Miami Herald (Sunday)

Frozen pipes, elec­tric woes re­main as cold snap eases its grip

- BY JAKE BLEIBERG AND MARK SCOLFORO As­so­ci­ated Press Weather · United States of America · Dallas · Tennessee · Kentucky · Oregon · Joe Biden · Louisiana · Mississippi · General Electric · Portland · Kate Brown · Air National Guard · West Virginia · Virginia · Greg Abbott · Minnesota · Jackson · Memphis · Baton Rouge · Louisiana State Penitentiary · Louisiana State University · Angola · Oklahoma City · Oklahoma · Disasters · Abilene, TX · Portland General Electric Company · Wayne County · Wayne, WV · Jackson · Memphis International Airport · Hunt

Warmer tem­per­a­tures spread across the south­ern United States on Satur­day, bring­ing re­lief to a win­ter­weary re­gion that faces a chal­leng­ing clean-up and ex­pen­sive re­pairs from days of ex­treme cold and wide­spread power out­ages.

In hard-hit Texas, where mil­lions were warned to boil tap wa­ter be­fore drink­ing it, the warm-up was ex­pected to last for sev­eral days. The thaw pro­duced burst pipes through­out the re­gion, adding to the list of woes from se­vere con­di­tions that were blamed for more than 70 deaths.

By Satur­day af­ter­noon, the sun had come out in Dallas and tem­per­a­tures were near­ing the 50s. Peo­ple emerged to walk and jog in res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods af­ter days in­doors. Many roads had dried out, and patches of snow were melt­ing. Snow­men slumped.

Linda Nguyen woke up in a Dallas ho­tel room Satur­day morn­ing with an as­sur­ance she hadn’t had in nearly a week: She and her cat had some­where to sleep with power and wa­ter.

Elec­tric­ity had been re­stored to her apart­ment on Wed­nes­day. But when Nguyen ar­rived home from work the next evening she found a soaked car­pet. A pipe had burst in her bed­room.

“It’s es­sen­tially un­liv­able,” said Nguyen, 27, who works in real es­tate. “Ev­ery­thing is com­pletely ru­ined.”

Deaths at­trib­uted to the weather in­clude a man at an Abi­lene health care fa­cil­ity where the lack of wa­ter pres­sure made med­i­cal treat­ment im­pos­si­ble. Of­fi­cials also re­ported deaths from hy­pother­mia, in­clud­ing home­less peo­ple and those in­side build­ings with no power or heat. Oth­ers died in car ac­ci­dents on icy roads or from sus­pected car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing.

Roughly half the deaths re­ported so far oc­curred in Texas, with mul­ti­ple fa­tal­i­ties also in Ten­nessee, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and a few other South­ern and Mid­west­ern states.

A Ten­nessee farmer died try­ing to save two calves from a frozen pond.

Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den’s of­fice said Satur­day he has de­clared a ma­jor disas­ter in Texas, di­rect­ing fed­eral agen­cies to help in the re­cov­ery.

The storms left more than 300,000 still with­out power across the coun­try on Satur­day, many of them in Texas, Louisiana and Mis­sis­sippi.

More than 50,000 Ore­gon elec­tric­ity cus­tomers were among those with­out power, more than a week af­ter an ice storm rav­aged the elec­tri­cal grid. Port­land Gen­eral Elec­tric had hoped to have ser­vice back to all but 15,000 cus­tomers by Fri­day night. But the util­ity dis­cov­ered ad­di­tional dam­age in pre­vi­ously in­ac­ces­si­ble ar­eas.

Ore­gon Gov. Kate Brown or­dered the Na­tional Guard to go door-to-door in some ar­eas to check on res­i­dents’ wel­fare. At its peak, what was the worst ice storm in 40 years knocked out power to more than 350,000.

In West Vir­ginia, Ap­palachian Power was work­ing on a list of about 1,500 places that needed re­pair, as about 44,000 cus­tomers in the state re­mained with­out elec­tric­ity af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing back-to-back ice storms Feb. 11 and Feb. 15. More than 3,200 work­ers were at­tempt­ing to get power back on­line, their ef­forts spread across the six most af­fected coun­ties on Satur­day.

In Wayne County, West Vir­ginia, work­ers had to re­place the same pole three times be­cause trees kept fall­ing on it.

Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott met Satur­day with leg­is­la­tors to dis­cuss en­ergy prices,

Nim Kidd, head of the Texas Di­vi­sion of Emer­gency Man­age­ment, told re­porters. Some Tex­ans could be fac­ing mas­sive spikes in elec­tric bills af­ter whole­sale en­ergy prices sky­rock­eted.

