Power comes back for most in Texas, but other problems pile up

While power has been restored for millions of Texans who had been without it in the bitter cold, the nightmare of the devastating winter storm isn't over.

Millions don't have safe water at home, and residents looking for groceries or bottled water said they arrived to stores with bare shelves and long lines.

The latest on the storm:

  • As of Friday morning, more than half a million people in the U.S. did not have electricity — Texas topped the list with less than 200,000 power outages, according to tracking website poweroutage.us.

  • In Texas, about 13 million people were under boil water orders in the wake of a winter storm that froze and bursted pipes, creating chaos for water treatment facilities.

  • Memphis International Airport was forced to temporarily close its passenger terminal and cancel all flights due to water pressure issues.

  • At least 43 people from 10 different states have died because of weather-related fatalities since Thursday, the majority in Texas.

When firefighters arrived at a fire at a San Antonio-area apartment building Thursday, their efforts were hampered by frozen hydrants. Crews had to shuttle in water to try to get the blaze, which displaced dozens, under control.

About 13 million people were under orders Thursday to boil tap water in the wake of the punishing winter weather that began a week ago and has paralyzed the state, caused frozen and burst water mains and residential pipes, and created chaos for water treatment facilities, according to Toby Baker, executive director for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The state is working with the federal government to bring in mobile labs to help do the tests needed to lift those advisories.

The president Thursday night said that he had offered support and resources for Texas.

The shelves are empty everywhere.. this a Wal Mart n San Antonio Texas .. it’s a mess . @KENS5 #TexasWinterStorm2021 #TexasFreeze pic.twitter.com/uy6tFgzxKk

— Keicia Shanta (@keiciashanta) February 18, 2021

"Tonight, I called Governor Greg Abbott to discuss the ongoing situation in Texas and identify ways we can support the state’s recovery from this storm. I made clear to the Governor that I’ll work relentlessly to get his state what they need," President Joe Biden tweeted.

People in Texas have reported stripped-bare store shelves and long lines.

Princess Tensley of Houston had no water service and intermittent power. Her cousin's family is also living in the home because they had no power or water, and they tried to buy supplies at stores Thursday but had no luck.

"We only have like two cases of water left. … So, we're trying to divide it between two families, and it's really hard," Tensley said. "We don't know what the next day is going to look like — and that's the scary part."

The city of Houston's office of emergency management tweeted early Friday that crews were working throughout the night to position pallets of water bottles in preparation for mass distribution at Delmar Stadium.

Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin, Texas, told NBC's "TODAY" show on Friday that “it feels like it’s just one thing after another after another."

“We were just not prepared for these cold temperatures,” he said. “We have a deregulated power system in the state, and it doesn’t work.”

Adler said there had been some power issues and water pressure issues at some Austin hospitals.

“It is constant hands on crews working in order to keep the hospitals open and working,” he added.

Austin cook Cesar Urías, 40, helped feed his community with ingredients from a restaurant that gave away food after losing power. Urías, who had not lost power, used the chicken and bread for sandwiches, which he then offered through a Facebook post and later delivered.

“I had 12 families yesterday that had three to seven children. Some were in their cars. It was very awful,” Urías said. The cook said he had hoped to make more, but ended up joining other Austin residents scrounging for slim pickings on grocery and convenience store shelves.

At points this week, more than 4 million people were without power — some for days. Early Friday, less than 200,000 customers in Texas were still without electricity, according to tracking website poweroutage.us.

"We are not yet out of this, but we're closer to this challenge being behind us," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday.

No residences were without electricity Thursday because of a lack of power generation, and "every available repair truck in Texas" has been dispatched to repair the downed lines and other issues causing continuing outages, the governor said.

Winter storms have left part of other states powerless, as well: Mississippi had more than 100,000 customers out and Louisiana more than 70,000.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves compared the damage to a hurricane.

"Unlike a hurricane or tornado, where the event comes furiously and then ends, this has been a slow-moving disaster. We have been in response mode, not recovery, constantly," Reeves tweeted Thursday.

In Tennessee, Memphis International Airport said it was forced to temporarily close its passenger terminal due to water pressure issues. Airlines have canceled all passenger flights for Friday, the airportsaid in a statement on its website.

In Oregon, around 73,000 customers were without power Thursday night after last week's storms, utility Portland General Electric said. It expected all but 15,000 to be restored by Friday night.

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In Louisiana, around 20,000 people had been without power since Monday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a Thursday news conference, although he expected most of those people to have power later that day.

More than 245,000 people in the state were affected by dozens of water outages, Edwards said. Boil water advisories affected around 1 million, he said.

In Vidalia in northeast Louisiana, Betsy Sawyer's water was cut off for part of Thursday, and she hadn't had electricity since Wednesday. She filled a bathtub with water to prepare.

"Lots of trees down,” she told The Associated Press. “Everybody’s scrambling, just doing their best.”

Temperatures in Fort Worth, Texas, and Houston and other parts of the state are forecast to be freezing in the overnight hours until Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. That is expected to cause ice and snow that melts during the day to refreeze and create slick roads.

The winter weather has played a role in at least 21 deaths in Texas, including six people who died in a massive pileup on a highway in Fort Worth last week. Two others died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a Houston home that had been using a car for warmth because there was no heat.

In Arkansas, a 69-year-old man was found dead earlier this week after falling into a frozen pond while trying to rescue a calf.

In Louisiana, three people died, including a 50-year-old man who slipped on ice in Lafayette Parish and hit his head on Monday, according to the state health department. Three people died in crashes on ice- and snow-covered roads in Kentucky, officials said.

And in Kentucky, two women died from hypothermia after their residences lost power, according to Boyd County Coroner Mark Hammond. Mabel Webb's building was without power for two to three days before maintenance workers found the 77-year-old woman, he said. The other victim was described as an 86-year-old woman who had arrhythmia and went into cardiac arrest, officials said.

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