Crisis far from over amid new storm
A deadly winter weather system that brought record-busting cold to the southern and central United States, knocking out power for millions in oil-rich Texas, blanketed the East Coast in snow on Thursday, disrupting coronavirus vaccinations.
Historic storms have seen Arctic cold envelope much of the US sun belt unfamiliar with such extremes, leaving dozens of dead in its wake and several million Texans told to boil water before consuming it.
A major winter storm impacted an area on Thursday stretching from Virginia to the Northeast, bringing icy buildups and treacherous travel conditions, the National Weather Service said.
Snow fell steadily across New York City throughout the day, forcing the cancellation of about 200 flights and delaying the opening of two COVID19 vaccination sites after the storm disrupted dosage delivery.
“The occasional snowstorm is always good but as we’re getting closer to March it gets a little tiring. I’m ready for it to start being warm again,” said 18-year-old student Kara Dickson.
A weather warning was in effect in New Jersey, where Governor Phil Murphy announced the temporary closure of several vaccination sites.
Across Texas, which has been hardest hit by the cold snap, utility companies were gradually restoring power though more than 250,000 homes and businesses remained without electricity late on Thursday, according to PowerOutage.us.
Misery of water pipes
Even as the lights came back on, some Texas residents were dealing with the misery of water pipes that had burst in the frigid temperatures.
“It was like a waterfall was coming down and it was starting to come out of the bathroom and to the other rooms,” said Birgit Kamps of Houston.
Water pressure problems meant nearly seven million Texans were being advised to boil their water before drinking it or using it for cooking, said Toby Baker, head of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, adding nearly 264,000 people were impacted by nonoperational water systems.
Texas power companies implemented rolling blackouts to avoid grids being overloaded as residents cranked up the heat. The surge in demand came as generating capacity dropped thanks to power stations and wind turbines freezing.
In a local supermarket in Houston, empty shelves were seen on Wednesday in the bottled water section. Bread and canned food were also in short supply as people tried their luck to stockpile in the shop that had managed to stay open, Xinhua News Agency reported.
US President Joe Biden spoke on Thursday evening with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, pledging the federal government would work “handin-hand” with state authorities to offer relief, the White House said.
Biden declared states of emergency and dispatched help to states crippled by the storms and power outages. “I’ve declared states of emergency, authorized the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to provide generators and supplies, and am ready to fulfill additional requests,” he wrote on Twitter.
The extreme winter weather has killed at least 38 nationwide and nearly 72 percent of the country is covered with snowfall.