2.7 million households without power as Texans wake up to cold

Grant Boone
February 20, 2021

The cold snap, which has killed at least 21 people and knocked out power to more than 4 million people in Texas, is not expected to let up until this weekend.

In all, at least 20 deaths were reported. The weather also threatened to affect the nation's COVID-19 vaccination effort.

"I think the key point here is that we need to be prepared for these extreme events, today and in the future, no matter what the generation sources [are]", says Lori Bird, who directs the USA energy program at the World Resources Institute.

NY governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday ordered emergency services to prepare for sleet, ice and freezing rain.

"We didn't anticipate the water to be shut off, but once it did, we assumed a "worst case scenario" type of thing and just grabbed snow off the balcony and put into kettles and pots to use for drinking water in case we don't get water back anytime soon", Pande said.

After losing power Monday, Natalie Harrell said she, her boyfriend and four kids sheltered at a Gallery Furniture store in Houston.

United Parcel Service says it has "extensive contingency plans" to complete coronavirus vaccine deliveries, in spite of the massive winter storm. They guarantee profits to big, often foreign corporations and lead to market distortions that prevent reliable generators from building the capacity we need to keep the lights on when wind and solar don't show up.

Abbott had referred to the Green New Deal, a broad proposal to address climate change that hasn't been implemented in the U.S., as a "deadly deal" while discussing outages in his state during an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity.

The frigid temperatures also caused outages at key energy installations - natural gas-fired power plants, wind turbines and nuclear plants - which are not typically insulated as they are in other states with colder climates.

"This is a once-in-every-120-year cold front that we have to respond to", he said.

Austin Energy, the local power company, said almost 200,000 area customers were without electricity.

"We are facing an energy systems crisis, not just an electricity crisis", Cohan wrote on Twitter.

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

"The sky lit up and there was a lot of pop-pop-popping" and thunder, she said.

Mexico's economy minister, Tatiana Clouthier, said Wednesday she had contacted the US government's representative in Mexico, seeking to guarantee supplies of natural gas for Mexico during the cold snap. A MS man died after losing control of his vehicle, which overturned on an icy road Monday night near Starkville, Oktibbeha County coroner Michael Hunt said Tuesday.

In the Houston area, one family succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning from a auto exhaust in their garage.

In Texas, three young children and their grandmother died in the Houston-area fire, which likely began while they were using a fireplace to keep warm during a power outage, a fire official said.

And emergency medical authorities around Texas said dozens of others have been treated for suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, while 77 were treated for hypothermia in northern Texas on Tuesday.

Pipes had burst in Methodist's hospitals but were being repaired, Smith said.

In hardest-hit Texas - where freezing conditions prompted utility companies to implement rotating blackouts - a woman and girl died from carbon monoxide poisoning after using a vehicle to generate heat, according to NBC News.

A man in Louisiana died when he hit his head after slipping on ice, and a 10-year-old Tennessee boy died after he and his six-year-old sister fell through the ice into a pond Sunday.

Record low temperatures were reported in city after city. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, dropped to minus 26 Fahrenheit (minus 26 degrees Celsius).

"I'm telling my community do not expect the power to come back even after the weather passes", Hidalgo said on CNN. About 100 school systems closed, delayed opening or switched to remote classes in Alabama, where forecasters said conditions might not improve until temperatures rise above freezing Wednesday afternoon.

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