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Texans killed by extreme cold in their bedrooms, vehicles and backyards

SAN ANTONIO – Carrol Anderson has spent much of his life in Southeast Texas, where the most dreaded natural disasters strike the Gulf of Mexico during the hot months of the hurricane season. But last week Mr Anderson, a 75-year-old man who breathed using oxygen tanks, knew another kind of storm was heading his way.

To prepare, he ordered a new supply of oxygen which his daughter-in-law said never arrived. There was, however, a spare tank in the van outside his one-story brick house in Crosby, Texas, just northeast of Houston.

So when Mr. Anderson, an Army veteran who passed by Andy, was found dead inside his truck on Tuesday, his stepdaughter thought he was out to pick it up. His main tank, back in the house, runs on electricity, and the electricity was cut off the night before as a deadly cold swept over much of Texas.

While the final tally may be much higher, Mr Anderson was among at least 58 people who died in storm-affected areas stretching as far as Ohio from carbon monoxide poisoning, d car accidents, drownings, house fires and hypothermia.

In Galveston County, along the Texas Gulf Coast, officials said two residents had died from exposure to cold and one person from possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Four other deaths remained under investigation and may have been related to the freezing weather.

Judge Mark Henry, the county’s top elected official, said he would have evacuated some of its most vulnerable residents ahead of the winter storm had he known power outages would plunge the county into darkness for a few days . He said the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state’s electricity grid, had only warned of power outages. Instead, most residents were without power for at least 48 hours.

“We would have been happy to order an evacuation if we had been told on Sunday that the electricity was going to go out and stay for four days,” he said, noting that the county is more used to ordering evacuations before the hurricanes.

A spokeswoman for Ercot said on Friday that the surge in demand had put stress on the electricity grid, a crisis so severe that “local utilities were unable to alternate blackouts.”

At its peak, about four million Texans were without power this week as temperatures dropped to teens and single digits. About 165,000 people remained without electricity on Friday, although millions still have no running water or are advised to boil tap water.

Still, there were signs of relief. In Austin, City Manager Spencer Cronk said on Friday more than a million gallons of water would arrive over the next two days. The city plans to set up distribution centers, and Mr Cronk said water will be provided to the city’s most vulnerable citizens, such as the elderly and the homeless.

Greg Meszaros, the director of the Austin water utility, said he expected most residents to see their water pressure restored over the weekend. The boil water advisories are expected to be lifted next week, he said.

The dimensions of a public health crisis exacerbated by poverty, hopelessness and, in some cases, a lack of understanding of cold weather safety, have become more apparent. Texas hospitals and health care providers recorded more than 700 visits related to carbon monoxide poisoning between Monday and Wednesday. Thayer Smith, division chief of the Austin Fire Department, said his city has seen dozens of incidents of toxic exposure from people burning charcoal in their homes.

The weather has also hampered the response to the coronavirus pandemic. The White House said on Friday that six million doses of the coronavirus vaccine had been blocked due to snowstorms across the country, creating a backlog affecting every state and slowing the pace of immunization appointments over the course of next week.

Hospitals in Texas spent the week struggling with burst pipes, power outages and acute water shortages, making it difficult to manage patients.

In Abilene, authorities said a man died at Hendrick Medical Center after being unable to receive dialysis treatment at the site. Large amounts of filtered water, in addition to electricity and heating, are needed to properly care for dialysis patients, and the hospital’s water has been shut down, said Cande Flores, the fire chief. from Abilene.

Chief Flores said at least four people have died in Abilene as a result of the state’s power grid failure, including a homeless man who died from cold exposure, a 60-year-old man found dead at his home and an 86-year-old woman whose daughter found her frozen in his garden.

Elsewhere in the state, a 69-year-old man was found dead in his home in a rural community south of San Antonio, where he lived alone. He had no electricity and authorities said his room was 35 degrees when they found him.

