Millions without power as US braces for another winter storm

By Meg Wagner, Judson Jones and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 7:58 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021
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3:35 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Austin Energy tells residents to not expect power to return “through Tuesday night and possibly longer" 

From CNN's Gregory Lemos 

A woman walks on an empty street on February 15 in Austin, Texas.
A woman walks on an empty street on February 15 in Austin, Texas. Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

Austin Energy, a publicly owned utility company providing electrical power to the city of Austin, is telling residents not to expect power to return “through Tuesday night and possibly longer.” 

"While the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) says conditions are improving, we want customers to know this is a dynamic situation and conditions are changing throughout the day.  Customers should be prepared to not have power through Tuesday night and possibly longer," AE said in a tweet Tuesday.  

 

Austin Energy said electric providers are waiting on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid to stabilize and that "customers who have sustained outages should expect those outages to continue until the situation improves." 

"All of our crews are ready to restore power to those affected as soon as we are authorized to do so by ERCOT. We recognize the hardships and understand why customers are frustrated," AE said.  

ERCOT has recently become the target of criticism across the state. Regular citizens, local leaders, and Gov. Greg Abbott have criticized the company for the prolonged loss of power throughout the state amid frigid winter conditions.

The Texas State House announced an investigation and joint hearings will take place later this month to look into the widespread power outages across the state.   

There are around 3.8 million Texans still without power, according to poweroutage.us.

2:56 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

7,000 Illinois households are without power, governor says

From CNN’s Carma Hassan and Brad Parks

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker issued a statewide disaster proclamation “in response to the dangerous winter storm that has blanketed the state with life threatening wind chills, power outages and accumulating snow,” according to a news release from the governor’s office.

The extreme temperatures are straining utility providers, the statement said, and approximately 7,000 households in Illinois are without power.

“I have directed my administration to use all resources at our disposal to keep our communities safe amid dangerous and ongoing winter weather,” Pritzker said in the statement. 

See the governor's tweet about the situation in the state:

2:49 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Largest public school system in Texas cancels class until at least Friday 

From CNN's Gregory Lemos 

The Houston Independent School District announced Tuesday it is canceling school until at least Friday. 

HISD is largest school district in Texas and includes 276 schools and serves almost 200,000 children, according to its website.  

Read the school district's tweet:

 

2:44 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

About 145,000 customers without power across Kentucky, governor says

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

The state of Kentucky is experiencing widespread power outages, downed trees and hazardous road conditions due to a winter storm, according to a release from Gov. Andy Beshear.

As of 12 p.m. ET, there were "approximately 145,000 Kentucky customers without power, with numerous counties reporting downed trees," the release said.

The Kentucky National Guard and Kentucky State Police troopers are "providing wellness checks in counties suffering power outages,” the release said.

"There are widespread power outages across the Flemingsburg, Jackson and Pikeville highway districts" and multiple Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) facilities in the eastern part of the state are also without power, according to the release.

"Arrangements are being made to transport fuel for crew vehicles that have lost access to pumping stations," Beshear said in the release. 

"The state is taking necessary steps to clear roads and respond to the state of emergency brought on by winter storms," the release said.

Crews "continue to work hard to clear roads, trees and branches and support communities across the commonwealth as needed," according to the release.

“We remind Kentuckians to please stay off the roads if possible. They are slick and dangerous," Beshear said. 

All 16 Kentucky State Police posts throughout the commonwealth are reporting hazardous road conditions, according to the release. 

The governor said the State Emergency Operations Center is currently activated at Level 3, the release said.    

2:40 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Person killed outside Cleveland after vehicle hit snowplow 

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

A person was killed today when they hit a snowplow with their vehicle in Medina County, outside Cleveland, Ohio Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks announced during a news conference.

“Our snowplows are very heavy, very sturdy. If you hit a snowplow, you and your vehicle will be the ones who come out for the worst,” he said this afternoon.

According to Marchbanks, 11 snowplows have been hit in Ohio just in the past two weeks, compared to eight hit all last winter.

“So it’s very treacherous out there,” he said. 

2:23 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Why snow isn't the only winter precipitation you need to worry about with this storm

From CNN's Jennifer Gray

Another winter storm is bearing down on a region all ready blanketed with snow. Some areas won't see snow. They will see sleet or freezing rain. 

The type of precipitation you will get is all based on the air temperature at different levels of the atmosphere.

Think of the atmosphere as a tall column. If that column of air is below freezing from top to bottom, the result will be snow.

