Houston officials say they opened a massive water distribution site early Friday “due to overwhelming demand from the public” as Texas is starting to emerge from a deep freeze and blast of wintry weather that is now being blamed for at least 58 deaths across the U.S.
The Houston Police Department tweeted video footage of one of its sergeants using a forklift to help move cases of bottled water around the parking lot of Delmar Stadium. About 13 million Texans have been placed under an advisory to boil drinking water following widespread power outages around the state, which have impacted operations at water treatment plants.
“When today is all said and done — over 1 million units of bottled water will be given out throughout the city of Houston,” Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters at the site.
In San Antonio, seven water-distribution sites also were being planned for Friday between noon and 6 p.m., according to the San Antonio Express-News. Each person will be limited to five gallons of water and must bring their own containers, the report said.
The power outages that have plagued the state since earlier this week appeared to be mostly resolved Friday, with about 180,000 outages remaining as of midday, statistics showed.
Texas’ grid operators said Friday that the electrical system has returned to normal for the first time since the extreme winter weather knocked out power to more than 4 million customers.
Bill Magness, president of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said the grid again has enough capacity to provide power throughout its entirety.
After hitting Texas, the snow and ice moved into the Appalachians, northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania, and later the Northeast. Overall, the weather is now being blamed for the deaths of at least 58 people, including a Tennessee farmer trying to save two calves that apparently wandered into a frozen pond and 17-year-old Oklahoma girl who fell into an icy pond herself, the Associated Press reports.
Federal Emergency Management Agency acting administrator Bob Fenton also announced Friday that teams are in Texas with fuel, water, blankets and other supplies.
“What has me most worried is making sure that people stay warm,” Fenton said on “CBS This Morning,” while urging people without heat to go to a shelter or warming center.
President Joe Biden said he called Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday evening and offered additional support from the federal government to state and local agencies.
Temperatures are expected to rise in Texas over the weekend.
“An anomalously cold week across the Southern Plains will begin to come to an end this weekend as an approaching area of low pressure pulls warmer air northward out ahead of it on Saturday,” the National Weather Service said in an advisory Friday. “Before that, widespread low temperature records may be broken tonight over parts of eastern Texas and the Lower Mississippi Valley as high pressure shifts into the eastern half of the country.”
“Hard Freeze warnings are in effect for much of southern/eastern Texas, and the Lower Mississippi Valley,” it added. “Temperatures will remain well below average for much of the central US today and much of tomorrow.”
Fox News’ Brie Stimson contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press.