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New storm threatens to keep Texans cold for days

In Texas and elsewhere, record-low temperatures have strained power supplies and prompted millions to rethink how to keep warm. Today, days after the cold Arctic eruption in the central and southern parts of the U.S., a new challenge is emerging: seeking warmth.

Harris County authorities, including the city of Houston, declared that people would need to boil their faucets with water until it would be safe to drink. Austin, the capital of Texas, was ordered to do the same because of a power outage at the biggest water treatment plant in the region.

And the city of Kyle, south of Austin, ordered people on Wednesday to stop their use of water because of a shortage until further notice.


“Water should only be used to sustain life at this point,” officials of the city of 48,000 said in an advisory. “We are close to running out of water supply in Kyle.”


Now, others have turned to a once-unthinkable cause in Texas: snow.





While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that melting snow for drinking water was "an emergency measure if there was no other water available," the Food and Drug Administration and the National Weather Service both cited it as an emergency option.

NASA has researched the science of calculating how much water can be collected by melting snow.

But comfortably and easily melting snow for drinking, bathing, cleaning dishes or flushing toilets can be trickier than many expect.


If you “just take snow, put it in your pot and turn the heat on,” said Wes Siler, a columnist with Outside magazine, “it’s going to take forever and waste a bunch of fuel.” Mr. Siler, who demonstrated his technique on a small outdoor stove, said it was more effective to melt a small amount of snow first. Then, once that is boiling, add more snow.

This step will “accelerate the process of melting snow tenfold,” Marty Morissette, an outdoor enthusiast, has said. (He said it may be because water transfers heat more effectively.)


Winter storm warnings and advisories are in place for parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut from Thursday morning through Friday night, with several inches of snow expected in New York City and on Long Island, said Jay Engle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Recent storms buried the city in snow, but Mr. Engle described the coming weather as “not as intense, but enough to make travel difficult.”

On Thursday night, the winds will be moderate, reaching 25 miles per hour. According to the Weather Service, three to five inches of snow was expected across the five boroughs and Long Island through Thursday, with total amounts reaching up to eight inches by Friday. Only a few inches of snow will be seen in parts of upstate New York: Albany may receive up to three inches and Poughkeepsie six inches.

As his state was racked with a huge electricity blackout crisis that left millions of people without heat in frigid temperatures, the governor of Texas took to the television airwaves to start placing blame.

His main target was renewable energy, suggesting that when wind and solar power failed, it led to a systemwide collapse.





“It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary for the state of Texas as well as other states to make sure we will be able to heat our homes in the winter times and cool our homes in the summer times,” said Gov. Greg Abbott, speaking on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News. Other conservative talk-show hosts had already picked up the theme.

However, wind power was not chiefly to blame for the Texas blackouts. The main problem was frigid temperatures that stalled natural gas production, which is responsible for the majority of Texas’ power supply. Wind makes up just a small fraction — 7 percent or so, by some estimates — of the state’s overall mix of power generation


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