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Storm moves northeast as Texas reels from rare winter gut punch

By UPI Staff & Accuweather.com
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Storm moves northeast as Texas reels from rare winter gut punch
Utility crews work to repair broken water lines in Wylie, Texas, on Thursday. Record cold, snow and ice caused power outages that resulted in frozen water pipes across the state and many parts of the state are under a water boiling order due low water pressure. Photo by Ian Halperin/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Although the winter storm has moved off to the east and electricity has been restored to millions of people in Texas, some were still without it on Friday and utility officials say the state dodged a total disaster that could've kept the lights and heat off for months.

By early Friday, fewer than 200,000 Texas customers were still without power, according to poweroutage.us -- down from more than 4 million after the storm arrived early this week.

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The outages have led to all sorts of problems for Texas residents and companies. The lack of power has kept the heat off for millions in the state amid record freezing temperatures, shut down water treatment plants.

By early Friday, about half the state -- roughly 13 million people -- remained under a water boiling advisory.

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Utility officials imposed rolling blackouts this week to keep the state's electrical grid from becoming overloaded. One official says the grid was "seconds or minutes" away from a total collapse that could have kept the power off for months.

"If operators had not acted very rapidly ... it could have very quickly changed," Electric Reliability Council of Texas CEO Bill Magness told the Dallas Morning News.

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ERCOT officials say they hope they don't have to continue with the rolling blackouts, but will if demand overwhelms supply in the next few days.

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Almost 200,000 customers are also still without power in neighboring Louisiana and Mississippi, according to poweroutage.us.

The winter storm, which delivered rare snow to Texas and other parts of the South, has moved off to the east and it now targeting a swatch of the eastern United States, from Mississippi to Massachusetts.

Winter weather advisories stretched from eastern Kentucky to Massachusetts by Friday morning, with a handful of winter storm warnings scattered across North Carolina and into Maryland.

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By Thursday evening, parts of North Carolina had seen up to 0.4 inches of freezing rain.

Before the storm left for the Northeast, it left behind enough snow in Little Rock, Ark., to tie a record. The snow depth at Little Rock Adams Field measured 15 inches, tying the city's all-time record from 1918.

Across northern Alabama, some snow-covered roads resulted in more than 100 stuck and abandoned vehicles in various locations around Florence, police said.

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In the Northeast, heavy snow had already begun to fall on Thursday. Philadelphia saw almost 3 inches of snow by Thursday afternoon and more was forecast Friday. In New York City, more than 3 inches had fallen at Central Park and La Guardia Airport.

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This week, more than 13,000 reports of snow nationwide flooded offices of the National Weather Service, with other reports consisting of freezing rain, extreme cold and high winds. The total number of reports sits at about 17,800.

Additionally, the NWS says at least 2,400 preliminary cold temperature records, including maximums and minimums, were either broken or tied over the past week at sites with at least 75 years of data.

AccuWeather contributed to this report

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