Wa­ter woes added mis­ery for peo­ple across the South who went with­out heat or elec­tric­ity for days af­ter the ice. Snow storms forced rolling black­outs from Min­nesota to Texas.

Robert Tuskey was re­triev­ing tools from the back of his pickup truck Satur­day af­ter­noon as he pre­pared to fix a wa­ter line at a friend’s home in Dallas.

“Ev­ery­thing’s been freez­ing,” Tuskey said. “I even had one in my own house . of course I’m lucky I’m a plumber.”

Tuskey, 49, said his plumb­ing busi­ness has had a stream of calls for help from friends and rel­a­tives with burst pipes. “I’m fix­ing to go help out another fam­ily mem­ber,” he said. “I know she ain’t got no money at all, but they ain’t got no wa­ter at all, and they’re older.”

In Jack­son, Mis­sis­sippi, most of the city of about 161,000 lacked run­ning wa­ter, and of­fi­cials blamed city wa­ter mains that are more than 100 years old and not built for freez­ing weather.

The city was pro­vid­ing wa­ter for flush­ing toi­lets and drink­ing. But res­i­dents had to pick it up, leav­ing the el­derly and those liv­ing on icy roads vul­ner­a­ble.

In­com­ing and out­go­ing pas­sen­ger flights at Mem­phis In­ter­na­tional Air­port re­sumed Satur­day af­ter all flights were can­celed Fri­day be­cause of wa­ter pres­sure prob­lems. The is­sues hadn’t been re­solved, but air­port of­fi­cials set up tem­po­rary re­stroom fa­cil­i­ties.

Prison rights ad­vo­cates said some cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties across Louisiana had in­ter­mit­tent elec­tric­ity and frozen pipes, af­fect­ing toi­lets and show­ers.

The men who are sick, el­derly or be­ing held not in dor­mi­to­ries but in cell blocks – small spa­ces sur­rounded by con­crete walls – were es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble, ac­cord­ing to Voice of the Ex­pe­ri­enced, a grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tion founded and run by formerly in­car­cer­ated peo­ple. The group said one man at Elayn Hunt Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter, just south of Ba­ton Rouge, de­scribed a thin layer of ice on his walls.

Cam­mie Ma­turin said she spoke to men at the 6,300in­mate Louisiana State Pen­i­ten­tiary in An­gola who were given no ex­tra pro­vi­sions to pro­tect them­selves from the cold.

“They give them no ex­tra blan­kets. No ex­tra any­thing, For them, it’s just been fend for your­self,” said Ma­turin, pres­i­dent of the non­profit H.O.P.E. Foun­da­tion.

In many ar­eas, wa­ter pres­sure dropped af­ter lines froze and be­cause peo­ple left faucets drip­ping to pre­vent pipes from ic­ing, au­thor­i­ties said.

As of Satur­day, 1,445 pub­lic wa­ter sys­tems in Texas had re­ported dis­rupted op­er­a­tions, said Toby Baker ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the state Com­mis­sion on En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity. Gov­ern­ment agen­cies were us­ing mo­bile labs and co­or­di­nat­ing to speed wa­ter test­ing.

That’s up from 1,300 re­port­ing is­sues Fri­day af­ter­noon, but Baker said the num­ber of af­fected cus­tomers had dropped slightly. Most were un­der boil-wa­ter or­ders, with 156,000 lack­ing wa­ter ser­vice en­tirely.

“It seems like last night we may have seen some sta­bi­liza­tion in the wa­ter sys­tems across the state,” Baker said.

The Satur­day thaw af­ter 11 days of freez­ing tem­per­a­tures in Oklahoma City left res­i­dents with burst wa­ter pipes, in­op­er­a­ble wells and fur­naces knocked out of op­er­a­tion by brief power black­outs.

Ab­bott or­dered an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the fail­ure for a state known as the U.S. en­ergy cap­i­tal. ERCOT of­fi­cials have de­fended their prepa­ra­tions and the de­ci­sion to be­gin forced out­ages Mon­day as the grid reached break­ing point.

 ?? JUSTIN SUL­LI­VAN Getty Im­ages ?? Vol­un­teers pack emer­gency dis­tri­bu­tion boxes at the Hous­ton Food Bank on Satur­day to be given out to res­i­dents in need af­ter win­ter storm Uri swept across 26 states with a mix of freez­ing tem­per­a­tures and pre­cip­i­ta­tion last week.
JUSTIN SUL­LI­VAN Getty Im­ages Vol­un­teers pack emer­gency dis­tri­bu­tion boxes at the Hous­ton Food Bank on Satur­day to be given out to res­i­dents in need af­ter win­ter storm Uri swept across 26 states with a mix of freez­ing tem­per­a­tures and pre­cip­i­ta­tion last week.

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