Houston – Thein Texas and much of the South is getting worse, with millions facing another night in the dark with and there is no clean water. This relentless winter blast is credited with at least 24 deaths this week. A third of Americans are in the path of a second winter storm, with snow and ice heading for the East Coast.
Families in Houston and throughout Texas are doing just about anything to keep warm, sometimes making deadly decisions. Calls to 911 have increased throughout Texas. Hospitals have treated hundreds of people for cold exposure and carbon monoxide poisoning while Texans turn on generators and stay in their cars to keep warm.
Frustration boils over as utilities struggle to restore power. When officials point the finger, one thing is clear: Texas did not weatherproof many of its power generation facilities or pipelines, despite having suffered a similar freeze about a decade ago.
More than 2.5 million are in the dark without heating for a third day. Frozen pipes are bursting, flooding homes and businesses. A Dallas apartment building had icicles inside. So many pipes have burst that the governor of Texas is asking for help from plumbers in other states, as many counties warn that their water could be contaminated and should be boiled.
Steven and Laura Dandrige told CBS News that they would never have expected these conditions in the lone star state. They have lived in the dark and cold for most of the past three days with their 1-year-old son Bobby.
A boil water order has been issued for all of Houston and dozens of cities. However, in the worst affected areas, there is no water to boil because the taps are dry. Almost half of the state’s 254 counties are experiencing water problems.
Harris County Judge Lena Hidalgo compared it toin 2017. “This is very different from Harvey, but the scope of the impact is absolutely equivalent and it is something that is impacting not just the millions of people here in Harris County, but all of Texas,” Hidalgo said.
Desperate to stay warm, hundreds of people have been taken to hospitals with carbon monoxide poisoning, sometimes caused by bringing a grill indoors or keeping a car running in a garage.
Three children and their grandmother died in a house fire, who authorities said had been using a fireplace overnight.
When looking for food, there were lines to enter grocery stores that had empty shelves. There was even a gasoline run.
Questions continue to arise as to whether ERCOT, the utility company that oversees the Texas network, was ready.
“I’m confident that as we review this, when it’s done, we’ll find things we wish we had done better,” said Bill Magness, ERCOT CEO. “Right now, the number one priority is to get people’s power back on, to restore that service.”
But that’s not happening quickly and local officials are warning that the outages could last until the weekend.
Texas never had a contingency plan for the entire state to be under a winter storm warning. The Texas agriculture commissioner issued a red alert Wednesday, saying grocery store shelves are empty and they are seeing a food supply chain problem like they have never seen before.
Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesdayto restore power to millions of residents. He said that almost 40,000 megawatts of power remain disconnected due to mechanical problems, lack of gas and weather problems. But he said that as of midnight, 6,000 megawatts have been added to the grid, enough to power about 1.2 million homes.
The governor also announced that he signed an order that will prevent companies from selling natural gas out of state and will instead require that the fuel be sold to power generators in the state.
Meanwhile, the CDC warns that the winter storm means that– just when vaccines were increasing. Shipments are delayed up to 48 hours. In Texas, only 9% of the doses the state expected this week have been shipped. Moderna Inc. has not been able to ship any doses to Texas due to the storm.
Mola Lenghi contributed to this report.