Millions under winter weather alerts as Texas faces water crisis

By Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, February 19, 2021
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12:24 p.m. ET, February 19, 2021

Austin resident says her family is melting snow in their bathtub for water

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

While Austin resident Jenn Studebaker’s home has had power recently restored, her family doesn’t have water. 

The family slept around their fireplace all week, first using chairs and bookshelves to burn to keep themselves warm, she told CNN’s Omar Jimenez. 

As they realized the power wasn’t going to come back on any time soon, they dragged home pallets from the back of a store and started scavenging for wood. 

Studebaker said they emptied out cans of green beans for water and now they are melting snow in their bathtub to drink and fill up their toilet. 

They also waited in line for five hours to buy basics, she said. 

“We’re exhausted, honestly,” she said.

Austin remains under a boil water notice and is telling residents to "conserve water as much as possible."

Watch:

12:11 p.m. ET, February 19, 2021

A week of storms shown on weather radar

It's been a long week across the southern tip of the US. 

As the bitter cold settled in at the end of last week, this is what the winter weather looked like on the radar as the storms sluggishly moved through:

12:05 p.m. ET, February 19, 2021

Biden says he may travel to Texas next week

From CNN's Allie Malloy

President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 19.
President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 19. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden said he plans on traveling to Texas next week, with the caveat that he would only do so if his visit doesn't further burden the state. 

"The answers yes. The question is, I had planned on being in Texas the middle of next week. The question is when the President lands in any city in America it creates — it has a long tail and they're working like the devil to take care of their folks," Biden said when asked whether he had plans to visit the state.

Biden said that if it's concluded he can visit without "creating a burden" he plans on going. He added that the decision will be made the beginning of next week. 

Asked by CNN if he plans to grant a request for a major disaster declaration in Texas, Biden confirmed he would and laid out what the federal government has done in response so far. 

Biden repeated that "when any state" asks him for help he will deliver, repeating one of his favorite lines: "I'm going to be a President for all America, all — there's no red or blue." 

11:57 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

Power emergency ends after more than 4 days, Texas grid operator announces

Transmission towers and power lines lead to a substation on February 16 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Transmission towers and power lines lead to a substation on February 16 in Fort Worth, Texas. Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

For the first time in more than four days, the energy emergency that caused millions of Texans to lose power and water has ended, the state’s grid operator the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, known as ERCOT, has announced.

"Operations have returned to normal. Conservation is still encouraged," ERCOT said in a tweet.

ERCOT operates about 90% of Texas’ power grid.

The operator has come under fire for alleged failures to prepare the state for the winter storm that left millions without power in the state this week.

11:48 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

80,000 Louisiana households and businesses still without power due to winter storm, governor says

From CNN's Gregory Lemos

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said 80,000 households and businesses across the state are still without power as a result of devastating winter storms in the region.  

"This is a very, very challenging situation in the state of Louisiana," Edwards said during a Washington Post Live interview Friday.   

Edwards said the state will have to get through one more night of freezing temperatures before it starts to warm up and conditions begin to return to normal. 

The governor added that the north portion of the state has been particularly hard-hit and is still buried in snow and ice.  

Edwards said the federal response to the recent crisis has been sufficient and highlighted the state's on-going federal presence because of the pandemic and recent hurricanes. The governor said FEMA has been embedded in his office for months.  

11:59 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

School meal distribution has been impacted in Houston affecting some 200,000 people, official says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Grenita Lathan, superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, speaks during an interview on February 19.
Grenita Lathan, superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, speaks during an interview on February 19. CNN via Webex Cisco

Winter storms in Texas have impacted the distribution of meals at schools for thousands of children and their families. In Houston, the last meal was distributed on Feb. 13, and this could have impacted about 200,000 people, according to Grenita Lathan, Superintendent of the Houston Independent School District.

“We have over 196,000 students in our district and actually, daily 86,000 attend class face-to-face. So you can average that out to about 200,000 students when you include their siblings and families that we've been feeding,” she told CNN.

Over 130 of the district’s facilities lost power and water, including the nutrition services building that stores the food, Lathan added. The assessment of these facilities is still underway and if the water issue is not resolved soon, staff and students will not be able to return next week.

Watch the full interview:

11:21 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

The storm continues along the East Coast

Winter weather alerts continue for over 40 million in the Northeast, including DC, New York City, Philadelphia and Boston, where wintry precipitation continues to fall.

“Over 10 inches of snow has fallen in parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey,” CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen says. 

Snow will linger for much of the day with the heaviest, an additional 2 to 4 inches, expected in New England.

It is likely that warmer air will lead to sleet and even freezing rain mixing in places like New York City. 

This could lead to dangerous icy conditions. 

Hugging the coastline through the South, the storm is delivering a wintry mix in Virginia and flooding rains to Coastal North Carolina. 

As we move into the weekend, a quieter weather pattern is forecast. 

“The current system that is bringing snow and freezing rain to the Northeast and northern Mid-Atlantic, as well as rain and thunderstorms to the Southeast, will taper off today while lingering snow showers will continue over much of the interior Northeast and New England through Saturday,” says the Weather Prediction Center.

11:04 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

The thaw is coming

From CNN's Allison Chinchar

The sun is out for many today and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Finally, cities like Dallas, Houston, Oklahoma City, Little Rock and Shreveport, Louisiana, will see high temperatures Friday above the freezing mark.

And even warmer temperatures are on the horizon. 

Starting this weekend, many of the areas hit hard by snow and ice will finally begin to thaw. With that said, it is still cold. Very cold across much of the central US. Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Kansas City, and Minneapolis will all have high temperatures around 20 to 25 degrees below normal today. 

Saturday morning, there will still be at least 35 cities with record low temperatures, including Memphis, Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Little Rock. From there, the temperatures will only go up and continue to go up through next week.

Dallas goes from high temperatures in the mid-40s on Saturday to mid-50s Sunday to nearly 70 degrees by Wednesday of next week.

Austin, Texas, will be very similar, going from a high temperature near 50 degrees Saturday to the low 60s Sunday all the way up to the low 70s by Wednesday.

In Oklahoma City, Saturday’s high temperature will be in the low 40s, then jump to the 50s Monday, and near 60 by Tuesday.

This may not be as fast as some folks would like to warm, but it is the best way to limit river flooding. The more gradual the melt, the more time the rivers, creeks, and streams adjust to the snowmelt.

However, the National Weather Service in Dallas-Fort Worth warns of other dangers.

“Snow and ice will also start falling from roofs, towers, trees, etc as temps start warming up. Remember not to stand, walk, or skate on any pools, ponds, or lakes!”

For more on next weeks warmer weather and to check on what your forecast is go here.

10:53 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

Go There: CNN reports from Houston on local shops turned into shelters for food and warmth

As the impact of a winter storm continues to hit millions of Texans, many are still without power, food, or water.

About 13 million Texans, nearly half the state's population, were under a boil-water advisory Thursday, according to Executive Director for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Toby Baker. More than 700 water supply systems have been impacted.

CNN's Go There was in Houston, where national correspondent Natasha Chen saw how local shops were turning into shelters to provide food and warmth. She answered viewers' questions about the situation on the ground in Texas.

Watch Go There: