Biden approves disaster declaration for Oklahoma
Mike Seals - February 18, 2021 11:00 am
The Latest on winter weather across the U.S. (all times local):
OKLAHOMA CITY — The White House announced Thursday that President Joe Biden has approved Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s request for a disaster declaration in response to a winter storm.
Biden on Wednesday approved the request made by Stitt after the storm dumped snow and ice on the state and brought days of subfreezing temperatures and power outages, according to the White House statement.
Biden’s approval allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts and it allows for federal funding to reimburse cities, counties and tribes for the costs of emergency measures responding to the storm, including providing shelter for displaced residents.
NEW YORK — Snow is falling in the northeastern United States, with up to 8 inches expected in the New York and New Jersey through Friday. The winter storm also is bringing ice and rain in some areas, prompting authorities to shutter at least three of New Jersey’s coronavirus vaccination sites.
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said the so-called mega-sites in Burlington, Middlesex and Morris counties will reschedule appointments for the coming days. Murphy also ordered state government offices to close except for essential workers. He’s restricting commercial vehicles on highways and asking people to stay home.
New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti recommends watching a good movie. She says “‘Frozen’ is always a good choice.”
AUSTIN, Texas — Power outages in Texas have dropped to below a half million, but the state is still facing major problems with drinking water systems.
The state’s power grid manager, the Electric Reliability of Council of Texas, says the remaining outages are largely weather-related and not ones that were forced to stabilize the state’s power grid.
Texas officials have ordered 7 million people to boil tap water before drinking it following days of record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and froze pipes.
That’s one-quarter of the population of the nation’s second-largest state.
At least 36 deaths have been attributed to days of severe winter weather in the United States. Traffic accidents have claimed the most lives, followed closely by the carbon monoxide poisoning of people using vehicles or generators to stay warm.
A half dozen people have died from exposure, including several whose bodies were found along Texas roadways covered in ice and snow, a Kansas woman who wandered outside in her nightgown and a Kentucky woman in an unheated mobile home.
A 75-year-old woman and her three grandchildren were killed in a house fire in Texas while officials believe they were using their fireplace to keep warm during a power outage. Three people died in a tornado in North Carolina. Three more fell through ice, into a pond in Tennessee, a lake in Oklahoma and a swimming pool in Louisiana.
And a 9-year-old boy was killed while having fun with his father in Tennessee. His dad was pulling him on a tube behind an ATV on an icy street when the boy slammed into a mailbox.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — More than 320,000 homes and businesses were without power in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama early Thursday after a wave of storms dumped as much as 4 inches of snow and ice across a region that still had some remnants of wintry precipitation left over from earlier in the week.
Dozens of school systems canceled classes, switched to online learning or opened late, and conditions might not improve much in some places until Friday afternoon, when temperatures are finally supposed to rise above freezing for a few hours.
The largest concentration of outages was in a band across central Mississippi. Much of the rest of the Deep South was spared the worst weather.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Twelve people have been rescued from boats after a dock weighed down by snow and ice collapsed on the Cumberland River in Tennessee, the Nashville Fire Department said.
Fire crews and the Office of Emergency Management responded Wednesday evening to the Blue Turtle Bay Marina after a report that people were trapped in multiple boats when the roof over the dock collapsed, authorities said.
Nashville Fire Department spokeswoman Kendra Loney told news outlets that everyone known to be on the dock was accounted for and no one was injured. She said the weight of the ice and snow on the roof of the dock caused the collapse.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Gov. John Bel Edwards wrote President Joe Biden on requesting a presidential emergency declaration for Louisiana, citing three deaths and thousands without electricity and water in the severe cold.
Edwards said the “extreme winter weather, including record low temperatures, snow, sleet and freezing rain, has been destructive for many areas of Louisiana, most notably through continued power and water outages across the state.”
The Democrat said federal assistance would be particularly welcome in communities still recovering from last year’s hurricanes. He said nearly a million Louisianans are having to boil their water, more than 48,000 Louisianans lack water altogether, and thousands remain without power.