In Houston, an Ethiopian immigrant died in her idling car, which was parked in her garage, where she sat while charging her phone. She was talking to a friend when she started to feel tired.

“She tried to drink some water,” said Negash Desta, a step relative with Etenesh Mersha, who died. “After telling her friend that she couldn’t speak anymore, there was no response afterwards.”

Credit…via Negash Desta

The friend attempted to call the police in Houston but did not have an address, Mr Desta said. The friend turned to Facebook, where she found Mr. Desta. A few hours later, he finally got a message about what had happened and alerted the police. They found an entire family poisoned.

“When they entered, they found that the mother and daughter were just dead and the son and father were alive. They were all passed out, ”he said, adding that the car was still running. The daughter, Rakeb Shalemu, was 7 years old.

Ms. Mersha’s husband and 8-year-old son were hospitalized. Mr Desta said the husband has since been released and the boy, Beimnet Shalemu, is still in the intensive critical unit.

Near Houston in Conroe, Texas, an 11-year-old boy, Cristian Pineda, was found dead in his bed Monday morning. His family had no power the night before, and the parents, the boy and his siblings had huddled together in a bedroom, Lt. James Kelemen of the Conroe Police Department said on Friday.

Like Mr. Anderson and Ms. Mersha and her family, Cristian was the subject of a hastily assembled GoFundMe page. He asked for donations to cover the costs of his burial in Honduras, where his family is from. He had raised over $ 38,000 by Friday afternoon.

The page showed a photo of a boy in a thin red hoodie, smiling and standing in the snow.

On Tuesday, as Mr Anderson’s wife was cleaning their living room after a frozen pipe burst, he went to the garage to try and run a generator, hoping he could help clean up with a Shop -Vac.

His wife would not know until later that he had gone to his truck for oxygen, his stepdaughter, Brandi Campanile, said. It was 19 degrees. It turned out that his spare oxygen tank was empty.

“He was trying to get oxygen and it was just a losing battle,” Ms. Campanile said on Friday. “Texas is not meant to endure freezing temperatures. It is not something that is happening here.

Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio reported from San Antonio, Richard Fausset from Atlanta, and Johnny diaz from Miami. Richard Webner contributed reporting from Austin, and Simon romero Albuquerque.

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New York City has 330,000 tons of salt and 2,000 vehicles on hand to clean up its streets.

Although forecasters predicted that snowfall in New York City would begin mid-afternoon on Wednesday, city officials wereted no time in initiating snow removal operations by sending salt spreaders to the areas. streets Tuesday.

“You never really know what a storm like this is going to throw at you, but we’re as ready as possible,” said Edward Grayson, acting commissioner of the city’s Sanitation Department, whose members are responsible for the enormous task of clearing the snow from 6,300 miles of streets.

On Wednesday, the department had started to turn away from its daily garbage collection and snow removal from the city’s roads.

The department has 6,300 employees available to work during the storm and some 2,000 vehicles to plow the streets – from garbage collection trucks temporarily fitted with plow attachments to dedicated snow plow vehicles that also spray rock salt and brine solution for melt the snow, Mr. Grayson said. .

The city has 330,000 tons of salt on hand, stacked in sheds across the city, Grayson said as he inspected part of his moving yard at a sanitary garage in downtown Manhattan.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, when the streets are expected to have accumulated two inches of snow, the department would send out its plows in full force and continue until the streets are clear, which could be Friday if the storm is extremely severe, has Mr. Grayson said.

Street cleaning will be more complicated than ever as plows must carefully avoid the many kiosks set up on the streets by restaurants for alfresco dining, Grayson said.

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Trump loses string of election lawsuits, leaving few vehicles to fight defeat

President Trump suffered several legal setbacks in three key states on Friday, stifling many of his ultimate efforts to use the courts to delay or block the victory of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

In quick succession, Mr. Trump was defeated in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan, where a Detroit state judge rejected an unusual Republican attempt to stop the certification of the vote in Wayne County pending a audit of the account.

