The deadly Arctic outbreak associated with two major winter storms is maintaining its grip on much of the Lower 48 states, with Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and other states struggling to bring their electricity grids back online. The death toll in the cold, snow, ice and power outages has reached at least 16 since Sunday, when temperatures plunged sharply.

In Texas, 2.6 million customers were still in the dark Wednesday evening, according to poweroutage.us. Officials in Texas are warning that outages are likely to last longer. Calls for investigations into what went wrong are mounting.

The second major winter storm to hit Texas in quick succession is predicted to spread disruptive amounts of frozen precipitation from northern Louisiana and Mississippi through the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast through early Friday. Meanwhile, San Antonio and Austin may be brushed with one more rounds of snow Thursday before conditions finally start to improve by the weekend.

What to know
11:30 p.m.
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Snow to sweep through South Texas again Thursday before a warming trend

Before the Lonestar State can thaw, one more weather disturbance will scoot across the southern part of the state late Wednesday night through Thursday, temporarily reinforcing the cold air in place and offering a bit of snow.

San Antonio is under a winter storm warning and Austin a winter weather advisory into Thursday. San Antonio could see one to two inches, with a dusting or so expected in Austin.

But to the west, on the Edwards Plateau, up to eight inches is possible.

Freezing temperatures are anticipated across much of Texas on Thursday morning, with lows in the single digits and teens in the Panhandle, teens and 20s in the interior, and near 30 in coastal areas.

Afternoon highs will range from 25 to 30 in the Panhandle to near 40 at the coast.

By Friday, however, these highs will increase by about 10 degrees and by about 20 degrees by the weekend.

11:18 p.m.
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Texas governor orders natural gas producers to only sell fuel in state

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered natural gas producers in the state to sell their fuel only to Texas power generators, temporarily halting their exports elsewhere.

The unusual move will help increase the supply of energy available to the state’s residents, millions of whom have been without power for days after thermal power plants, primarily those relying on natural gas, failed during winter storms.

“I’m about to tell you a way in which we will be adding more power to our system,” Abbott, a Republican, said when announcing the order at a Wednesday news conference.

The move took effect Wednesday and will last through Feb. 21, Abbott said, affecting those companies that “have been shipping to locations outside of Texas.”

“That will also increase the power that’s going to be produced and sent to homes here in Texas,” Abbott said. “That will increase the ability of gas powered generators in Texas to increase power sent to the Texas power grid.”

Since early Wednesday morning, enough power for 1.2 million households has been added to the grid, Abbott said, and enough for 400,000 more will be added by the end of the day.

However, natural gas-fired generators continue to a pose formidable problems. About 19,800 megawatts of gas power generation — more than triple what Abbott said was restored Wednesday — remains offline due to “either mechanical issues or the lack of the supply of gas for those gas generators to produce power,” the governor said.

Texas officials expect the punishingly cold temperatures to linger across the state for at least the next two days, with “ultra cold temperatures once again on Thursday night,” Abbott said. But by Saturday, he added, most people should see temperatures above freezing.

10:56 p.m.
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Ice to spread from Texas to Maryland, with possible ‘crippling’ amounts in Virginia

The same storm that brought a second round of snow and ice in Texas on Wednesday is lifting northeast, and it will produce significant amounts of ice from Louisiana and Mississippi into the Mid-Atlantic region.

Up to a half-inch of icing is possible in eastern Louisiana and western Mississippi, especially along Interstate 20 on Wednesday night. Cities such as Vicksburg and Jackson, Miss., could be particularly hard hit.

The same areas are still reeling from power outages, especially in the central parishes of Louisiana, where more than 110,000 customers remained without power late Wednesday.

Freezing rain will fall in a narrow corridor across Mississippi, northwest Alabama and Middle Tennessee, including near Nashville, but will cover considerably more territory east of the Appalachians.

Sleet and freezing rain will arrive in southwest Virginia and the Carolina Piedmont after midnight, increasing in areal coverage and intensity by sunrise. Areas along the Intestate 40 stretch in North Carolina between Asheville and Greensboro could see a quarter to a half-inch of ice accretion. Duke Energy anticipates up to a million power outages.

In Southwest Virginia, some areas could see a “crippling” ice buildup of a half to three quarters of an inch of ice.

Ice is also expected in south-central Virginia, where tens of thousands of customers are still without power after an ice storm on Saturday.

Significant wintry precipitation is likely in the nation’s capital, too, but latest indications have been trending a bit colder with the system. Regardless, a moderate snow and a switch to sleet and freezing rain is likely in Washington, D.C.

Into the Northeast, New York City looks to have mostly snow and sleet, with snow predominant in Boston into Friday before the system clears the coast.

