Catastrophic winter storm moves east

By Judson Jones, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Meg Wagner and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021
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9:02 a.m. ET, February 18, 2021

Dallas County judge says blame for power crisis "lies squarely" on Texas governor and Rick Perry

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a press conference in Austin on May 18, 2020.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a press conference in Austin on May 18, 2020. Lynda M. Gonzalez/Pool/Getty Images

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, the county’s director of emergency management, says the fault of the power and water crisis in Texas “lies squarely on Rick Perry and the current Gov. Greg Abbott.” 

“They and their team passed the regulations that tell people whether or not they need to winterize. They chose not to tell companies…that they need to winterize,” he told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. “…They're now trying to blame it on a company called ERCOT that Gov. Abbott hired. They can easily fire that company and hire another one.” 

ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, is an independent organization that operates Texas' power grid.

“If they don't take responsibility and fix this and by putting in winterization guidelines for gas lines that are frozen underground and for energy generators that haven't worked because they're not winterized, this will happen again. The fault lies with those two individuals alone,” Jenkins said, adding that the Railroad Commission of Texas also “shoulder[s] the responsibility for not modernizing the gas pipeline system.”

Some background: In a blog posted on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s website, former Texas Gov. and Energy Secretary Rick Perry said that his home state’s current situation can be traced to “insufficient baseload power,” and claims that he and his fellow Texans will go without power for a longer period if it keeps the federal government from over-regulating their power grid.

“Extreme weather in Texas and around the world now is a completely predictable event,” Jenkins said. 

“So to say that you're fine with three days of power outage, and that's the price you'll pay, is a false choice,” he added on Perry’s statements. 

About 23,000 people in Dallas County have been without power for three days, Jenkins said, and crews are working to restore it. 

“What we have now is lines and transformers that are frozen during the time the power was out, that after they were re-energized, they were found to be faulty,” he explained. 

Watch Judge Clay Jenkins:

8:34 a.m. ET, February 18, 2021

Winter weather now threatens to slam the East Coast. Here's what we expect.

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

Dozens of people across the United States have died from a spate of winter storms — and now the weather is threatening to pummel the mid-Atlantic and Northeast with snow and ice.

More than 100 million people stretching from Texas to Massachusetts are under a winter storm warning or winter weather advisory.

The cold weather that has brought blankets of snow and widespread power outages in Texas as well as Oklahoma is expected to move east Thursday, bringing with it a half an inch of ice to parts of North Carolina and Virginia, according to CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward.

A tornado watch is in effect for parts of the Florida Panhandle, Southwest Georgia and Southeast Alabama until 8 a.m. EST. Washington, DC will be coated in snow, sleet and freezing rain by Thursday morning, while New York should see six to eight inches of snow in the afternoon, Ward said.

The weather is not the typical winter cold. Some of those who have already been impacted by the storms have spent days without power and water, and likely won't see temperatures rise above freezing until next week.

8:32 a.m. ET, February 18, 2021

San Antonio family recounts challenges without power after winter storms

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

A San Antonio couple and their three kids lost power on Monday, and it was finally restored last night. 

Claudia and Eder Lemus tried to stay warm by building a fire, bundling up in blankets and running the stove over the past few days.

They were able to get by with food, but Claudia said many grocery stores were shut down and they had to wait in lines for about 30 minutes to grab what was available. 

Claudia, a high school teacher, said it has been “heartbreaking” to hear what some of her students are going through without power or water.

“They're worried about whether we're expecting them to be turning in work. So I'm trying to support them and let them know, ‘no, take care of yourself first. We'll figure this out next week.’ But it's been hard. It's been really hard across the board,” she said

They are a military family and have lived all over the US and world, they said, but never encountered issues like this. 

“We never anticipated to have to have [these] challenges. We've lived in Virginia, where they have a lot of snow. We've lived abroad in Korea, where they have a lot of snow. And we never anticipated the city to come to such a standstill because of this,” she said. 

Watch:

8:26 a.m. ET, February 18, 2021

Texas official on power outages and water problems: “It is a mess”

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Hundreds of thousands remain without power for a fourth straight day in Texas and nearly 12 million people are facing water disruptions, with cities like Austin issuing boil water notices to residents. 

Austin Mayor Steve Adler told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota the situation is “pretty dire” in his city right now. 

“We need to make sure that people are not using a drop of water that they don't need to use, so we can build back up our reserves and our pressure so that we can remove that warning,” Adler said. "It is yet just another really hard thing to layer on top of the community. But the message right now is to focus on these next two, three days. Keep people safe, let's conserve energy and water, and then we have tons of questions.”

Adler said the state needs to better regulate its power system.

“We also need an explanation and an understanding of how…we're not going to get back here again,” Adler said. 

KP George, judge of Fort Bend County, which is outside of Houston, said he is sleeping in his office but his home just got heat restored again last night. 

“Many people are living inside their car and we are noticing here some fatalities of carbon monoxide … and it is a mess. It is a mess,” George said. 
“We are on our own grid; we’re on a regional grid. And I think we are paying a price for it now,” he added. 

Watch:

8:26 a.m. ET, February 18, 2021

Here's the latest on the situation in Texas as millions face water disruptions

From CNN's Jon Passantino

Hundreds of thousands remain without power for a fourth straight day in Texas after some of the coldest weather in decades tripped many of the state's power plants offline, prompting an electricity crisis that at its peak affected some 4.5 million homes and businesses. Millions now are facing water disruptions as winter weather continues to grip the state.

Officials are warning the power outages may continue for days to come. 

Here's a look at the latest updates from the state:

  • As of 8 a.m. ET, more than 550,000 customers remained without power in Texas, per PowerOutrages.us. In some locations, residents have been without power for several days.
  • Nearly 12 million people are facing water disruptions, with boil water notices, broken pipes and failing systems amid the frigid cold and power outages, state officials said. The cities of Austin and San Antonio issued boil water notices to their 2.5 million residents on Wednesday evening.
  • At least 38 people have died across eight states as a result of the brutal cold weather and winter storms impacting the US, including in carbon monoxide related incidents and vehicle crashes.
  • Millions of homes have had their power restored since the peak of the outages, but about 10,000 megawatts of power remain offline, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wed night. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) says it is making progress in its efforts to restore power and that local utilities may be able to return to rotating outages instead of extended outages, by this morning as power loads continue to increase.
  • The governor said most of the state north of Interstate 10 is forecast to experience below freezing temperatures until Saturday.