An “unprecedented” winter storm continued its attack on the nation Monday, killing at least four people, leaving millions without electricity in Texas and wreaking havoc on travel due to heavy snow and ice in much of the United States.
More than 150 million people in 25 states were exposed to a winter storm warning, winter weather warning, or ice storm warning that stretched over 2,000 miles from south Texas to north Maine, the National Weather Service said.
The storm was predicted to continue covering parts of the Midwest and Northeast with heavy snow until Tuesday morning, before receding later in the day.
Bitter, record-breaking cold accompanied the storm through the central United States on Monday. Hundreds of daily record low temperatures were or will be broken during this lengthy “polar fall,” the weather service said, “with some February and even all-time low temperature records at risk.”
Another storm is expected to cover the plains in snow Tuesday before tossing east Texas to southwest Tennessee in freezing rain on Tuesday night, the NWS said.
According to the Capital Weather Gang, more than 50 million people could see sub-zero temperatures in the next few days.
Winter weather has been blamed for at least four deaths in three states.
A 10-year-old boy died after falling into an icy pond in Tennessee Sunday. His 6-year-old sister was rescued by a local adult after the two children stepped onto an ice-covered pond that was not frozen enough to support their weight.
The Louisiana Department of Health reported Monday that a 50-year-old man from the Lafayette Ward slipped on ice and fatally hit his head on the ground.
Also on Monday, two people died in separate accidents in Kentucky, one on Interstate 64 and one on I-75, Transportation Secretary Jim Gray said that afternoon.
“Don’t go on these streets. These roads are extremely dangerous and dangerous now, ”said Gray.
The streets of Louisiana were similarly tricky. Governor John Bel Edwards said in a press conference Monday evening that state police had committed more than 150 traffic accidents, resulting in moderate to severe injuries as a mixture of snow, sleet and freezing rain created treacherous conditions.
Outages were rampant on Monday, and over 5 million people were powerless, according to poweroutage.us, a utility tracking website. In Texas, as of 11:15 p.m. local time, nearly 4.3 million customers were in the dark.
Rotating power outages were initiated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) on Monday, meaning thousands were without power for a brief period as temperatures dropped on teenagers near Dallas and Houston.
“We urge Texans to put safety first,” the council tweeted as it urged residents to cut electricity consumption. ERCOT manages the flow of electricity in the state.
Utilities in Kansas and Missouri also rolled out rolling blackouts on Monday to respond to overwhelming demand for power during the intense cold.
The largest oil refinery in the country was closed due to the brutal weather. Motiva said it closed the Port Arthur, Texas refinery due to “unprecedented” freezing conditions along the Gulf Coast.
Matt Varble, from the Las Colinas suburb of Dallas, told the Dallas Morning News that his power went out a couple of times Monday morning. The second time it went out around 3:30 a.m. and hadn’t returned until 7 a.m.
“It’s getting very cold in my house,” Varble told the newspaper. “I’ve lived up north for a long time and nothing like this has ever happened when I lived in New York, Ohio, and Illinois.”
In Houston, where temperatures were last Tuesday in the 70s, readings were taken on Monday morning for teenagers, prompting officials to prepare for dangerous roads that could be similar to those following a Category 5 hurricane.
In Texas, the storm could be a “one-off event” given the brutally cold conditions, said AccuWeather meteorologist Brandon Buckingham. It could also be responsible for the death of two men on the streets of Houston, police officers said. The causes of death were still pending on Monday evening.
San Angelo had recorded its snowiest day on Sunday – 10.1 inches, the weather service said.
Thundersnow was reported as far as the Gulf Coast in Galveston, Texas and Lake Charles, Louisiana, early Monday.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson each activated National Guard units to assist state agencies with tasks such as rescuing stranded drivers.
In a statement, President Joe Biden declared an emergency in Texas and ordered federal assistance to aid state and local response efforts. The declaration enables the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief and provide assistance, equipment and resources to those affected by the storm.
Although the snow was expected to wear off in Texas on Monday, heavy snowfall and freezing rain are expected to move northeast to northeast from the Mississippi and Ohio valleys, the weather service said. “From the Ohio Valley and the eastern Great Lakes to northern New England, a large strip of 6 to 12 inches of snow is forecast,” said the weather service.
On Monday, FlightAware reported more than 6,300 canceled flights across the country and more than 5,500 delays. More than 2,260 cancellations are forecast for Tuesday. George Bush International Airport in Houston is closed on Monday morning due to ice build-up on the runways and will remain closed until Tuesday afternoon. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport has also been closed.
The high of 38 degrees forecast in New Orleans on Tuesday would mark 1899 as the coldest carnival of all time, the weather service said. Most of the celebrations will be canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the Pacific Northwest, hundreds of thousands of people were left without electricity after a winter storm covered the region in ice and snow over the weekend, making travel treacherous. About 300,000 people were powerless in Oregon, poweroutage.us reported. Snow-covered roads, fallen trees, and power lines made traveling in the Portland area treacherous.
Blocked storm surges in Washington state and Idaho raised concerns about flooding.
More than 70% of the US was covered in snow on Monday afternoon, the weather service reported.
In another gruesome weather turnaround on Monday afternoon, parts of Florida, Alabama and Georgia were under tornado watch, meaning weather conditions were favorable for tornadoes to develop.
Unfortunately, a second winter storm that hit the northwest on Monday was expected to bring more snow and ice to parts of the south, the Midwest and the East this week, weather.com said.
Contributor: The Associated Press