Millions are still without power as winter storms continue

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Judson Jones and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 8:20 p.m. ET, February 17, 2021
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2:52 p.m. ET, February 17, 2021

Texan mother says family slept in car overnight to keep warm and they're saving water in bathtubs

From CNN's Alisha Ebrahimji

Jordan Orta found herself sleeping in her car last night with her two-year-old son because it got so cold without power inside her home in San Antonio, Texas.

“A lot of people are losing water in my area and were told that they would be shutting water off for the whole city with no idea when it would be back so we filled up pitchers and tubs of water,” she told CNN. “I went to HEB yesterday and there was no water left so if we lose water it’s all we got until who knows when.”

Orta got power back briefly this morning and were able to briefly warm up until it was shut off again around 8:45 a.m. CT.

“We were without power from Monday morning until about 9 a.m. Tuesday. Then lost it again at 1 p.m. Tuesday, got it back at about 8 pm and then lost it again for night until 5 a.m.,” she said.

“We have a gas stove so we’ve been able to warm up leftovers and cook what we have,” Orta said.

The pair have been eating lots of sandwiches, she said. Her son “doesn’t really know anything is wrong, bless his heart. All he knows is that sometimes the lights don’t work and we have to use the flashlight to go potty. It’s amazing and sad at the same time.”

“He’s not really cold because he’s a busy body and he’s fully dressed. He still wants to go outside and play in what’s left of the snow," she said.

“HEB shelves were bare like this was the store of Covid again,” she added. “No meat, barely any non-perishables left. The lines were all the way down aisles and wrapped around some stores.”

Orta shared the following photos of how they are conserving water.

Jordan Orta
Jordan Orta

Jordan Orta
Jordan Orta

Orta spoke with CNN's Brianna Keilar. Watch the interview:

10:41 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

Texas electric officials say they hope to reduce outages "over the course of the day"

From CNN’s Carma Hassan

A utilities truck drives down a street in McKinney, Texas, during a power outage on February 16.
A utilities truck drives down a street in McKinney, Texas, during a power outage on February 16. Cooper Neill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, known as ERCOT, said some generation is slowly returning and they “hope to reduce outages over the course of the day” today.

“We know this is hard. We continue to work as quickly and safely as possible to restore power. We gained some MWs (megawatts) overnight but are back to 14,000 MW of load shed; lost east DC-tie imports due to Midwest power emergency. We hope to reduce outages over the course of the day,” ERCOT said in a tweet. The company which controls most of the state's grid.

Earlier this morning, the agency said they restored power to 600,000 households overnight, but 2.7 million households remain without power.  

Last night, ERCOT cited frigid temperatures as an obstacle to restoring the load. 

“ERCOT is restoring load as fast as we can in a stable manner. Generating units across fuel types continue to struggle with frigid temperatures,” they tweeted.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has called for an investigation into ERCOT. The group's CEO on Tuesday defended their controlled outages, saying they "kept the grid from collapsing" and sending the state into a complete blackout.

Across the state: AEP Texas, which serves cities such as Corpus Christi and Abilene, says ERCOT has ordered them to shed load again.

“OUTAGE ALERT: @ERCOT has issued an order to AEP Texas to shed load once again. Please prepare for more power outages and expect current power outages to continue. AEP Texas stands ready to restore electric service as soon as power is available. #WeAreAEPTexas,” the electric company said in a tweet.  

10:27 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

Vaccines sites in at least 15 states are impacted by the winter weather

From CNN's Greg Wallace

This FEMA map, up to date as of this morning, shows states that “have reported COVID-19 vaccination site closures due to the ongoing storms and will reschedule appointments once the storms have passed.”   

These states, highlighted in yellow, are described by FEMA as having “limited impacts: "Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana. 

None of the states are in the red, which would mean they are having “significant impacts.”

10:53 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

Florida officials blame winter weather for Covid-19 vaccine shipment delay of 200,000 doses

From CNN’s Sara Weisfeldt and Rosa Flores in Miami 

Florida officials blame winter weather across the country for the shipment delay of 200,000 Moderna Covid-19 vaccine doses, according to Jason Mahon, Florida Department of Health Communications Director.

The shipment was scheduled to arrive yesterday, Mahon said.

Mahon tells CNN, the state has notified vaccine providers about the delay and has asked them to reschedule appointments instead of cancelling them. 

The state is expecting to receive next week’s full allocation of the vaccine, per Mahon.

10:52 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

Millions of people are without power. Here's how to stay safe if you are in the dark.

