AUSTIN — Power was restored to more homes and businesses Thursday in states hit by a deadly blast of winter that overwhelmed the electrical grid and left millions shivering in the cold this week. But the crisis was far from over in parts of the South, where many people still lacked safe drinking water.
Fewer than a half-million homes in Texas remained without electricity, although utility officials said limited rolling blackouts could still occur.
The storms also left more than 320,000 homes and businesses without power in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. About 70,000 power outages persisted after an ice storm in eastern Kentucky, while nearly 67,000 were without electricity in West Virginia.
And more than 100,000 customers remained without power Thursday in Oregon, a week after a massive snow and ice storm. Maria Pope, the CEO of Portland General Electric, said she expects power to be restored by Friday night to more than 90% of the customers still in the dark.
Meanwhile, snow and ice moved into the Appalachians, northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania, and later the Northeast. Back-to-back storms left 15 inches (38 centimeters) of snow in Little Rock, Arkansas, tying a 1918 record, the National Weather Service said.
The extreme weather was blamed for the deaths of at least 40 people, some while trying to keep warm. In the Houston area, one family died from carbon monoxide as their car idled in their garage. A woman and her three grandchildren were killed in a fire that authorities said might have been caused by a fireplace they were using.
Utilities from Minnesota to Texas implemented rolling blackouts to ease strained power grids. Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities covering 14 states from the Dakotas to the Texas Panhandle, said rolling blackouts were no longer needed, but asked customers to conserve energy until at least Saturday night.
In Texas on Thursday, about 325,000 homes and businesses remained without power, down from about 3 million a day earlier. The state's grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said the remaining outages are largely weather-related, rather than forced blackouts that began Monday to stabilize the power grid.
ERCOT Senior Director of System Operations Dan Woodfin said rotating outages could return if electricity demand rises as people get power and heating back, though they wouldn't last as long as outages earlier this week.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott warned that state residents "are not out of the woods," with temperatures remaining well below freezing statewide and south central Texas threatened by a winter storm.
Adding to the state's misery, the weather jeopardized drinking water systems. Authorities ordered 7 million people — a quarter of the population of the nation's second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking it, following record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and pipes.
Water pressure fell after lines froze, and many people left faucets dripping to prevent pipes from icing over, said Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Abbott urged residents to shut off water to their homes to prevent more busted pipes and preserve pressure in municipal systems.