Texas snow storm: Heating and lights back on for families in Texas who spent days without power amid fatal weather

Millions of people are still left without safe drinking water after a storm hit the US state of Texas. Credit: AP/David J. Phillip

Millions of homes in Texas now have their heating and lights back on, after families spent days without power when a snow storm hit.

The snow and ice storms that struck the US are blamed for the deaths of at least 56 people.

But the crisis is not over yet. Many people in parts of the south of Texas are without safe drinking water.

And while about three million homes and businesses now have power, about 325,000 were still without it on Thursday. Utility officials said limited rolling blackouts were still possible.

The storms also left more than 450,000 from West Virginia to Louisiana and 100,000 in Oregon without power.

Snow and ice moved into the Appalachians, northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania, and later the Northeast.

Some died trying to keep warm.

In the Houston area, a family died from carbon monoxide as their car idled in their garage. And a woman and her three grandchildren were killed in a fire that authorities said might have been caused by a fireplace.

The storm has been blamed for at least 56 deaths Credit: AP/Eric Gay

Others died due to the treacherous conditions.

A nine-year-old Tennessee boy was killed when the tube his father was pulling behind an all-terrain vehicle slammed into a mailbox.

Around the city of Abilene in western Texas, six people died of cold, authorities said. This included a 60-year-old man was found dead in his bed and a man who died at a health care facility when the lack of water pressure made medical treatment impossible.

A 69-year-old Arkansas man was found dead after falling into a frozen pond while trying to rescue a calf. In Kentucky, a 77-year-old woman was found dead of likely hypothermia after two days without power and heat.

The West Virginia Department of Highways clearing tree limbs from utility lines after an overnight snow piled on already ice-damaged areas Credit: Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch via AP

Utilities from Minnesota to Texas used rolling blackouts to ease strained power grids. But the remaining Texas outages were mostly weather-related, said the state’s grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

But the council warned rotating outages for Texas could return if electricity demand rises.

To add to the misery, the extreme cold caused water lines to freeze and damaged infrastructure and pipes, and many are without safe drinking water even after power returned.

Authorities have ordered seven million people, a quarter of the population in Texas, to boil tap water before drinking it.

Victor Hernandez, left, and Luis Martinez fill their water containers with a hose from a spigot in Haden Park, in Houston. Credit: Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP

Federal emergency officials sent generators to support water treatment plants, hospitals and nursing homes in Texas, along with thousands of blankets and ready-to-eat meals, officials said. The Texas Restaurant Association was coordinating food donations to hospitals.

Two of Houston Methodist’s community hospitals had no running water and still treated patients but canceled most non-emergency surgeries and procedures for Thursday and possibly Friday, said spokeswoman Gale Smith.

Temperatures are still well below freezing across Texas. Governor Abbott warned that residents “are not out of the woods".