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US Winter storms devastate US after a year of Covid lockdown -- and it's nowhere near over

13:41  18 february  2021
13:41  18 february  2021 Source:   cnn.com

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“ It ’ s one thing to have the vaccine, which we didn’t have when we came into office, but” one also needs “a vaccinator,” Biden subsequently told Cooper, when asked about the logistics of getting shots to Americans. The U . S . is currently administering coronavirus vaccine doses at a seven-day rolling average The Biden administration has downplayed the efforts of the previous administration in aiding the development and distribution of COVID vaccines. Vice President Kamala Harris said that the Biden administration was “starting from scratch” on vaccine production in an interview with Axios over the

There is no fine time for a devastating barrage of winter storms, but it's hard to imagine the weather icing over much of the United States coming at a less opportune moment.

a man standing in front of a crowd: Customers wait in line to enter Frontier Fiesta on February 17, 2021 in Houston, Texas. - A winter storm has caused rolling black-outs through out the Houston and the surrounding areas for the past 48 hours. Millions of Americans were struggling without electricity Wednesday as bitter cold from a deadly winter storm system held its grip across huge swathes of the United States, even pushing as far south as Mexico. (Photo by Thomas Shea / AFP) (Photo by THOMAS SHEA/AFP via Getty Images) © THOMAS SHEA/AFP/Getty Images Customers wait in line to enter Frontier Fiesta on February 17, 2021 in Houston, Texas. - A winter storm has caused rolling black-outs through out the Houston and the surrounding areas for the past 48 hours. Millions of Americans were struggling without electricity Wednesday as bitter cold from a deadly winter storm system held its grip across huge swathes of the United States, even pushing as far south as Mexico. (Photo by Thomas Shea / AFP) (Photo by THOMAS SHEA/AFP via Getty Images)

The country is not only in a pandemic that shut down all manner of activity and left tens of millions of Americans unemployed, but it's also in the early stages of a Covid-19 vaccination campaign that has provided the first hope in a year that the nation is nearing normalcy.

Winter storm: Half of America is under winter weather advisories as freezing temperatures grip the country

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Hong Kong (CNN) As much of Europe stares down the barrel of renewed coronavirus lockdowns , and a potentially miserable -- and deadly -- winter to come, China is going from strength to strength. For many in Europe, China' s approach to the coronavirus is characterized by the initial draconian, 76-day lockdown seen in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where cases of the virus were first detected late last year . But other parts of the country never saw such stringent restrictions, even during the early stages of the pandemic when similar lockdowns were introduced in cities throughout China.

The massive winter storm that swept across the nation this week has left 5 million people without power as utilities have been forced to implement rolling power outages, Bloomberg reported. SPP executive vice president and chief operating officer Lanny Nickell said in a statement that the move was a "last resort" and SPP had never before ordered such interruptions. " It ' s a last resort that we understand puts a burden on our member utilities and the customers they serve but it ' s a step we 're consciously taking to prevent circumstances from getting worse, which could result in uncontrolled

Days of snow, ice and freezing rain are further kinking up a vaccine rollout that has been far from flawless, depriving doses from seniors and essential workers on deadline for their second doses. From Texas to New York, officials are weighing the weather system's impact, and even states such as Colorado and Florida that escaped the worst of winter's wrath are experiencing shipment delays as a result of the storms.

a person sitting in a living room: Karla Perez and Esperanza Gonzalez stay in their apartment during a power outage caused by the winter storm on February 16, 2021, in Houston, Texas. © Go Nakamura/Getty Images Karla Perez and Esperanza Gonzalez stay in their apartment during a power outage caused by the winter storm on February 16, 2021, in Houston, Texas.

Not to mention the danger of people huddling in houses and warming centers when they're supposed to be socially distancing. Tricia Lancaster of Dallas had no choice but to welcome family members into her home after they lost power, she told CNN.

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Vietnam had zero Covid -19 deaths. It may seem like Vietnam got off easy, but that' s not by chance. With just 288 cases and zero deaths, this Southeast Asia country acted faster than most nations, shutting its borders with China in late January and suspending visas to prevent foreigners from After traveling north to Hanoi in late-March, I spent 22-days in lockdown lounging around my short-term apartment. On April 23, I couldn't wait to go see which restaurants and cafes around Hanoi were welcoming customers back in. The street food stalls were among the first to put out their tiny plastic

"We're trying to stay safe and not get together because of Covid. Now, everyone's together. It's bad," she said.

Americans didn't need any more reminders of the things they once took for granted. Coronavirus had already hamstrung travel. Now, treacherous road and runways render traveling, even to safety, a non-starter.

The storms have shut down basic necessities, such as water and electricity, for millions. Some have resorted to warming themselves with grills and automobile heaters -- with deadly consequences in a handful of instances.

Those who can travel to stores found long lines and bare shelves, adding the risk of more problems for residents already low on supplies as more nasty weather approaches.

Struggling to keep children warm

Kimberly Hampton of Irving, Texas, which has seen its coldest weather in decades this week, said it's been impossible to keep her family warm. She ensconced her 7-month-old in blankets in his playpen, while her 3-year-old twins were bundled in layers of clothing, she said. The family was "laying on top of each other" to share body heat, she said.

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"It is challenging for us , but it ' s our societal obligation to do it," one shopper told CNN as they waited in line at a grocery store. "I think we 've got to get this under control," another said, "but it sucks for most of these people that are running these small businesses." " We 've agonized over these decisions about the impact on business and so on," Tory said, "but I think the impact will be way less than if we left it and we got into the kind of territory we 've seen elsewhere." Officials hoping for success in second lockdown .

