Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas has opened its doors to those forced to leave their homes due to extremely icy weather conditions.
Power has been restored for many of the millions of Texans who lost power for days after a deadly winter blast overwhelmed the electric grid, but the crisis is far from over in parts of the South, with many people lacking safe drinking water.
More than 190,000 homes and businesses remained without power in Texas, according to poweroutage.us early on Friday, down from about three million two days earlier, though utility officials said limited rolling blackouts were still possible.
In the Houston area, one family succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning from a car exhaust in their garage. Meanwhile, a grandmother and three children died when flames escaped the fireplace they were using to keep warm.
Federal Emergency Management Agency acting administrator Bob Fenton said on Friday that teams were in Texas with fuel, water, blankets and other supplies.
“What has me most worried is making sure that people stay warm,” he said, while urging people without heat to go to a shelter or warming centre.
This week Lakewood Church welcomed anyone who needed a break from the freezing temperatures. The church supplied beds, blankets, hot meals and supplies for anyone in need. More than 600 people took the church up on its offer.
Pastor Joel Osteen told a local news station: “You know, as soon as we heard this storm was going to be a huge storm, we knew that we were in position to help.
“We care about the city, we care about our neighbours and so we feel blessed to be able to open the building, provide warmth and shelter.
“We have amazing volunteers here. They love helping other people. So I believe we’re blessed to be a blessing and God’s given us this beautiful facility where we can help people with simple things to stay warm and have a place to stay.”
The snowy weather has also jeopardised drinking water systems throughout the state.
Texas officials ordered seven million people — a quarter of the population of the nation’s second largest state — to boil tap water before drinking it following days of record low temperatures that have damaged infrastructure and frozen pipes.
In Austin, some hospitals faced a loss in water pressure and in some cases, heat.
Water pressure has fallen across the state because lines have frozen, and many residents are leaving faucets dripping in hopes of preventing pipes from freezing, Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said.
Texas governor Greg Abbott urged residents to shut off water to their homes, if possible, to prevent more burst pipes and to preserve pressure in municipal systems.
Mr Abbott said President Biden’s going to approve a major disaster declaration in order to gain access to funding for those who don’t have insurance to cover the damage to their homes.