10:08 p.m.
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Pelosi calls for a ‘cheaper, cleaner and more reliable’ electric grid

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for “smart and urgent” investments to revamp electric grids across the country, which have failed amid two major winter storms and an extraordinary cold snap, plunging millions into blackouts and brownouts.

“We must come to the aid of those suffering without power and water, and we grieve with the families who have lost loved ones to this disaster,” Pelosi said in a statement Wednesday.

“Together, we must build back better an electric grid that’s cheaper, cleaner and more reliable,” she added.

Pelosi called President Biden’s emergency declaration, announced over the weekend, “a vital, life-saving step that sends a clear signal that the federal government will be there for all Americans in their time of need.”

Congressional Democrats are working to pass the administration’s “American Rescue Plan,” one of Biden’s signature legislative initiatives, Pelosi said. The plan, aimed at addressing the coronavirus pandemic and its attendant social and economic crises, also earmarks $50 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund, which could be used during future energy emergencies.

9:58 p.m.
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Biden’s energy secretary pick: ‘We need to upgrade our grid infrastructure ASAP’

Former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm (D), Biden’s pick to lead the Energy Department, weighed in Wednesday on the nation’s electric grid as extreme winter weather continued to pummel parts of the nation, leaving millions without power.

She called for an “upgrade” to “our grid infrastructure ASAP.”

“One thing is certain: America’s electricity grid is simply not able to handle extreme weather events,” Granholm tweeted.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 13 to 4 this month to advance Granholm’s nomination to the full Senate.

Biden approved an emergency declaration for Texas over the weekend, and Tuesday evening he held a call with governors of affected states, including Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Kansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

According to a readout of the call released by the White House, the president said he “understood the severity of the conditions being felt across the states.”

Biden also told the state leaders that his administration is prepared to assist and respond to requests for federal resources.

Earlier Wednesday, on NBC’s “Today” show, Vice President Harris spoke directly to people affected by the storms.

“I just want to mention all those folks in Texas and the Mid-Atlantic. I know they can’t see us right now because they’re without electricity, but the president and I are thinking of them and really hope we can do everything that is possible through the signing of the emergency orders to get federal relief to support them,” she said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, asked Tuesday whether the administration is considering actions to address nation’s power grid, said the current focus is disaster response.

“I think our focus right now is ensuring that the millions of people across Texas who are impacted by the storm get the relief they need,” Psaki said during Tuesday’s briefing. “Clearly, as there are investments in the future in forms of energy, I should say, across the country, they’ll need to plan for inclement weather. But I think that’s a discussion and conversations a little bit down the road.”

Former energy secretary Rick Perry has suggested that residents are prepared to go without power to keep federal regulators out of the state’s power grid.

“Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business,” Perry said, according to a quote shared on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) website. “Try not to let whatever the crisis of the day is take your eye off of having a resilient grid that keeps America safe personally, economically, and strategically.”

9:42 p.m.
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Multiple cities in Texas issue boil-water notices as outages continue

Residents across Texas are facing problems with their water systems amid continued outages related to the extreme cold pummeling the central United States.

Houston Public Works announced a boil-water notice on Wednesday because of low water pressure for some customers. The notice calls on customers to boil water before drinking it or using it to prepare or cook food, make ice or brush teeth.

The notice was triggered by a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requirement that water pressure meet a minimum of 20 psi, according to the city.

Customers unable to boil their water because they are without power have been advised to use bottled water.

Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock said during a news conference that she expected water pressure to strengthen through Wednesday and the water system to be fully operational by the end of the day Thursday.

Houston Public Works spokeswoman Erin Jones said it could take 24-48 additional hours after pressure returns to “operational range” on Thursday for the boil-water notice to be lifted.

Officials in the nation’s fourth-largest city encouraged people to reduce water usage.

“Water pressure is very low. Please do not run water to keep pipes from bursting,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted. “Turn off water if pipes have burst.”

Additional cities in Texas, including parts of Austin, Arlington, Bellaire and Victoria, also advised residents to boil water before consumption.

The San Antonio Water System announced Wednesday that it would issue a precautionary boil-water notice, according to local reports.

During a Wednesday briefing, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the city is approaching a usage of about 300 million gallons of water a day, “by far more than anything we have seen before.”

Adler said the high use could be a result of water leaks, or perhaps residents filling bath tubs worried they will be without water.

There have been “thousands of private plumbing burst pipes,” as well as dozens of public “water main breaks,” said Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros.

Officials expect more as the “ground shifts,” Meszaros said, but because of the weather, they are “struggling with knowledge of the system where some of these breaks are occurring.”

9:30 p.m.
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Texas energy council CEO dodges question about calls for resignation

The chief executive of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) appeared to sidestep a question about Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for the operator’s leaders to resign, according to local media reports.

During an interview with local ABC13 station on Tuesday, Abbott (R) chided what he called a “total failure by ERCOT.”

“ERCOT stands for Electric Reliability Council of Texas,” Abbott said, “and they showed that they were not reliable.”