Covid -19 is spreading faster than ever before in the United States , with hospitals in some states running at capacity. The country is now in the same situation that France, Belgium and the Czech Republic were last month, when rapidly rising infections put their The Czech Republic is a good example. After a very mild spring epidemic, the country relaxed most of its coronavirus restrictions over the summer, ditching compulsory masks and fully reopening the economy. When cases started rising again in September, the government resisted calls from scientists that tougher measures were needed.

They spent more than a day in the dark. The frozen milk Hampton had stored for her youngest was thawing. They ran out of firewood and gas for the generator. They bought 2x4s for $3 apiece, but they burn too quickly, she said.

"My husband is going to have to go buy some formula because all my frozen milk is going bad. My other kids are miserable and don't understand why it's cold or why they can't watch TV or have a warm meal," she said Tuesday.

The storm raises questions about Texas' electrical infrastructure, about 90% of which is controlled by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. While ERCOT defends its handling of the storm -- saying it averted a grid collapse and possible lengthy blackout -- Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Wednesday that 34 cities in her county still don't have power, and "we don't have an end in sight."

Gov. Greg Abbott has called for an investigation into ERCOT, which the council's leadership says it welcomes.

A different kind of disaster

Storms have swept through much of the country. Rapid City, South Dakota, has experienced a cold streak not seen since the 1940s. Nebraska's Grande Isle and Hastings saw record lows of minus 24 and minus 30, respectively. Still, states accustomed to milder winters have struggled most.

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Tennessee already has three storm-related deaths, officials announced. Memphis, home to a FedEx hub integral in distributing the Covid-19 vaccine, has seen below-freezing temperatures since last week. The mercury isn't expected to climb above 32 until the weekend.

The City Council in Oklahoma City, which experienced a record run of temperatures below 20, ordered energy providers to prioritize health and public safety. In Kentucky, where some residents may be without electricity into next week after three winter storms in less than two weeks, the state has employed techniques such as synchronized plowing and tow plows to sweep snow off the roads. In Little Rock, which is also amid a historic chill, Arkansas' governor implored residents to conserve energy and deployed the National Guard to help drivers.

Owing to their coastal environs, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas tend to deal with more hurricanes than snow, while many states being hammered in the Southeast see tornadoes more frequently than the ice. In what was a harbinger of the destruction the winter weather would deliver this week, an EF-3 tornado packing 160 mph winds touched down with little warning Monday in Brunswick County, North Carolina.

Kate Gentle and her four kids escaped unscathed, hunkering down in her bedroom and closet as the wind howled and the unexpected twister damaged dozens of homes and killed at least three people.

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"We are extremely fortunate," she said. "God really protected us last night because just a couple damned miles down the road, some of our beautiful community members lost everything."

Even meteorologists are stunned

North Carolina and much of the Atlantic coast may be in for more hard times. Duke Energy is predicting about a million power outages across the Carolinas, beginning Thursday as the weather system pushes east and up the eastern seaboard.

In Lake Charles, Louisiana, residents were still recovering from last year's double barrel of Hurricanes Laura and Delta when the cold came. The city of 77,000 was hit Monday with thundersnow -- a phenomenon more common in locales such as Buffalo, New York, and Connecticut -- and residents were advised Wednesday to boil their water as yet another storm passed through en route to the Northeast. Along with more snow, forecasts brought the threat of heavy ice accumulating later in the day.

"Residents can expect dangerous travel conditions, numerous power outages and extensive tree damage," the National Weather Service said, as if the area needed more bad news.

A four-hour drive north, in Shreveport, problems with the water supply continued -- a common issue in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee as ruptured pipes and power outages shut down service. Barbara Thomas was hoping the bottled water in her garage gets her through the storms.

"This morning, I filled two mop buckets up with snow for the toilets," the Shreveport woman said. "I will be doing this all day."

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Meteorologist Michael Berry, who has spent 30 years with the weather service, has never seen storms like the ones passing through Shreveport, he said. He worried about residents losing power Wednesday and about the homeless and elderly populations who aren't being checked on because conditions are so dangerous.

"Never in my career has my office been filled with cots and sleeping bags for stranded employees who don't want to risk driving home in this mess," Berry said.

What's next

Already, politicians are playing a blame game. Experts predict a recovery that will cost billions in Texas alone, but Steve Bowen, head of catastrophe insight at the professional services firm Aon, warns it's too early to make assessments.

"As temperatures start to warm in Texas, it is expected that we will see more instances of pipes bursting," he said. "We aren't quite at the point yet to be talking about damage in the past tense."

Right now, the important matter is protecting lives in the states hammered by deadly conditions and those bracing for them. The resilient Texas spirit that's on display after hurricanes is already rising up through the snow and ice.

Non-profits are distributing blankets and meals. Temporary shelters are popping up. San Antonio's Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center is one of many facilities repurposed as a warming center. Officials are disseminating information on how to prevent hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning. Texans with four-wheel drives are pulling vehicles out of ditches and transporting residents to warming confines. At McMurry University in Abilene, where water plants were without power for days, football players carried water from the swimming pool to residence halls so students could use their toilets.

Until the roads are cleared and basic utilities are restored, neighborly altruism will prove vital, which Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price knew when speaking to CNN on Tuesday after a day and a half without water or power herself.

"If people have neighbors that they know don't have heat and maybe they do, offer to take them in. Let's watch out for each other. Let's try to do the right thing by helping. Share what we have," she said.

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