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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7:54 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

Houston Chronicle likely won't print Tuesday's edition due to power outage

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess and Javi Morgado

The Houston Chronicle informed subscribers that it doesn’t expect to be able to produce a printed newspaper for Tuesday.

The newspaper has been without power since 2 a.m., according to a notice to subscribers Monday.

“Even during Hurricane Harvey, our facility never lost power and we never stopped producing the print edition, but each weather emergency brings its own twists,” the newspaper wrote. “With the freezing temperatures expected to linger for the next 3-4 days, we have no indication of when power will return to our plant; even after it is restored, it will be many hours before we can return our facilities to full capacity.”

“We’ll decide on whether to print a newspaper for Tuesday if and when power is restored, and when we can determine if it can be safely delivered,” the notice added.

Houston Chronicle news updates will continue to be posted online at HoustonChronicle.com, and Tuesday’s newspaper will be released as an eNewspaper, the notice said.

7:44 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

"The next few days are going to be very tough," Harris County official says

From CNN’s Keith Allen

Harris County, Texas, officials painted a bleak picture of what the upcoming days could look like for the heavily populated region at a news conference Monday.

“I'm not going to sugarcoat it. The next few days are going to be very tough to those who have lost power,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said.

“I know you are frustrated. I know you're miserable. I know you're uncomfortable,” she continued. “I can tell you that the families of many of the first responders who are here keeping you safe, who've been here all week, since last week are also without power in their homes.”

Approximately one million homes and businesses in Harris County are without power, Hidalgo said.  

“As much as we wish it weren't so, things will likely get worse before they get better,” she continued. “There's a high chance, the power will be out for these folks until the weather gets better, which will not be for a couple of days.”

Jason Ryan, senior vice president of Regulatory Services and Government Affairs at CenterPoint Energy, echoed Hidalgo’s stark forecast.

“We want to make sure that everyone understands that it could be that we have not yet seen the worst of things,” Ryan said. “If you are out of power right now, you should expect to be out of power for the rest of the day, and into tomorrow.”

Ryan also tried to explain why so many CenterPoint customers have lost power during the storm. “Starting this morning at about 1:30, the state of Texas experienced an unprecedented and significant drop in available electric generation throughout the state, and not just in the Houston area,” he said.

“When that happens, ERCOT [the Electric Reliability Council of Texas] instructs us to address that loss of generation by reducing the number of customers on the system. We started doing that and over the course of a number of hours early this morning.”

“We ended up having more than 1.2 million customers out of power because of that lack of generation,” Ryan said.

7:28 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

Texas' Harris County quickly redistributes Covid-19 vaccine after power outage

From CNN’s Keith Allen

Pool
Pool

More than 8,400 coronavirus vaccines were in jeopardy of spoiling early Monday when a winter storm cut power to the Harris County Public Health Department building and the backup generator failed, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said.

Hidalgo said when the health department's back-up generator failed at approximately 2 a.m. Monday, officials quickly put a plan together to allocate and salvage the vaccines.

“We were looking for places where there were already large numbers of people, where there were nurses, trained medical professionals who could administer the vaccine, and where we wouldn't need folks to drive somewhere in these very dangerous weather and road conditions," she said.

Harris County officials settled on Houston’s Ben Taub, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Methodist Hospitals, as well as Rice University and the Harris County Jail as the locations to receive the vaccine overnight, Hidalgo said.

“We had a brainstorm with all the law enforcement, first responders that know the moving pieces…and these were the places,” Hidalgo said. “These were the folks that could get on in a matter of minutes say, ‘Yes, we can do it,’ the other folks, they said ‘We could do it if we had more time,’ but we didn't have any more time, because we had this big flashing light.”

Of the 8,430 vaccines taken from the Harris County Public Health Department, 1,000 were sent to Methodist Hospital, and 810 to Rice University, Hidalgo said. Another 600 vaccines were split between LBJ and Ben Taub Hospitals and 3,000 were sent to the Harris County Jail. 

Hidalgo said 3,020 vaccines have gone back into storage based on guidance from Moderna.

“The vaccine supply, we thought we were going to lose in a few hours, we could actually re-refrigerate and administer later to our waitlist," she said. “Over 5,000 of the vaccines have been distributed and the rest have been put back in storage for distribution per our normal process.”

Hidalgo was asked if she expected to receive criticism for allocating so many vaccines to the jail.

“Whether it's a hospital, whether it's the jail, public health, fire marshal, everybody that put this together, it is incredible, that they were able to get those vaccines, and we were able to figure out from Moderna, how to save the ones that we were concerned we may not be able to distribute,” Hidalgo said. “It's a point of pride that this was figured out that it was dealt with, and it should be a point of pride to our partners from Rice to the hospitals or to the sheriff's department that helped stand up and get this done.”