From CNN's Scottie Andrew

Many states across the country continue to deal with extreme cold. In Texas alone, about 2.8 million are still without power, and temperatures are well below freezing across the entire state.

If you lose power, here are some tips to stay safe:

  • Stay home: Staying indoors is your best bet at staying safe during a winter power outage, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
  • Take stock of the essentials: In case the power outage lasts a few days, you should have the following on hand: A three- to seven-day supply of food and water, flashlight and extra batteries, a battery-powered radio, extra medicine and first-aid supplies.
  • Stay warm: Layer up — it's going to get cold. In extreme cold, the Houston Office of Emergency Management recommends wearing at least three layers of tops, plus an outer layer to block out wind, and two layers of bottoms. A hat, gloves and a warm face mask are musts, too.
  • Be careful of carbon monoxide: Generators can release poisonous carbon monoxide if you use them inside your home. If you're using one this week, keep it outside, about 20 feet away from your home, the CDC advises.

Here are some other things to keep in mind:

  • Food safety: After four hours, some food in your fridge may not be safe to eat. The CDC advises that while the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors shut as much as possible to keep food colder for longer.
  • Water safety: Some water purification systems may not function fully when the power goes out, the CDC warns. You can check with local officials to make sure your water is safe — they should give you specific recommendations for treating water in your area. Additionally to avoid freezing pipes, let your taps drip

If you have low bandwidth, use CNN's lite site to get the latest updates on conditions in your area.

9:54 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

Austin Energy says customers should be prepared to not have power through today — and maybe longer  

From CNN’s Carma Hassan  

A man fills a propane tank in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, February 16.
A man fills a propane tank in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, February 16. Sergio Flores/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Austin Energy, the city of Austin’s community-owned electric utility, told customers they are facing challenges with restoring power to the city and as a result, “customers should be prepared to not have power through Wednesday and possibly longer.”

“Due to the ice storm, we are now in two emergency events. 1. We still have outages to help maintain ERCOT's electric grid. 2. The ice storm is now causing more outages throughout our service area,” the utility company tweeted.

Austin Energy told people to utilize warming shelters in the city if they need to.

Last night, Austin Energy said ERCOT — the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which controls much of the state's grid — ordered them to “shed more load” and they are working to meet their “obligations to maintain the state’s electrical grid.”

“Unfortunately, ERCOT is ordering us to shed more load tonight as demand on the grid increases, and those restored customers may again lose power. We are frustrated but we are working to meet our obligations to maintain the state's electrical grid,” Austin Energy tweeted.

9:18 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

Heavy, freezing rains could hit Louisiana in the next few hours

The National Weather Service forecast that heavy, freezing rains are expected to develop and spread across parts of central Louisiana this morning.

"Rates of 0.10 to 0.30 inch per hour are probable," the service tweeted.

Here's a look at the forecast:

9:20 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

“We don’t have an end in sight” to power outage woes, Texas county judge says 

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Lina Hidalgo, judge for Harris County, Texas, where Houston is located, warned residents to buckle up for the possibility of a few more days without power. Hidalgo also serves as the county's chief executive.

About 2.5 million people and 34 cities in Harris County do not have power, Hidalgo said on CNN's "New Day." Pipes are bursting, many residents do not have water and hospitals are reporting issues as well after a winter storm bringing ice and frigid temperatures gripped the state, she said.  

“The energy is really at the heart of it, and we don't have an end in sight for when that is going to pass,” Hidalgo said. 

Hidalgo said state and local leaders are working with utilities companies to get power back on in the short term, and then determine what went wrong.  

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is a major grid operator that controls about 90% of the state's electric load.

“Over the past couple of days, we've heard from ERCOT that they are bringing generators back up, but on the ground, fewer and fewer people have had power. So what I've said is give it to us straight,” Hidalgo said. “And I'm telling my community do not expect the power to come back even after the weather passes. So, you know, right now we're trying to survive the impacts of the power and getting ready for several days maybe — we don't know how long — without power. And just hoping that the grid sustains itself.”

“ERCOT needs to get its generators back up, and I do not trust they're in a place to say we're going to get it back up today, tomorrow. I believe it's going to take some time, and that's what I'm explaining to my residents,” she added.


9:06 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

What to expect from the next major winter storm to grip the US

Another "major winter storm" will grip parts of Central US starting today, an area already hard-hit by freezing temperatures and ice earlier this week, according to the National Weather Service.

More than four inches of snow is possible in parts of Oklahoma, and freezing rain is likely from Texas to Tennessee, the service said.

This storm will extend into the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, with more than eight inches of snow possible in parts of Pennsylvania.

Here's a look at what to expect today through Friday: