Millions without power as winter weather blasts the US

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:25 PM ET, Mon February 15, 2021
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2:24 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

At least 5 major US airports have now closed due to snow and ice

From CNN's Kay Jones

The Federal Aviation Administration has closed two airports in Louisiana due to the ice and snow in the region, bringing the total number of major airports closed to five. 

The airports in Baton Rouge and Lafayette were shut down around 11:50 a.m. CT. Baton Rouge Metro is slated to reopen at noon local time on Tuesday, while Lafayette's airport should reopen at 5 p.m. local time on Monday. 

This is in addition to the closures of both airports in Houston as well as Jackson, Mississippi, as CNN previously reported. 

Flights have also been significantly impacted in both Dallas and Austin.

2:17 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

What to do if you lose power in this winter storm

More than 3 million customers were without power in the US as of early this morning as winter storms grip the country. More than 2.7 million of the outages have been reported in Texas, where rolling outages started overnight following high demand.

Here's what you need to know if the power goes out, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • 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.
  • Keeping warm: Wear layers of clothing to help keep in body heat. You can read more on how to recognize and prevent hypothermia here.
2:17 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

An estimated 90 to 95% of Galveston households are without power due to winter storm

From CNN's Gregory Lemos 

i45NOW
i45NOW

In the city of Galveston, Texas, 90 to 95% of households are currently without power due to the historic winter storm ravaging the state, according to a statement from the city Monday.  

"Residents and businesses across Galveston are without power as the state responds to an energy crisis. At this time, we estimate 90-95 percent of Galveston residents are without power," the statement said.  

According to the statement, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the entity managing the flow of energy throughout most of the state, turned off power to around 50% of Galveston homes around 3:30 a.m. ET Monday, and then the majority of homes around 11 a.m. ET as the demand "did not decrease enough to restore power." 

Galveston's local power utility, CenterPoint Energy, said no infrastructure has been damaged so far and power could be restored as soon as Monday night, according to the city. 

The city is currently under a local state of disaster although all utility infrastructure is currently operational, according to the statement.  

2:11 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

Here are some tips for driving in winter conditions

From CNN's Marnie Hunter

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.

2:22 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

Heavy snow, ice and wind cause hazardous weather conditions in Pacific Northwest

From CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian

Ice and snow in Salem, Oregon
Ice and snow in Salem, Oregon KATU

A storm sweeping the Pacific Northwest produced heavy snow, ice accumulation and freezing rain over the weekend and left hundreds of thousands of people in Oregon and Washington without power as of Monday.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency Saturday in nine counties due to the severe winter weather that resulted in heavy snow and ice accumulation, high winds, critical transportation failures, and loss of power and communications capabilities.

“Severe wind and ice conditions caused extensive damage to the electric system, with utilities reporting thousands of downed power lines, as well as damage to transmission lines and substations,” Brown said in a statement issued on Sunday.

As such, over 320,000 power outages were reported across Oregon with Portland General Electric reporting the majority of power outages, affecting 280,000 customers as of Monday at noon and Pacific Power reporting the second highest number of outages with 40,000 affected customers. “A series of historic storms has hit our communities, bringing three waves of snow, ice and wind,” Portland General Electric said addressing the winter weather event. “As each storm rolls in, more ice builds up on trees and power lines, that causes more and more trees and power lines to fall…as we repair one area, another area is impacted, and more repairs have to happen.”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced an emergency due to the hazardous weather, closing government offices at noon on Monday and Multnomah County officials kept severe weather shelters open at the Oregon Convention Center in downtown Portland and Metro Garage for residents needing a safe and warm place to stay through the storm.

The National Weather Service announced ice storm warnings in both Portland and Seattle over the weekend and departments of transportation for each city issued travel advisories cautioning residents to stay indoors if possible. Widespread rain in Seattle early Monday morning brought with it some pockets of snow and freezing rain in valleys near the Cascades, the National Weather Service tweeted on Monday.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said parts of the Emerald City received a nearly a foot of snow on Saturday as the city broke a record for snowiest day in decades with 8.9 inches of snow falling at Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport (where official snowfall records are kept) on Saturday Feb. 13, according to CNN affiliate KOMO.

 

1:24 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

Tornado watch issued along the Gulf Coast

From CNN's Senior Meteorologist Dave Hennen

Winter weather isn’t the only threat today, with a tornado watch now in effect for portions of the Gulf Coast. 

