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Louisiana among numerous states reeling under harsh weather, massive outages

1 year 9 months 1 week ago Thursday, February 18 2021 Feb 18, 2021 February 18, 2021 6:08 AM February 18, 2021 in News
Source: CNN

BATON ROUGE - Though temperatures are no longer below freezing in Baton Rouge, thousands remain without power and dangerously cold temperatures continue to pose a threat.

In East Baton Rouge Parish alone, nearly 10,000 are still awaiting power restoration as of Thursday (Feb. 18) morning at 6:15 a.m., according to Entergy's outage map.

On Wednesday, Governor John Bel Edwards requested a presidential emergency declaration due to the severe winter weather.

The request Edwards submitted to President Biden included a petition for direct federal assistance, specifically in response to extended power outages and also Emergency Protective measures under the FEMA Public Assistance program. 

Louisiana is not alone in its struggle against the damaging impact of freezing temperatures in early 2021.

According to CNN, dozens of people across the United States have died from a spate of winter storms, and now the weather is threatening to tear through the mid-Atlantic and Northeast with snow and ice.

More than 100 million individuals from Texas to Massachusetts are under a winter storm warning or winter weather advisory, and more days of deep freeze could mean a multiplication of the harrowing tales of hardship.

CNN notes that Angel Garcia and her family in Killeen, Texas, have been rationing oxygen tanks for her 5-month-old son, who was born with underdeveloped lungs. Garcia, a nurse, is watching him constantly, she said. The family lost power Monday night and was running out of wood, so they burned her 3-year-old daughter's baby blocks in the fireplace, she said.

Residents in Texas appear to be experiencing the worst of the winter weather. Of the more than 1 million US customers without power Thursday morning, 652,455 were in Texas, according to PowerOutages.US. 

The outages appear to be down from an earlier count of more than 5 million, but more harsh weather could impact more Americans.

Meteorologists note that the severe weather has brought blankets of snow and widespread power outages in Texas as well as Oklahoma is expected to move east Thursday, bringing with it a half an inch of ice to parts of North Carolina and Virginia, according to CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward.

CNN reports that a tornado watch remains in effect for parts of the Florida Panhandle, Southwest Georgia and Southeast Alabama until 8 a.m. EST. Washington, DC will be coated in snow, sleet and freezing rain by Thursday morning, while New York should see six to eight inches of snow in the afternoon, Ward said.

These weather conditions are not the typical winter cold, experts say. Some of those who have already been impacted by the storms have spent days without power and water, and likely won't see temperatures rise above freezing until next week.

Without electricity to survive the cold, many have been turning to other means like gas stoves and generators to stay warm, running the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. To date, 38 deaths have been attributed to the winter storms since Thursday.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged doctors Wednesday to be aware of the increased hazard of carbon monoxide poisonings and deaths as storms sweep through the country.

Carbon monoxide is defined as a tasteless, odorless gas that can build up when any type of fossil fuel is burned -- gasoline, coal or natural gas. Home heating systems are a common source, but the danger is especially high when people turn to unusual sources of heat or power during electricity outages.

According to CNN, Saturday to Monday, four adults in Oregon died of carbon monoxide poisoning while trying to stay warm, according to Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. One person appears to have ignited charcoal briquettes inside while three others were sheltering in recreational vehicles.

While Kentucky officials have responded to calls regarding carbon monoxide, state police reported Wednesday that a 25-year-old was found Friday dead as a result of hypothermia.

Texas has lost 16 residents to the weather, while the rest of the toll is spread across Tennessee, Oregon, Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

According to CNN, winter storms in Kentucky have caused "physical damage to the infrastructure that transmits and delivers electricity to households" and some residents still might not have power by the end of the week, state officials said.

"We believe that we're going to make substantial headway through the end of this week in getting people their power back, but in some areas of Eastern Kentucky it may take longer than through the end of the week," said Gov. Andy Beshear, who acknowledged it was tough news for residents.

With more snow and ice expected Thursday, Entergy, a power company for Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, said about 40,000 of its customers in Louisiana were still without power Wednesday as a result of the winter storms, according to a statement from the company.

The weather has also knocked out water plants in many places, including Marlin, a town in central Texas with a population of more than 5,500 residents.

Speaking of residents' frustration, Marlin City Manager Cedric Davis said "They are cussing us, calling us names, saying they don't understand, they don't understand. We cried last night. We are giving it our all. People are so inhumane. They don't understand. I've never seen anything like it," the Waco Tribune-Herald reported.

But Texas' power provider, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) offered some hope to the public on Wednesday, announcing that it was making progress in restoring power to the state's electric system and hoped local utilities may return to rotating outages instead of extended outages Thursday morning.

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