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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10:50 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

Nearly 3.4 million Texas customers still without power

From CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian

Millions of Texans woke up to another day without power due to winter storms that have swept most of the nation the past few days.

As of 10:30 a.m. ET, there were at least 3,411,952 outages reported in state. 

Nationwide, a total of 3,796,707 customers are without power according to data from PowerOutage.US

10:48 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

If you have to go out today, here are some tips for driving in winter conditions

From CNN's Marnie Hunter

Motorists drive on I-35 in Austin, Texas, on February 15.
Motorists drive on I-35 in Austin, Texas, on February 15. Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

A driver's best bet is to stay home when wintry weather coats the roads in snow and ice. For those who must go out, it's important to plan. AAA recommends motorists pack a winter driving kit that includes:

  • A bag of abrasive material (sand, salt or cat litter), a snow shovel and traction mats
  • An ice scraper and window washing liquid
  • Booster cables
  • A flashlight, along with warning flares or triangles
  • A cellphone and charger
  • Extra set of gloves and a blanket
  • Emergency food supplies such as power bars, beef jerky and other foods you can eat in your vehicle. Also carry water with you.

Here's some advice for when you're out on the road:

Parking: Try to ease your vehicle out of parking spaces without spinning the wheels. Drive back and forth for several feet in either direction to clear a path. Spread sand or salt near the wheels if additional traction is needed.

Ice on your vehicle: Iced-over vehicles can limit driver visibility, and ice flying off cars can be hazardous to fellow drivers, so de-ice vehicles before driving.

Driving: If you have to drive in conditions with low visibility, go slowly with your headlights on low beam, AAA advises. Allow at least double the usual following distance between cars. Never use cruise control on a slick surface.

Steering around an obstruction is often safer than braking suddenly at speeds above 25 mph on a slippery surface, according to AAA's pamphlet "How to Go on Ice and Snow" (PDF).

When you do brake, don't remove your foot from the brake or pump the pedal if you have anti-lock brakes, AAA advises. Drivers of cars that don't have anti-lock brakes should keep their heel on the floor and apply firm pressure to the brake pedal to the threshold of locking.

In case of skidding, steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go, keeping your eyes on your travel path. And don't slam on the brakes; you're likely to make it harder to get back in control.

Watch these tips in action:

11:51 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021

These Southern cities are reporting their longest stretches of cold temperatures in decades

From CNN's Brandon Miller

People line up to fill their empty propane tanks in Houston on February 16.
People line up to fill their empty propane tanks in Houston on February 16. Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP

The dangerous cold outbreak across the Central and Southern US is become noteworthy not just because of the extremely cold temperatures, but also because of the length of time these locations have endured without warming significantly.

Why this matters: The extended cold places even more strain on energy resources as buildings are unable to warm up naturally.

Here is a sample of cold stretches for some locations and where they rank historically:

  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Today is the ninth consecutive day without topping 20 degrees, an all-time record. The previous longest stretch was five days in 1983.
  • Dallas, Texas: Today is the fourth consecutive day below freezing, and the temperature is not forecast to climb above freezing until Friday afternoon. This will be the longest stretch (six days) since 1983 and a top-five longest stretch since records began in 1898.
  • Houston, Texas: Today is the fourth consecutive day below 40 degrees and the forecast does not call for temperatures above 40 until Friday. This will be tied for the second longest stretch below 40 and the longest since 1983. 
  • Austin, Texas: Today is the sixth consecutive day without topping 35 degrees in Austin, already the longest stretch on record. That stretch is expected to last until Friday, for a total of seven days below 35. The old record was five days in 1983.
  • Memphis, Tennessee: Today is the sixth consecutive day below freezing, the fourth longest streak. Memphis is expected to stay below freezing through Friday, which will tie the all-time record of nine days below the freezing mark.  
  • Little Rock, Arkansas: Today is the seventh consecutive day below freezing, a top-five longest stretch. This streak could reach nine days by Friday and will be the second longest stretch in history, behind 1983’s 12 days. 
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.