expects power to be restored by Friday night to more than 90% of the customers still in the dark.

Meanwhile, snow and ice moved into the Appalachians, northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania, and later the Northeast.

The extreme weather was blamed for the deaths of more than four dozen people, some while trying to keep warm. In the Houston area, one 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.

Utilities from Minnesota to Texas implemented rolling blackouts to ease strained power grids.

Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities covering 14 states from the Dakotas to the Texas Panhandle, said rolling blackouts were no longer needed, but asked customers to conserve energy until at least Saturday night.

Texas’ remaining outages were mostly weather-related, rather than forced blackouts, according to the state’s grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Texas Gov. 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.

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Adding to the state’s misery, the weather jeopardized drinking water systems.

Authorities ordered 7 million people to boil tap water before drinking it, following record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and pipes.

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