The legal losses came when Mr Biden was declared the winner in Georgia and a day after an agency of the President’s Department of Homeland Security outright contradicted him by declaring that the election “was the safest of the world.” American history ”and that“ no evidence ”voting systems have worked.

On Friday, 16 federal prosecutors responsible for monitoring the elections also directly denied the allegations of widespread fraud, saying in a letter to Attorney General William P. Barr that there was no evidence of substantial irregularities.

In his first public remarks of the week, Mr Trump ignored the developments during an appearance at the rose garden. But he showed a momentary crack in his previously unrelenting insistence that he ultimately be proclaimed the campaign winner, saying at one point: “Whatever happens in the future, who knows, which administration, I guess. time will tell. ”

Mr Trump’s bad day at the bar began at dawn when news emerged that lawyers at the Ohio-based law firm Porter Wright Morris & Arthur had abruptly withdrawn from a federal lawsuit they they had sued a few days earlier on his behalf in Pennsylvania. The withdrawal from the cabinet followed internal tensions within the cabinet over his work for Mr. Trump and concerns from some lawyers that Porter Wright was being used to undermine the integrity of the electoral process.

Then, shortly after noon, a lawyer from the Trump campaign effectively dropped his so-called Sharpiegate trial in Arizona. The lawsuit claimed that some ballots for Mr. Trump were spoiled after voters in Maricopa County used Sharpie pens, causing “ink bleeding.” Lawyer Kory Langhofer conceded that there weren’t enough presidential votes at stake in the case to influence the outcome of the race.

The lawsuit, which stemmed from a viral rumor falsely claiming that Arizona’s voting machines were unable to compile completed Sharpies ballots, was already on the rocks. In a hearing Thursday, Mr Langhofer told the court that the county’s vote count was affected simply by “good faith mistakes”, not fraud, as Mr Trump has claimed for days.

“We are not saying that anyone is trying to steal the election,” Langhofer said.

With victories in Arizona and Georgia, Mr. Biden has matched the 306 electoral votes Mr. Trump racked up four years ago. Mr Biden was declared the winner of Arizona’s 11 electoral votes on Thursday night after completing more than 11,000 votes in front of Mr Trump. At the court hearing earlier that day, a Maricopa County election official said only 191 presidential votes in the county could have been affected by Mr Langhofer’s prosecution.

At around 2 p.m. on Friday, Michigan State Court Judge Timothy M. Kenny dealt Mr. Trump another blow by denying an emergency petition filed by two Republican election officials who asked him to suspend certification of the vote in Wayne County – home to Detroit – pending an audit of the tally. States must certify the election results – confirming that the voting table was correct – in order to distribute their votes to the Electoral College.

Judge Kenny’s ruling meant that the official completion of the vote in Wayne County – and the broader vote in Michigan – could continue at pace. Some legal scholars have suggested that delaying certification of the vote in key states is part of a Trump campaign’s last resort strategy to launch the election in Republican-led state legislatures.

At a hearing this week in Detroit, city lawyers asked Judge Kenny not to delay certification for the sake of the gambit. In his ruling, the judge noted that the audit requested by the two Republican plaintiffs, Cheryl Costantino and Edward McCall, would have been “onerous” and forced the rest of Michigan to wait.

“It would be an exercise in unprecedented judicial activism for this tribunal to stop the certification process,” added Judge Kenny.

In a lawsuit filed last week, Ms Costantino and Mr McCall made numerous claims of irregularities during the counting of the votes at the TCF Convention Center in Detroit.

They accused some heavily Democratic city election officials of training voters to vote for Mr Biden, that some Republican challengers did not have adequate access to monitor the vote count and that tons of ballots were cast. been incorrectly introduced into the convention. center in the middle of the night.

Lawyers for Detroit and the Michigan Democratic Party had argued in court documents that around 100 Republican ballot candidates were in fact admitted into the convention center, but some were not allowed to re-enter after leaving the room. once the room is full.