He responded, “Yes,” when asked if ERCOT leaders should step down.

Asked about Abbott’s comments on Wednesday, the grid operator’s CEO, Bill Magness, said he first wanted to focus on getting the lights turned back on.

“The priority for us now, whatever the future holds, is to get the power back on,” Magness said Wednesday, according to the Austin American Statesmen.

According to WFAA reporter Jason Whitley, Magness added: “The assessment of how we did can be done after we get the power back on.”

Abbott on Tuesday also called for an investigation into and “immediate transparency” from ERCOT, which is the grid operator for the entire state.

“Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather,” Abbott said in a statement. “This is unacceptable.”

He said he issued an executive order adding an “emergency legislative item” to review ERCOT’s preparations and decisions. Some state legislative committees have already announced hearings into the power outages as well.

9:22 p.m.
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Flash flood watches blanket the Carolinas and Georgia

As heavy snow and ice plastered parts of Texas and the Mississippi and Tennessee valleys, a slug of heavy rainfall was blossoming on the warm side of the storm system. Flash flood watches blanket most of Georgia and the Carolinas, where a broad 1 to 2 inches of rain is possible Thursday and Thursday night. The watch includes Atlanta and Columbia, S.C.

“Given the saturated soils from recent rains, and the potential for locally heavy rainfall, there is a risk of isolated flash flooding,” wrote the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, Ga., which serves Atlanta and surrounding areas.

Drizzle and light showers are expected to spread over most of Georgia by late evening, with heavy downpours and isolated thunder after midnight.

The heaviest rainfall will happen in northwest Georgia in the Appalachian foothills, where training of downpours, or the repeated movement of rain over the same area, will boost totals. Farther south and east, a thinner band of downpours will accompany the approaching cold front.

In the Carolinas, the heaviest precipitation will affect the mountains and Piedmont, with rain totals of an inch or two in western South Carolina. In North Carolina, the concern exists for wintry precipitation with significant ice totals possible. Raleigh is under both a flash flood watch and a winter weather advisory.

9:00 p.m.
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Women’s shelter in Dallas sends plea for blankets, meals

A women’s shelter in Dallas, forced to completely shut down for the first time in its more than 35 years, put out a plea Wednesday about its “desperate need” for blankets, warm clothing, flashlights, batteries and meals.

Genesis Women’s Shelter blamed the closure on the city’s extended power outage as well as burst pipes in a transitional housing unit it runs.

“The devastation from the water damage is appalling and heartbreaking,” the group told supporters in an email. “We will know more when the roads are safe for someone to come out to assess the damage, but for now, we are on our own.”

All residents on the Genesis campus have been moved to safe locations, according to the email, which ended by emphasizing, “Our needs are critical and immediate.”

8:30 p.m.
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Texas woman describes traumatic experience without heat, water

Living north of Dallas, Cedeline Samson is one of millions of Texans struggling to endure the historic cold, snow and lack of water and electricity.

In a Facebook message, she described the incredible state of affairs that forced her to leave her home on Tuesday.

“We abandoned our house yesterday,” she wrote. “No water. No power. Smoke alarms beeping non-stop. No hotel rooms. No Uber. No taxi. Felt like the Titanic scene. With more snow approaching, my daughter and I took off on foot. Made it to the gas station. Hitched a ride to a friend’s house.”

In a follow-up message, she elaborated: “It was unbearable. We slept downstairs in our winter coats with layers of clothes and blankets. We didn’t get a [power] rotation since Monday Morning. When the power came back on around midnight it was on for less than 5 minutes. We waited until the morning. Called my mother in Miami and said we were leaving the house. Closest friend lives 9 miles away. I had calculated it would take us 4.5 hours to walk. With faith, bags, blankets, cash, we left.

“We gifted our stranger $100 so he can go out and help other people in the same situation,” she wrote, referring to the driver who picked them up.

8:00 p.m.
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Coping with the power outages in Waxahachie, Tex.

About an hour south of Dallas, in the small city of Waxahachie, Jim Fowler is dealing with a fifth day of rolling blackouts.

Fowler, 82, has tried to cope by keeping his gas fireplace on constantly, but even so, the temperature in parts of his house is hovering around 50 degrees. Without it, he’s certain it would be in the 40s. He’s staying to his living room, bedroom and kitchen, wearing flannel pajamas to keep warm and prioritizing what he’ll do when the power comes back on: cooking, charging his cellphone and washing clothes.

A widowed father of six, he lives alone. His nearest child is almost two hours away near Houston. Given the “heavy snow” and ice, few roads are safe for driving, so he and his neighbors are checking on one another by phone but staying inside.

He’s tried to time the outages, but they keep changing. “Sometimes it’s two hours, sometimes it’s 3½,” he said Wednesday.

