At least 20 people have died after a winter storm left millions without power in unprecedented cold weather.
The deaths included three people found dead after a tornado struck a coastal city in North Carolina and four family members who died in a Houston-area fire while using a fireplace to keep warm.
The winter storm washed out power grids and has immobilized the southern plains of the United States.
Wind chill warnings extended from Canada to Mexico. The weather is also likely to delay shipments and deliveries of the COVID-19 vaccine.
North Carolina’s Brunswick County had little notification of dangerous weather and a tornado warning was not issued until the storm was already on the ground.
The National Weather Service was “very surprised at how quickly this storm intensified … and at the time of night when most people are at home and in bed, it creates a very dangerous situation,” he said. the Director of Emergency Services, Ed Conrow.
In Chicago, 18 inches of new snow forced public schools to cancel classes Tuesday. Hours earlier, along the normally temperate Gulf of Mexico, cross-country skier Sam Fagg encountered fresh powder on the beach in Galveston, Texas.
Power outages affect two million homes in Texas
The worst power outages in the United States occurred in Texas, affecting more than two million homes and businesses.
Texas officials requested 60 generators from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency and planned to prioritize hospitals and nursing homes. The state opened 35 shelters for more than 1,000 occupants, the agency said.
More than 500 people sought comfort in a Houston shelter. Mayor Sylvester Turner said other heating centers were closed because they lost power.
Hundreds of thousands of people were without power in other parts of the country due to ice storms. Four million people were without electricity in Mexico.
Utility companies from Minnesota to Texas have implemented continuous blackouts to ease the load on power grids struggling to meet extreme demand for heat and power.
Blackouts that lasted more than an hour began around dawn Tuesday for Oklahoma City and more than a dozen other communities, disrupting electric space heaters, furnaces and lights just as temperatures hovered around minus 22 degrees Celsius. .
Oklahoma Gas & Electric rescinded plans for more blackouts, but urged users to set thermostats to 20 degrees Celsius, avoid using large appliances, and turn off lights or appliances that are not in use.
Power company Entergy, which operates in the southern United States, said the blackouts were being used to prevent longer power outages amid high demand for electricity.
Nebraska’s blackouts came amid the coldest weather on record: In Omaha, the temperature bottomed out to minus 30 degrees Celsius, the coldest in 25 years.
Southwest Power Pool, a utility group covering 14 states, said the blackouts were “a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electrical system as a whole.”
The cuts forced some to fight to administer doses of vaccines that must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures.
Texas officials said more than 400,000 doses of vaccines due now will not arrive until at least Wednesday due to the storm.
Meanwhile, across the United States, car accidents on icy roads and carbon monoxide poisoning were reported when people used extreme measures to heat homes.
Several cities had record lows: In Minnesota, the Hibbing / Chisholm weather station registered minus 39 degrees Celsius. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, dropped to minus 26 degrees Celsius.
By noon, more than 2,700 US flights had been canceled, led by more than 800 at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and more than 700 at Bush Intercontinental in Houston.
Authorities pleaded with residents to stay home Tuesday. About 100 school systems closed, delayed opening or switched to remote classes in Alabama, where forecasters said conditions may not improve until temperatures rise above freezing Wednesday afternoon.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism