(TNS) - Feb. 18—San Antonians weary from a week of bone-chilling temperatures that brought freezing rain, sleet, snow and widespread power blackouts and plumbing problems awoke Thursday to thick flurries whitening the landscape. Gusty winds amplified the effect.
The snowfall, expected to last through noon, wasn't welcome in many quarters after delighting many here only a few days ago. Adding to the troubles was the daily forecast capping a historic four-day cold snap, the worst since 1989:
The temperature at San Antonio International Airport at 8:51 a.m. was 29 degrees, and it was both the low for the day and close to a high projected to be only 32 degrees.
The low tonight will hit 21 with the chance of even more snow.
Still, there was some good news in a week that has seen grocery store shelves cleared out and residents shivering for days without consistent heat or tap water. Just before 9 a.m., a mere 8,597 CPS Energy customers remained without power, dramatically down from only about 90 minutes earlier, when the number stood at 159,165.
The count had seesawed overnight, dipping under 90,000 hours earlier before rising after sunrise.
Around the state, 515,508 people were without power as of 8 a.m. That number had exceeded 4 million early in the week.
Concerns about the Electric Reliability Council of Texas's management of the power grid that serves 26 million people erupted into the top political story Wednesday, with bipartisan condemnation of ERCOT, as the council is called. Gov. Greg Abbott said the reliability council was "not reliable," and the Legislature was poised to investigate how it managed the crisis.
Power failures and freezing temperatures have led to low water pressure — or now water at all — in many homes, forcing cities, including San Antonio, to issue boil-water notices to customers.
For those unable to boil, SAWS recommended adding an eighth of a teaspoon of household bleach per gallon of water, shaking well and letting it sit for 30 minutes before consuming.
The Texas National Guard said late Wednesday that more than 300 troops were mobilizing in the Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas-Fort Worth areas to help operate warming stations to support those without power and water.
It said another 100 service members were assisting the Texas Department of Public Safety in the Austin, Waco, Amarillo, Abilene, Wichita Falls, Tyler, and Dallas/Fort Worth areas. Those teams include personnel and equipment that have the capacity to handle hazardous road conditions, provide recovery of stranded motorists, and transport personnel to safety.
The guard was working to launch an air operations center that will move personnel and equipment once the weather permits, and a civil support team is mobilizing in San Angelo supporting local authorities to help fix water issues in the area.
Food and water shortages at stores, and long lines at fast food restaurants, were statewide and might outlast Friday's expected end to freezing temperatures. The grocery giant H-E-B issued a statement warning that the storm had caused "severe disruption in the food supply chain," complicated by water and power outages. Its stores in San Antonio were to operate from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday.
H-E-B has shut down its senior support phone line, and suspended curbside and home delivery orders.
Frustration reigned. On Facebook, a mother described going to an H-E-B for frozen pizza and fish sticks to get her two sons through the coming days.
"There was no milk, no eggs, no bread, no fresh meat or bacon and no toilet paper," she wrote. "The gas line wrapped around the parking lot and into the street."
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