“You want to do everything real quick after the lights come on. You don’t want to drag, you don’t want to wait. You need to have things prioritized that you want to do when the power comes back on, right in the beginning so it doesn’t catch you in the middle of something.”

Given the forecast last weekend, he knew he could be at home for a “considerable period” yet never expected such “drastic” weather. “I don’t remember seeing temperatures this low,” he said.

And while the weather can’t be helped, he believes “a lot of precautions were disregarded in this. … This state is a very wealthy state, very wealthy, and I think the ball was dropped by the company providers. The [power] grid needed to be updated, and they chose not to do it.”

“This shouldn’t happen to us,” he said.

7:42 p.m.
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Duke Energy predicts nearly a million power outages in Carolinas as storm approaches

North Carolina-based utility Duke Energy is predicting about a million power outages in the Carolinas, warning customers to brace for the approaching winter storm event.

The company told customers those outages could last “several days” in North Carolina and South Carolina beginning Thursday, pointing to anticipated “hazardous wintry precipitation and high winds.”

The outages, the company said in a release, are anticipated to be a result of ice buildup that could cause trees and branches to fall on power lines, rather than a result of electricity generation.

“The company has an adequate supply of electricity to meet energy demands; outages related to power generation are not expected,” Duke Energy said.

It added that “line technicians, service crews and other personnel throughout Duke Energy's service area are prepared to respond as outages and emergencies occur.”

Heavy icing is likely in the North Carolina mountains and Piedmont, with ice accretions between a quarter and three-quarters of an inch expected. Conditions will rapidly deteriorate west to east Thursday morning, with the worst conditions likely to be found between Asheville and Greensboro along the Interstate 40 corridor. There’s even an outside chance of some thunder.

Additional freezing drizzle may linger Thursday night before the cold front clears and weather improves Friday.

In South Carolina, only rain is expected.

7:17 p.m.
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Biden administration is supplying emergency generators to Texas, White House says

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Feb. 17 said the Biden administration is giving Texas power generators to combat effects of a historic winter storm. (The Washington Post)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the Biden administration is supplying emergency power generators to Texas and is prepared to move diesel to the state, where about 3 million people remain in the dark amid a barrage of winter storms that have overwhelmed the electric grid.

At a daily press briefing, Psaki said the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency “remain in close contact with states across the affected area to ensure any federal support requirements are met.”

“FEMA has supplied generators to Texas and is preparing to move diesel on to the state to ensure the continued availability of backup power. … FEMA is also supplying Texas with water and blankets at their request,” she said. “We are preparing to quickly process requests from other states for emergency assistance.”

The electricity grid in Texas and the grid supplying Louisiana, Kentucky and other states are struggling to come back online, and the death toll from the cold, snow, ice and power outages has reached at least 16 since Sunday, when temperatures plunged sharply.

Biden approved an emergency declaration for Texas over the weekend, and he spoke by phone on Tuesday night with governors of affected states, including Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Kansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

Andrew Freedman contributed to this report.

6:52 p.m.
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NASA satellite imagery captures power outages in Houston

About 3 million customers in Texas were suffering power outages as of 1:30 Eastern time Wednesday, according to poweroutage.us. This is down from the peak of more than 4 million earlier this week. Many of those who have been without power for days live in the Houston metro area.

Images from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite on the NOAA-NASA Suomi NPP satellite reveal the dramatic darkness that engulfed Houston on Tuesday night. An animation of nighttime imagery on Feb. 7 versus imagery captured on Feb. 16 shows the scale of the outages.

This satellite instrument is especially sensitive in lowlight environments, allowing scientists to map where visible light emanates. At night, that usually means human-made structures and systems, though the satellite occasionally spots the aurora borealis.

“We were waiting for the clouds to go away yesterday at 1 a.m. when SUOMI-NPP had passed over Texas,” said Miguel Román, director of the Earth from Space Institute, who created the visualizations. “We had to go back to February 7 to get a clear sky look as a baseline prior to the event. We got pretty lucky on the 16th.”

Those clear skies represented the bone-chilling air mass in place made worse through radiational cooling.

“Every pixel now has an estimate of the change in lighting and the number of persons in that pixel,” Román said. “This is a very independent assessment.”

He and his partners developed the process for making these estimates in 2012, during the Syrian civil war. He was meeting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss the latest event in Texas on Wednesday.

The outages have especially affected suburbs surrounding Houston, the immediate heart of downtown appearing illuminated in both satellite images. PowerOutage.Us reports that 361,000 of the nearly 2 million customers in Harris County, which includes Houston, still had no power early Wednesday afternoon.

In nearby Austin, Wharton, Brazoria and Galveston counties, 75 to 95 percent of residents still had no power. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the electricity grid in Texas, tweeted that “we know this is hard” and that “we continue to work as quickly and safely as possible to restore power.”