7:14 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

Chicago Public Schools cancels in-person classes tomorrow 

From CNN's Brad Parks and Keith Allen

Chicago Public Schools has canceled all in-person classes Tuesday due to “significant snowfall," according to a release from the district.

The school district said it expects to hold in-person classes Wednesday.  

Earlier today, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot expressed confidence in her team’s preparations as the storm pummeled the city.

“At some point during today, it looked like a scene out of Dr. Zhivago,” Lightfoot told reporters at a news conference today.

“But our city has had a lot of days like this, even this year. And I want everyone to know, as you can see from the folks that are here, and the folks that you can't see in the front row from various city departments. This is an all-hands-on deck-moment, and we are ready to make sure that our city continues to function, even in this extreme weather circumstance,” she added.

7:53 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

Missouri cancels all of its mass vaccination events

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

People clear snow off of cars Monday, February 15, in St. Louis. Missouri
People clear snow off of cars Monday, February 15, in St. Louis. Missouri Jeff Roberson/AP

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced today that the state has canceled all of its Covid-19 mass vaccination events scheduled this week due to extreme winter weather. 

“Missouri is experiencing severe winter weather that makes driving dangerous and threatens the health and safety of anyone exposed to the cold. These conditions will also likely delay some vaccine shipments,” Parson said in a release from his office. “We want to protect the safety of everyone involved in the mass vaccination events, from the patients being vaccinated to the volunteers who generously support these events.” 

To protect doses, shipments dedicated for this week's mass vaccinations events will remain in the nine Missouri State Highway Patrol regions across the state and be redistributed to community hospitals with emergency generators. Those hospitals will be allowed to administer the vaccine to those currently eligible, according to the release. Second doses that were scheduled to be administer during the mass vaccination program will be retained in the region and administered “as promptly as possible.” 

“The state is making every effort to reschedule these events, but individuals who were registered are encouraged to reach out to other vaccinators in their region in the interim,” the release said.

6:56 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

Nevada vaccine deliveries may be delayed this week due to storms

From CNN's Jennifer Selva

Nevada may experience a delay in vaccine deliveries this week due to powerful storms that have impacted much of the country.

According to the Nevada Health Response (NHR), the state received word that the disruption could occur and they’re working with the health districts and pharmacies that may be affected.

The NHR urged Nevadans to continue to be patient.

6:52 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

With power outages across US, risk of carbon monoxide poisoning soars

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

A giant winter storm that’s brought ice and plummeting temperatures to a large swath of the middle of the country is also causing widespread power outages – and local health officials issued fresh warnings Monday about safely keeping warm. 

People who lose the ability to heat their homes may be tempted to turn on gas ovens or stoves, fire up grills or climb into cars to warm up. But according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 Americans die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning, many because they’ve tried do-it-yourself fixes during power outages.

With more than 3.5 million customers without power in Texas and at least 572,941 without electricity in Oregon, Louisiana, Virginia, and Mississippi, the risk is high.

Louisiana’s state health department updated warnings Monday.

“Portable generators should never be used indoors. This includes use inside a garage, carport, basement, crawl space, or other enclosed or partially enclosed area, even those with ventilation,” it said. “Gas-powered generators produce an exhaust of carbon monoxide (CO), which is odorless and colorless. CO inhalation can rapidly lead to full incapacitation or death. Opening windows or doors or using fans will not prevent the build-up of CO. If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air IMMEDIATELY.” 

The CDC has a long list of dangers. “Carbon monoxide (CO) is found in fumes produced any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces. CO can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it,” the CDC says on its website.

Don’t run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open; Burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented; Heat your house with a gas oven; Use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or outside less than 20 feet from a window, door, or vent,” the CDC cautions.

“The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. CO symptoms are often described as ‘flu-like.’ If you breathe in a lot of CO it can make you pass out or kill you. People who are sleeping or drunk can die from CO poisoning before they have symptoms,” it adds.

“Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.”

6:49 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

More than 3.5 million customers in Texas are without power

From CNN's Gisela Crespo

More than 3.5 million customers are without power in Texas as of Tuesday evening, according to poweroutage.us.

At least 572,941 customers are also without electricity across Oregon, Louisiana, Virginia, and Mississippi.

Here are the outages by state:

  • Texas: 3,580,362
  • Oregon: 314,561
  • Louisiana: 116,536
  • Virginia: 90,420
  • Mississippi: 51,424
6:44 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021

Louisiana reports first storm-related death

From CNN's Kay Jones

A man who slipped on ice and hit his head is Louisiana's first death related to the winter storm sweeping across the state, the state's Department of Health confirmed Monday.

The 50-year-old man who lived in Lafayette Parish died after slipping on the ice and hitting his head on the ground, the Louisiana Department of Health said in a news release.

"The coroner has confirmed this death as storm related. It is the first death related to the February 2021 Winter Storm," the department said in the statement.