More than 20 storm-related deaths have been recorded so far, including in traffic accidents in Texas, Kentucky, and Missouri, according to local media. Millions were left without power as a winter storm struck the southern and central United States on Tuesday, with record low temperatures in unprepared areas and a tornado that claimed three lives.
More than 20 storm-related deaths have been recorded so far, including in traffic accidents in Texas, Kentucky, and Missouri, according to local media.
In hardest-hit Texas—where freezing conditions prompted utility companies to implement rotating blackouts—a woman and a girl died of carbon monoxide poisoning after using a car to generate heat, according to NBC News. In Houston on Monday, a homeless man was killed "possibly from exposure," according to the Harris County Sheriff's Department, and the City Police Chief said that another man had been found dead after being exposed to low temperatures.
A man in Louisiana died when he hit his head after slipping on the ice, and a ten-year-old Tennessee boy died after he and his six-year-old sister fell through the ice on a pond Sunday.
U.S. President Joe Biden vowed on Tuesday to provide additional emergency resources to those affected by the "historic storm." He also thanked "road workers, highway patrol officers, and first responders who are taking swift action in horrific conditions to save lives," according to a White House statement.
The winter storm spawned at least four tornadoes, according to Atlanta-based weather.com, including one in coastal North Carolina late Monday that killed at least three people and injured 10 more.
"It is estimated that at least 50 homes were affected in the incident and several power lines were damaged, causing power outages," Brunswick County Emergency Services said in a statement.
U.S. media photos and video showed down trees, flattened homes, and broken cars.
According to Poweroutage.us, as of Tuesday night, more than three million residential, commercial and industrial customers were without electricity in Texas.
In the state capital, Austin, the temperature dropped to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 degrees Celsius)—far below the February average low of 45F. On the other hand, thermometers in Anchorage, Alaska read 20F.
Rare winter scenes took place in Houston, where locals built snowmen and sleighed.
"It's lovely to see the white but very dangerous at the same time because people here don't know how to drive in it," said Michael, a resident of Houston, who only gave his first name to Reuters.
"You know they're driving too fast."
In Mississippi, residents woke up to discover much of the Deep South, transformed into a snow-and-ice-covered landscape.
Authorities were reportedly struggling to clear roads, as they didn't have snow plows because the state so rarely needs them.
Officials across the US have urged residents to exercise caution in navigating hazardous conditions.
Weather-related emergencies have been reported in Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas, Mississippi, and Oregon—where nearly 200,000 customers were powerless. Across the southern border, Mexican officials said six people died after temperatures plummeted and frozen gas pipelines from the United States caused power outages.
Four died in Monterrey, three of them were homeless people who succumbed to exposure, and one died at home from carbon monoxide poisoning by the heater. Two agricultural workers also died of hypothermia in neighboring Tamaulipas.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has said that the winter storm will move to the northeast of the United States before it "making a beeline for eastern Canada."
"But not before it causes heavy snow and freezing rain in parts of the eastern Great Lakes and New England," said the NWS. "This massive weather system is making its way across the country and ready to deliver a one-two punch of snow, ice, and heavy winds across the entire state for the next two days," he said in a statement.
Further inland, Chicago expected to see up to 14 inches of snow before the end of the cold snap. By Tuesday morning, the local ABC affiliate reported that the weather had caused almost 60 cancelations of flights at local airports.