With many people still without electricity or safe drinking water, Tim Boyd, a now-former mayor of a West Texas town, came under fire for his Facebook post lashing out against freezing residents for complaining.
Power outages in Texas have dropped below 1 million for the first time in four days, but many people remained without electricity or safe drinking water after winter storms wreaked havoc on the state's power grid and utilities.
Meanwhile, heavy snow and ice were expected on Thursday in the Appalachians, northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania, with the wintry weather moving into the Northeast by nightfall.
The NWS said the storm would bring ice, sleet and heavy snow to parts of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi as it tracks to the northeast, causing power outages, tree damage and making driving hazardous.
In Little Rock, Arkansas, 38 centimetres (15 inches) of snow was on the ground on Thursday after back-to-back storms, tying a record for snow depth set in 1918, the National Weather Service said.
More than 320,000 homes and businesses were without power in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama after a wave of storms dumped as much as 10 centimetres (4 inches) of snow and ice across the region.
In Tennessee, 12 people were rescued from boats after a dock weighed down by snow and ice collapsed on the Cumberland River on Wednesday night, the Nashville Fire Department said.
This week's extreme weather has been blamed for the deaths of more than 30 people, some of whom perished while struggling to keep warm inside their homes.
In the Houston area, one family succumbed to carbon monoxide from car exhaust in their garage.
A grandmother and three children died when flames escaped the fireplace they were using to keep warm.
"Only the strong will survive"
In Texas, about 560,000 homes and businesses were still without electricity in Thursday morning, down from about 3 million the day before.
Tim Boyd, the now former mayor of a West Texas town came under fire for his comments about the storm on social media.
He said he had already turned in his resignation when he wrote a Facebook post saying it was not the local government's responsibility to help those suffering in the cold without power.
In his typo-ridden post made in Tuesday morning, Tim Boyd wrote, “Only the strong will survive and the weak will parish.”
He also said he was “sick and tired” of people looking for handouts and that the current situation is “sadly a product of a socialist government.”
Boyd deleted his post but stood by the sentiments in a follow-up message.
He also wrote that his original message was posted as a private citizen, not the mayor of Colorado City, saying he “had already turned in my resignation and had not signed up to run for mayor again."
"Drink tap water"
Texas’ grid manager, under fire also for its response to the winter storm, has warned that the outages could fluctuate during hours of peak energy demand.
Adding to the misery, the snowy weather has jeopardised drinking water systems throughout the state.
Texas officials ordered 7 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 damaged infrastructure and froze pipes.
In Austin, some hospitals faced a loss in water pressure and in some cases, heat.
“Because this is a state-wide emergency situation that is also impacting other hospitals within the Austin area, no one hospital currently has the capacity to accept transport of a large number of patients,” St David's South Austin Medical Center CEO David Huffstutler said in a statement.
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, said Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Governor Greg Abbott urged residents to shut off water to their homes, if possible, to prevent more busted pipes and preserve pressure in municipal systems.
Weather-related outages have been particularly stubborn in Oregon, where some customers have been without power for almost a week.
A Portland supermarket without power threw perishable food into dumpsters, leading to a clash between scavengers and police.
The damage to the power system was the worst in 40 years, said Maria Pope, CEO of Portland General Electric.
At the peak of the storm, more than 350,000 customers in the Portland area were in the dark.
More than 100,000 customers remained without power on Thursday in Oregon.
“These are the most dangerous conditions we’ve ever seen in the history of PGE,” said Dale Goodman, director of utility operations, who declined to predict when all customers would have power restored.
Utilities from Minnesota to Texas have implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on strained power grids.
The Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities covering 14 states, said the blackouts were “a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole.”
The weather also disrupted water systems in several Southern cities, including in New Orleans and Shreveport, Louisiana, where city fire trucks delivered water to several hospitals, and bottled water was being brought in for patients and staff, Shreveport television station KSLA reported.
Power was cut to a New Orleans facility that pumps drinking water from the Mississippi River.
A spokeswoman for the Sewerage and Water Board said on-site generators were used until electricity was restored.
In the southwest Louisiana city of Lake Charles, Mayor Nic Hunter said on Wednesday that water reserves remained low and local hospitals were faced with the possibility they might have to transfer patients to other areas.