UPDATE: Situation In Houston Slowly Gets Back To Normal After Winter Storm

The extreme cold weather and its effects marked the first half of the week

The situation in greater Houston slowly got back to normal on Wednesday afternoon after a beginning of the week marked by a winter storm that caused three fatalities, as well as major traffic disruptions and school closures.

The Harris County Office of Emergency Management returned to its normal status around 4:00 p.m. and Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the City of Houston would resume normal operations on Thursday.

Nevertheless, Turner recommended at the beginning of the City Council meeting that Houstonians tried to avoid driving on Wednesday night, especially because the weather forecast predicted more freezing temperatures at night, starting around 7:00 p.m.

The mayor also urged residents to drive carefully on Thursday morning because of the extremely low temperatures the region was expected to experience overnight.

The return to normalcy was also signaled by most school districts, including the Houston Independent School District, announcing they would re-open their schools and offices on Thursday.

The University of Houston also announced that it would re-open its campuses on Thursday.

The three airports located in Houston, Bush Intercontinental, Hobby and Ellington had also resumed normal operations by Wednesday afternoon.

The winter storm and its effects caused at least three fatalities.

One was a homeless man who died of hypothermia in south Houston, according to the Houston Fire Department, and the other was a motorist who was fatally struck by another vehicle on the Gulf Freeway as he exited his car to check on possible damage to it after losing control because of the icy roadways, according to the Houston Police Department.

Additionally, the Associated Press reported that an 82-year-old woman who suffered from dementia died after she got out of her Houston home during the extreme winter weather.

According to officials from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the woman “succumbed to the cold.”

In Huffman, 30 miles northeast of Houston, a woman and two of her children died because of a fire that burnt their mobile home.

As reported by KHOU-CBS Channel 11, Natalie Tienda and two of her children lost their lives and, although by Wednesday afternoon investigators hadn’t confirmed whether the fire was caused by the Tiendas trying to heat up their home, sources from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said the fatal incident should serve as a reminder to be very careful when using space heaters.

As for the major traffic disruptions the winter storm caused, officials with the Texas Department of Transportation said that treating the roadways was particularly difficult because of the combination of precipitation and extremely low temperatures.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said on Wednesday morning that, at that point, his department had received 582 crash reports.

The effects of the winter storm also impacted the supply of running water in parts of Spring, a suburb to the north of Houston, as reported by KPRC-NBC Channel 2.

Regarding the economic impact the shutdown of government offices and local businesses could have, economists downplayed it and said that Houstonians can make up for one or two days of not shopping as much as they do regularly and adding that hourly employees might also compensate the work hours they lost by eventually working some overtime.

The deep freeze in Houston are causing the speed limits to drop


The National Weather Service noted on its Twitter account that a hard freeze is likely in the north, northeast and east areas of greater Houston.

According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the record for hourly usage was broken twice this week.

The previous record was earlier this month on January 3, 2018.

Leslie Sopko, a spokesperson with ERCOT said better procedures eliminate the concern of power outages.

"The last time that ERCOT saw a system-wide rotating outage was in February of 2011. And that was an extreme weather event and several generators were tripping off-line. Since then our generators are much more prepared to withstand the extreme cold temperatures," said Sopko.

Sopko said all generators are examined each Fall to ensure they'll work in cold conditions.

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