Judge Kenny wrote that while he took some of these accusations seriously, some were too general to prove and others were “full of speculation and guesswork.”

He rejected the affidavit of a Republican poll observer accusing the computers at the convention center had been poorly connected to the internet, noting that the observer’s credibility was questionable: before the election, the observer posted on Facebook that Democrats were using the coronavirus crisis as “a cover for election day fraud.”

Between the events in Arizona and Michigan, another tribunal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, inflicted another defeat on the president.

The court upheld Pennsylvania’s three-day extension to the deadline for accepting mail-in ballots, which the Trump campaign has vehemently fought against. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had previously issued a similar decision and the US Supreme Court refused to accept Mr. Trump’s attempt to challenge it.

As the president spoke in the rose garden, Marc E. Elias, a lawyer who handled several election cases on behalf of Democrats, written on twitter: “Another Friday afternoon with more good news from the courts.”

It turned out to be two more wins in Pennsylvania.

In one, a Montgomery County common court rejected the Trump campaign’s request to invalidate a batch of mail-in ballots. In the other, a common Philadelphia County court dismissed the campaign’s appeal to invalidate five more mail-in ballots.

The total number of ballots at stake in the two decisions: 8,927.

Mr. Trump was not ready to give up. he posted on Twitter Friday evening that he would win in Pennsylvania, making a baseless claim about the vote count in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

With the legal fight not going well, the president entrusted his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, with responsibility for his electoral prosecutions related to the election result, as well as all public communications concerning them, four people familiar with the movement told me.

Mr. Trump has tried all possible options to change the outcome and has tried to argue what he sees as “fighters,” often confusing a media strategy with a legal one.

But the involvement of Mr Giuliani, who held a widely mocked press conference last weekend outside a landscaping company in Philadelphia in which he claimed widespread fraud, has upset people in the countryside and in the community. White House.

The Trump campaign and his proxies still have cases pending before the courts, including one in the Federal District Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which closely mirrors the Michigan state case that Judge Kenny brought forward. closed Friday.

A lawsuit to delay certification of the vote in several counties in Wisconsin was filed Thursday in federal district court in Green Bay. On Tuesday, a federal judge in Williamsport, Pa., Will hear arguments in a lawsuit to discontinue voting certification in several counties in that state.

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.

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Vehicles displaying Trump flags attempt to force a Biden-Harris campaign bus off a highway in Texas.

AUSTIN, Texas – Several vehicles carrying Trump flags and placards surrounded a Biden-Harris campaign bus going from San Antonio to Austin on Friday, forcing campaign officials to drop two campaign events, according to Democratic officials reports on Saturday.

Vehicles surrounded the bus on busy Interstate 35 and appeared to be attempting to slow it down and force it onto the side of the road, according to social media posts from witnesses and accounts from party activists. In one case, vehicles parked in front of the bus and attempted to stop in the middle of the freeway.

Travis County Democratic Party chair Katie Naranjo tweeted that Trump supporters also “ran into one person’s car, shouting curses and threats.” The bus was occupied by campaign workers, who notified local law enforcement officials, who helped the vehicle reach its destination, party officials said.

Out of “great caution,” they said, the campaign called off an event scheduled for later today at a Texas AFL-CIO-owned parking lot in downtown Austin. A campaign event in the suburb of Pflugerville was also dropped.

“Rather than engage in a productive conversation about the radically different visions Joe Biden and Donald Trump have for our country, Trump supporters in Texas have instead decided to put our staff, surrogates, supporters and others at risk. Tariq Thowfeek, Texas director of communications for the Biden for President campaign, said in a statement.

“Our supporters will continue to organize their communities for Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and the top-to-bottom Democrats in the ballot,” Mr. Thowfeek said, “and for the Texans who disrupted our events: We’ll see you on November 3.

A spokesperson for the Texas Republican Party could not immediately be reached for comment. Efforts to contact the Texas Department of Public Safety to determine the possibility of law enforcement action were also not immediately successful.