Timeline unclear for Texas power restoration
The Latest on winter weather across the U.S. (all times local):
AUSTIN — The power grid manager in Texas did not have firm estimates Wednesday for when power would be restored for Texans, millions of whom have been without electricity in frigid temperatures since early Monday.
Electric Reliability Council of Texas President Bill Magness said he’s hopeful many customers would see electricity at least partially restored — on a rotating basis, with outages coming in and out — by later Wednesday or Thursday.
Rising temperatures over the coming days will speed the restoration process in two ways: demand will go down because customers will use less energy, and energy supply that’s affected by frozen equipment or icy roads will go up, he said.
As of midday, more than 3 million homes and businesses were without power in Texas.
Magness defended ERCOT’s move early Monday to force outages to prevent an even larger blackout.
“The operators acted quickly… based on their training to prevent an event that would have been even more catastrophic than the terrible events we’ve seen this week,” he said.
PORTLAND, Ore. — More than 150,000 remained without power in the greater Portland, Oregon, area Wednesday and authorities warned that outages caused by a fierce weekend storm could continue for several more days.
The Seattle area saw more than a foot of snow and western Oregon was hit with snow and ice that toppled more than 5,000 power lines. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency for the greater Portland region following the storm.
Portland General Electric’s map of power outages listed about 150,000 customers without electricity, while Pacific Power listed about 6,000. Some people in the Portland area have been without electricity for nearly a week.
Steve Corson, a spokesman with PGE, said “right now we need people to be prepared for the fact that it could be several days yet” before power is restored.
Late Tuesday the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed four deaths over the weekend due to carbon monoxide poisoning. While authorities didn’t immediately provide any details about the deaths, they did urge people not to use alternative heat sources like camp stoves or barbecues to stay warm.
GROVE, Okla. — Authorities say a 53-year-old Broken Arrow man died Monday after falling through the ice at Grand Lake in northeast Oklahoma.
According to Grand River Dam Authority police, Greg Garner appeared to have ventured out onto the frozen lake to retrieve two dogs that had fallen through the ice when he also fell through the ice and “succumbed to the dangerously cold waters.”
Garner’s body was discovered by Delaware County deputies about 10 p.m. Monday near a dock. Police say the believe the two dogs also drowned.
BATON ROUGE, La. — The Louisiana Department of Health on Wednesday confirmed three deaths related to winter weather this week.
The deaths include a 50-year-old man in Lafayette Parish who slipped on ice and hit his head, a 74-year-old woman in Lafayette Parish who was found in a neighbor’s driveway dead of exposure and a 77-year-old man in Calcasieu Parish who drowned after slipping on ice and falling in a swimming pool.
ATLANTA — Officials in Georgia, Alabama and Oklahoma are among those reporting that snowy and icy weather across much of the nation has “significantly” delayed shipments of COVID-19 vaccines.
The Georgia Department of Public Health said in a statement that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that normally would have arrived the first part of this week were held back by the manufacturers due to the winter weather.
The agency said that as a result, health departments and other vaccine providers have been forced to reschedule appointments. When those shots can be administered will depend on when vaccine shipments resume and when they arrive in Georgia.
Vaccine shipments have also been delayed to a large part of Alabama because the shipper, McKesson Corp., has weather-related problems at its terminal in Memphis, Tennessee, said Ryan Easterling, a spokesman with the Alabama Department of Public Health. He said vaccine allocated to Alabama will be shipped when weather conditions allow.
Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, deputy state health Commissioner Keith Reed said Wednesday that wintry weather has also caused a delay of “multiple days” in the delivery of the coronavirus vaccine to the state.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients acknowledged Wednesday that the weather was impacting vaccine distribution, and some vaccination centers remained closed.
“People are working as hard as they can, given the importance of getting the vaccines to the states and to providers, but there is an impact on deliveries,” Zients said “What we’re encouraging governors and other partners to do is to extend hours once they’re able to reopen.”
He added that: “we want to make sure that as we’ve lost some time in some states for people to get needles in arms, that our partners do all they can to make up that lost ground consistent with distributing the vaccine to people as efficiently and equitably as possible.”
OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska avoided another round of rolling power outages Wednesday morning.
The Nebraska Public Power District said it ultimately didn’t have to shut off anyone’s power after the utility warned earlier that more blackouts were likely. All the major utilities across the state implemented planned power outages in places on Monday and Tuesday because demand for electricity exceeded the supply available across a 14-state region.
Utility officials have said the Artic temperatures across the region created energy demand that strained the power grid. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts criticized the power shut offs.
“These rolling blackouts are completely unacceptable,” he said.
The subzero temperatures started to ease across Nebraska Wednesday morning with most low temperatures across the state at only single digits below zero. For instance, Omaha hit a low of 2 below zero Wednesday, which was much milder than the 23 below temperature it recorded Tuesday morning.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Days of freezing temperatures are taking their toll on some drinking water systems. The utility in Memphis, Tennessee, is asking customers to use less water through Friday.
Memphis, Light, Gas & Water says several water mains have burst and pressure has dropped across the distribution system. The utility also said in a news release late Tuesday that it’s seeing reduced reservoir levels at pumping stations.
It says customers can help by asking customers to refrain from leaving the water running while rinsing dishes and hold off on washing clothes until Friday. Tennessee has seen temperatures in the single digits for about three straight days.
LAFAYETTE, La. — At least 20 people have died as a result of the winter weather that has most of the United States in its grip.
One of the victims is Mary Guillory, a 74-year-old woman found dead outside her neighbor’s home in Lafayette, Louisiana early Tuesday.
Lafayette Police Lt. Wayne Griffin says her body was found more than six hours after she wandered away from her own home as temperatures hovered in the teens. Authorities said it appeared she died from exposure.
The National Weather Service says more than 100 million people live in areas covered by some type of winter weather warning, watch or advisory as yet another winter storm hits Texas and parts of the Southern Plains. Winter storm watches were in effect from there to Boston.
About 3 million homes and businesses in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi remained without power early Wednesday, and forecasters said freezing rain and more snow is possible.
Weather service lead forecaster Bob Oravec told The Associated Press that “there’s really no letup to some of the misery people are feeling.” But he offers some hope on the horizon: He says temperatures in Texas, at least, are expected to rise well above freezing by the weekend.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia says the oil producing nation stands ready to extend any support needed to Texans and other Americans struggling without electricity in winter weather.
The country’s energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, opened his speech at Wednesday’s International Energy Forum with the gesture. He spoke of “friendship and partnership and a sense of family” with oil and gas-producing states in the U.S.
OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo also mentioned the Texas blackouts, lamenting the storm’s “disruptive impact on our oil industry.” He said the extreme weather shows “we cannot take energy security for granted, even in a country like the United States.”
WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris has addressed the people suffering through the loss of heat and electricity in Texas and other states.
Harris said at the top of a live interview Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” show that she knows people without electricity can’t see her and the president right now.
But she said “the president and I are thinking of them and really hope that we can do everything that is possible through the signing of the emergency orders to get federal relief to support them.”
More than three million people were still without power Wednesday morning in Texas and seven other states, according to the poweroutage.us website, which tracks utility outages nationwide.