100 million Americans braced for more cold, ice and snow

Grant Boone
February 17, 2021

More than four million people were without power Monday evening after surging demand was driven by people trying to keep their homes warm, and cold weather knocked some power stations offline and pushed Texas's system beyond its limits.

Four died in Monterrey, three of them homeless people who succumbed to exposure and one person who died at home from carbon monoxide poisoning from a heater.

As nightfall threatened to plummet temperatures again into single digits, officials warned that homes still without power would likely not have heat until tomorrow, as frustration mounted and the state's electric grid came under growing demand and criticism.

Winter storm watches were in effect from Baltimore to Boston, and Texas braced for more icy rain and possibly more snow.

Millions of people in the state, which rarely experiences such low temperatures, have been struggling to cope with the lack of power and frigid conditions.

More than 3 million customers remained without power in Texas, Louisiana and MS, more than 200,000 more in four Appalachian states, and almost that many in the Pacific Northwest, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility outage reports.

State health officials said Texas, which was due to receive more than 400,000 additional vaccine doses this week, now does not expect deliveries to occur until at least Wednesday.

US President Joe Biden declared an emergency in Texas in a statement Sunday night.

Oklahoma Gas & Electric rescinded plans for more blackouts but urged users to set thermostats at 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), avoid using major electric appliances and turn off lights or appliances not in use.

Entergy imposed rolling blackouts Tuesday night in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Southeast Texas at the direction of its grid manager, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, "as a last resort and in order to prevent more extensive, prolonged power outages that could severely affect the reliability of the power grid", according to a statement from the New Orleans-based utility.

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I'm sad, of course, that the crowd will not be there for the next few days. The players will compete in a bubble form", Tiley said. "They understand.

The Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities across 14 states, called for rolling outages because the supply of reserve energy had been exhausted. A homeless man in Houston also died due to exposure, and medical examiners in Galveston have reported several weather-related deaths.

In Abilene, Texas, firefighters were hampered by low water pressure as they tried to extinguish a house fire this week, the Abilene Reporter News reported.

The situation in Texas drew attention at Wednesday's International Energy Forum, including messages of support from Saudi Arabia's energy minister and OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo.

"It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary for the state of Texas as well as other states to make sure that we'll be able to heat our homes in the wintertime and cool our homes in the summertime", Abbott said.

Travel remains ill-advised in much of the nation, with highways treacherous and thousands of flights cancelled.

Police in Houston say a woman and child died of carbon monoxide poisoning after they sat in a vehicle running in their garage, and authorities in Sugar Land said a grandmother and three children trying to heat their home died in a fire.

Over four million people across the state were without power as of late Tuesday, including 1.4 million people in the Houston metropolitan area. Worth and Austin, which resulted in at least six deaths.

The freezing storm has even reached northern and central parts of Mexico, where millions of people have experienced days of intermittent power cuts. But as climate change accelerates, many electric grids will face novel and extreme weather events that go beyond the historical conditions those grids were designed for, putting the systems at risk of catastrophic failure.

"There is some hope on the horizon", Oravec said.

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