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The Latest: Thousands remain without water, power in US

February 17, 2021 GMT
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Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon stands on his kitchen counter to warm his feet over his gas stove Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Power was out for thousands of central Texas residents after temperatures dropped into the single digits when a snow storm hit the area on Sunday night. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
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Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon stands on his kitchen counter to warm his feet over his gas stove Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Power was out for thousands of central Texas residents after temperatures dropped into the single digits when a snow storm hit the area on Sunday night. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

The Latest on winter weather across the U.S. (all times local):

AUSTIN — Leaders in Austin and the Houston area are asking residents to stop dripping water from their faucets because of a drop in water pressure.

The prolonged freeze in Texas was taking an accelerating toll on water systems. Burst residential pipes, water main breaks and dripping faucets was causing “extraordinary” demand in Austin, city officials said Wednesday. The situation was even more dire a few miles south in Kyle, where city officials asked all of its 45,000 residents to stop using water immediately.

“Water should only be used to sustain life at this point,” the city warned in an advisory.

Residents in mild climates are often told to leave their faucets dripping to prevent pipes from freezing in cold weather.

But Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo says the Houston area is seeing a drop in water pressure because of power outages and burst pipes, and that’s taking away water supply needed for hospitals and fire departments.

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Hidalgo says the drop in water pressure is also allowing bacteria to seep into the pipes.

“Everyone needs to assume that they are under a boil order notice,” unless they’ve been told otherwise, she said.

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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.

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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.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — The Louisiana Department of Health on Wednesday confirmed three deaths related to winter weather this week.

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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.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said cold coastal waters could kill large numbers of fish, though it’s too early to tell if that will happen,

None had been reported as of Wednesday afternoon, department spokesman Rene LeBreton said.

“If fish kills do occur, the fish could be on the bottom of water bodies and may not be visible for a week or more,” the department noted in a news release Tuesday.

Although cold inland water might cause “small isolated” shad kills, biologists don’t expect serious problems with freshwater sport fish, the department said.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Officials in Oklahoma City say a homeless man is believed to the first weather-related death in the city since a winter storm and subfreezing temperatures moved into the state.

The man, described only as being in his 50s, was found west of downtown Oklahoma City, said Jerod Shadid, director of the city’s homeless services.

“With the weather it’s been hard ... to reach some locations, (homeless) camps can be far out in the field” and difficult for officials to reach, Shadid said. “We think it will be likely that we may find more people next week.”

Police Capt. Dan Stewart said there are no other known or suspected weather-related deaths in the city and that the cause of the homeless man’s death, while appearing to be due to the cold weather, will be determined by the state medical examiner.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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