If there is warm air at the top, and below-freezing temperatures toward the bottom of the column, then you will have sleet. This is because the warm air high in the atmosphere will produce a raindrop. As the raindrop falls and enters into the air below freezing, it will freeze before hitting the surface. Because sleet is basically a frozen raindrop, you can actually hear sleet when it hits the surface.

Lastly, if the entire column of air is above freezing until right at the surface, the raindrop will freeze on contact. This is called freezing rain and it is the most dangerous type of precipitation.

Freezing rain sticks to anything it comes in contact with, causing a dangerous glaze of ice on roadways, trees, power lines and your vehicle. The weight of the ice can bring down trees and power lines, causing power outages during extremely cold temperatures.

Winter weather is complicated and it all depends on the temperature of the air it travels through. This also has a direct effect on the look of snowflakes.

2:15 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

The winter storm is also delaying vaccine shipments in Florida 

From CNN's Konstantin Toropin and Sara Weisfeldt 

The winter storm that has ravaged parts of the country has also delayed shipments of the Covid-19 vaccine to Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted Tuesday.

"Weather conditions across the United States are impacting the shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine to Florida," DeSantis wrote today.

 

The governor added that Florida's Division of Emergency Management and the Department of Health "are providing regular updates to our partners to ensure the vaccine is distributed as efficiently as possible as it arrives."

Alex Shaw, the spokesperson for the Health Department for Palm Beach County, told CNN that they were expecting 4,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine today that have been delayed. Shaw did say that yesterday's vaccine shipment arrived as expected.

Publix, the grocery store chain whose pharmacies have helped administer the vaccine, said that it has had to cancel scheduling new appointments on Wednesday.

"Due to weather-related issues preventing government delivery of allotted Covid-19 vaccine, Publix is canceling Wednesday’s scheduling event in Florida for COVID-19 vaccinations," the company said in a statement today.

"Once additional vaccine is received, we will announce the next opportunity for vaccine appointment scheduling,” Maria Brous, a spokesperson for the grocery store chain, added in the statement.

Appointments already scheduled are not impacted, Publix added.

Other areas of the state have not been impacted. Jennifer Smith, a spokesperson for Broward Health, told CNN that there has been no delay in their vaccine shipments and the hospital system hasn't had to cancel any appointments. Broward Health is a public, non-profit hospital system in Broward County.

"We continue to vaccinate over 1,000 community members daily," Smith said in an email to CNN.

3:22 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Chicago vaccine shipments delayed "over the upcoming days" due to weather, health officials say

From CNN’s Omar Jimenez

A resident clears snow from a sidewalk on February 16 in Chicago.
A resident clears snow from a sidewalk on February 16 in Chicago. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Covid-19 shipments coming into the Chicago area were delayed Tuesday after more than a foot of snow fell between Sunday evening and Tuesday morning, and wind chill plunged the city into negative temperatures at times.

The weather “led to a delay of vaccine shipments coming into Chicago over the upcoming days,” according to a statement from the Chicago Department of Public Health.

“While there is currently no estimated time of arrival on the orders, we anticipate daily updates from CDC. All COVID shipments are requested as overnight shipping so we expect vaccine shipments and supply…[will] catch up quickly,” their statement read.

Additionally, all city-run Covid vaccine sites closed Tuesday due to the winter weather, according to city of Chicago. “People with scheduled appointments at the City’s sites have been notified of changes and their appointments will be rescheduled,” a statement released Tuesday read.

The Cook County Health system, which includes the Chicago suburbs, also told CNN all of their vaccination sites would be closed Tuesday, except for three they operate within the city limits.

Moving forward, there is less snow in the forecast, but the Chicago Department of Public Health said, “The City is assessing the overall impact from the storm and will make further decisions regarding testing and vaccine operations on a day-to-day basis.”

Chicago has now had measurable snow for nine consecutive days, tying a record for the city, according to the National Weather Service.

2:03 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Texas official: "Treat roads like a school zone"

Harris County, Texas, Judge Lina Hidalgo urged residents to stay off the roads as the Houston area — and much of the South and Central US — braces for another winter storm.

Hidalgo said that if people must drive, they should avoid bridges and freeways and "treat roads like a school zone." She encouraged people to get to wherever they intend to sleep tonight by this afternoon.

The National Weather Service in Houston has warned that this next storm will impact the region starting tonight through Thursday morning. The service warned that roads and bridges will ice first.

Here's Hidalgo's full tweet: