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Frigid temperatures devastate Texas power grid

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Millions in Texas are without heat for a third day after a winter storm brought freezing weather conditions and knocked out power. Some are also without water and food. Janet Shamlian has the latest.

Video Transcript

NORAH O'DONNELL: Good evening, and thank you for joining us. We're going to begin with breaking news.

The deadly winter weather emergency unfolding across Texas and much of the South is becoming even more dangerous tonight, with millions of Americans heading into another night of brutal cold without heat, power, or clean water, imagine that. So many pipes have now burst that the governor is asking for help from out-of-state plumbers, as many counties warn their water could be contaminated and it needs to be boiled.

At the same time tonight, frustration is boiling over for more than 2.5 million Texans still don't have electricity, and with the state's energy grid buckling under the demand, it could be days before power is restored. At least 24 people have been killed so far by this deep freeze, and while the storm system that caused all this devastation is moving out, another one is moving in.

Tonight one third of all Americans are in the path of another storm that's now sweeping toward the East coast. It could leave parts of the South frozen under an inch-thick sheet of ice, and the Northeast under half a foot of snow. CBS's Lonnie Quinn is tracking the forecast for us. Our team is standing by with some new reporting for you and your family. CBS's Janet Shamlian is going to lead off our coverage tonight from hard hit Houston. Good evening, Janet.

JANET SHAMLIAN: Norah, good evening. This is a life-threatening humanitarian crisis, and it is growing by the hour. Families all over this state doing whatever they can to stay warm and sometimes making deadly choices. The snow here is gone now, but the bitter cold remains.

Tonight, a crisis in Texas. Millions in the dark with no heat for a third day. Lines of misery for food and gas. And now, millions without running water. Frozen pipes bursting, flooding homes. And this winter apocalypse, icicles inside a Dallas apartment building.

- It's been a little crazy. I mean, I think we did our best to prepare.

JANET SHAMLIAN: Stephen and Laura Dandridge have been living in the dark for most of the past three days with their year-old son, Bobby. No power to their fridge, but it's so cold they're storing food in the garage.

- When the sun goes down, you know, you can't keep open flames going. You've got to turn the stove off.

JANET SHAMLIAN: Almost 3 million Texans are still without power. A boil water order for all of Houston, and dozens of other cities. But in hard hit areas there is no water to boil, the taps are dry. More than half of the state's 254 counties experiencing water problems. Harris County judge Lina Hidalgo compares it to 2017's Hurricane Harvey.

LINA HIDALGO: This is very different from Harvey, but the scope of the impact is absolutely equivalent. And it's something that is impacting not just the millions of people here in Harris County, but all throughout Texas.

JANET SHAMLIAN: Desperate to stay warm, hundreds have been taken to hospitals with carbon monoxide poisoning, burning a grill inside or keeping a car running in a garage. Three children and their grandmother died in this fire. Authorities say they'd been using a fireplace overnight. In the search for food, lines to get groceries, empty shelves, and a run on gas. Tonight, questions about whether ERCOT, the utility overseeing the Texas grid, was ready.

BILL MAGNESS: I'm sure as we review this, when it's over, we're going to find things we wish we'd done better. Right now, the number one priority is getting people's power back on, getting that service restored.

JANET SHAMLIAN: But that isn't happening quickly, and local officials are warning outages could last through the weekend. The governor calling for an investigation of ERCOT and resignations.

There was never a contingency plan for the entire state being under a winter storm warning all at the same time. And tonight the agriculture commissioner here is warning about food supply chain problems like the state has never seen before. Ranchers and farmers have already lost millions of dollars in products. Norah.

NORAH O'DONNELL: Scary for so many families there. Janet Shamlian, thank you.