Winter weather moves east as power is restored to millions in Texas
The Arctic outbreak associated with two major winter storms is maintaining its grip on much of the Lower 48 states, but the electricity grid in Texas has started to come back online, with power restored for millions of customers in hard-hit Texas.
Still, according to power outage.us, nearly 500,000 customers in Texas were in the dark Thursday morning - putting them at risk of hypothermia, with the additional challenges of contaminated water and dwindling food supplies.
The death toll in the cold, snow, ice and power outages has reached at least 20 since Sunday, when temperatures plunged sharply. The sprawling storm that brought snow and ice to Texas and Louisiana is now bringing hazardous weather to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
Despite the gains in restoring electricity, Texans could face more outages in the coming days as emergency conditions continue, the state's grid operator said.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said that while load-shedding was not happening now, more than 40,000 megawatts of generation remained on forced outage because of harsh weather. Transmission owners were working to turn the lights back on, the operator said, but "some level of rotating outages may be needed over the next couple of days to keep the grid stable."
"We're to the point in the load restoration where we are allowing transmission owners to bring back any load they can related to this load shed event," ERCOT Senior Director of System Operations Dan Woodfin said in a statement. "We will keep working around the clock until every single customer has their power back on."
ERCOT said customers without power were probably in areas that experienced ice storm damage on the distribution system, and areas taken out of service that need to be restored manually by grid workers. Large industrial facilities that voluntarily shut down to preserve power were also affected, according to the operator.
It's been a marathon week for dangerous winter weather across the Lone Star State, and the third winter storm in a week continues to affect south-central Texas. San Antonio is under a winter storm warning, while Austin remains under a winter weather advisory, with snow likely to fall most of today.
The latest storm will bring snow to a relatively limited region compared with earlier this week, when every county in Texas was under a winter storm warning. San Antonio could see one to three inches of accumulation, with as much as half a foot possible for the Rio Grande plains and the area between San Angelo and Interstate 10.
Farther north east, Austin looks to see a dusting to an inch, along with a light glaze of ice. Snow will last most of the day, lingering into the evening hours before rapidly dissipating shortly after sunset.
Though the snow remains confined to south-central Texas, dangerously cold temperatures will continue to be ubiquitous across the state. Austin could dip into the upper teens to near 20 degrees Thursday night into Friday morning, San Antonio to near 20 and Dallas-Fort Worth down to around 14 degrees. Single digits will be found in the Panhandle, such as Amarillo, where a low of 3 or 4 degrees is possible. In Houston, along the Gulf Coast, lows in the upper 20s are likely.
Once again, subfreezing air will probably surge as far south as Mexico. A marked warm-up will begin Saturday.
Also Thursday, President Joe Biden has approved an emergency declaration for Oklahoma, the White House said Thursday, unlocking federal assistance for the state as it battles the effects of severe winter weather pummeling the region.
The declaration authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief in the state's 77 counties in response to the winter storms.
"Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency," the White House said in a statement.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, R, thanked the president for "quick action" in approving the request. Stitt asked the White House for help Wednesday and said Biden had pledged federal support in a phone call with the governor.
The state's top emergency official, Mark Gower, said record-breaking low temperatures, combined with heavy snow and freezing rain, had strained communities throughout the state and made federal support crucial.