The watch covers parts of southeast Alabama, southwest Georgia and the Florida Panhandle until 6 p.m. CT this evening, according to the Storm Prediction Center. The watch covers more than 1.6 million people and includes cities like Tallahassee, Panama City, and Apalachicola. 

A few tornadoes, along with large hail and damaging wind gusts of up to 80 mph are possible. Much of that region is under an enhanced, level 3 of 5 risk for severe weather for this afternoon and evening. A wider level 1 and 2 risk covers over 17 million people all the way from Florida through the coastal Carolinas.

1:40 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

Houston rushes to open more warming facilities for homeless as frigid conditions continue

From CNN's Gregory Lemos

The Houston skyline seen from Buffalo Bayou Park early on the morning of Monday, February 15, after the snow storm.
The Houston skyline seen from Buffalo Bayou Park early on the morning of Monday, February 15, after the snow storm. Reginald Mathalone/NurPhoto/AP

The city of Houston, Texas, is rushing to open as many warming facilities as possible for its homeless population amid frigid winter temperatures.  

"What we are dealing with is making sure people are safe," Houston City Councilwoman Letitia Plummer told CNN Monday. "We are dealing with a pandemic in the middle of an artic freeze." 

Plummer said the city opened up a warming facility at the GRB Convention Center Sunday afternoon, and they now have more than 450 homeless sheltering there and have the capacity for 100 more. Every person entering the facility is being screened for Covid-19, Plummer noted.  

Plummer, who was present at the GBR opening Sunday, said the line to enter the facility began forming long before the doors opened. She said she attributed the long line to the slew of Covid-19 related evictions in the city, resulting in a higher number of homeless, and a lack of information among locals of their legal protections under the national moratorium on evictions issued by the CDC in Sept. of 2020.  

 "We are leading in evictions around the country and because of that, our homeless numbers are increasing. These are people at the convention center that wouldn't normally be there," Plummer said, adding people have been "self-evicting."  

Plummer said the city has opened six additional warming facilities, each housing 50 to 60 homeless individuals, and that none of them are full at the moment. She said the city is working to open more warming facilities to ensure no one in need is turned away.  

2:19 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

What the snow is like in cities across the South Central US

From CNN's Brandon Miller

Drivers make their way along a road during a winter storm Sunday, February 14, in Oklahoma City.
Drivers make their way along a road during a winter storm Sunday, February 14, in Oklahoma City. Sue Ogrocki/AP

Winter storm watches, warning or advisories are posted in at least 40 states and cover around 160 million people, or half the US population. 

Here's a look at the snowfall in some key cities across Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana:

  • Snow fell as far south as Brownsville, Texas, where measurable snow has only occurred on two days since records began in 1898.
  • In Lake Charles, Louisiana — which saw two direct hits from hurricanes in the past six months — there was thundersnow this morning.
  • Oklahoma City and Dallas saw top-10 daily snowfalls yesterday (6 inches and 4 inches respectively), and both could see another top-10 snowfall on Tuesday or Wednesday.  
  • Abilene, Texas, reported 14.8 inches of snow on Sunday, smashing their record for most snow ever in a day, which was previously 9.3 inches from 1996.
12:56 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

These cities are seeing their coldest temperatures in decades

From CNN's Brandon Miller

People walk down a street during a winter storm in Oklahoma City, Sunday, February 14.
People walk down a street during a winter storm in Oklahoma City, Sunday, February 14. Sue Ogrocki/AP

The winter weather outbreak is bringing the coldest air in decades to many locations across the Central US.

Here’s a sample of some of the lows:

  • Dallas dipped to 5 degrees, the coldest temperature the city has seen since 1989.
  • Oklahoma City hit -6 degrees, its coldest since 1989. The wind chill reached -29 degrees — a record.
  • Austin and San Antonio both had single-digit temperatures for the first time since 1989.
  • Corpus Christi, Texas, dipped down to 17 degrees, coldest since 1989.
  • Rapid City, South Dakota, has had five consecutive nights below -12 degrees. The last time this happened was in 1943.
  • The wind chill in Kansas City, Missouri, dipped to -32 degrees, the lowest since 1989.
  • Today will be the coldest day in Omaha, Nebraska, in 25 years.