A second devastating storm began ravaging the US Wednesday, threatening to dump 10 inches on the northeast hours after a first winter wipe-out blanketed the nation in the most snow since records began 18 years ago, killed at least 23 and left millions without power.
Winter Storm Uri left the US late Tuesday after covering a staggering 73.2 percent of the 48 contiguous states in snow with an average depth of 6 inches, according to the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center, marking the most coverage since data collection began back in 2003.
The previous record was on January 12 2011 when 70.9 percent of snow coverage occurred and Florida was the only state in 50 not to have snow on the ground.
This time last year just 35.5 percent of the nation was covered with an average depth of 4.6 inches.
Nationwide, the death toll climbed higher with the freezing storm claiming 23 lives across the hard-hit states of Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, North Carolina and Missouri with tragedies including car crashes, fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Texas bore the brunt of the crisis with 10 people so far killed after the electricity grid in the nation’s second most populous state catastrophically failed, plunging millions into darkness and freezing temperatures for a second night in a row Tuesday.
Multiple animals including a chimpanzee and monkeys at a Texas primate sanctuary also died after the site lost power and the desperate attempts by staff using generators and heaters was not enough to save them.
ILLINOIS: Warming centers were set up for residents to get some respite from the cold and Fire Commissioner Richard Ford urged Chicagoan residents to check on their vulnerable and elderly neighbors. Drone footage over Lake Michigan
ILLINOIS: Drone footage across Chicago, Illinois shows the Windy City blanketed in deep snow as it braces for more snowfall
TEXAS: People in Dallas collect firewood from a heap opened to the public Wednesday as they grapple for ways to stay warm as the second storm hits
ILLINOIS: An aerial photo made with a drone shows snow and ice on Lake Michigan after an overnight snowfall left more than 18 inches
TEXAS: Icicles hang from a ceiling fan in an apartment in uptown Dallas, Texas, as homes have been left without power
Utilities from Minnesota to Texas and Mississippi have implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on power grids straining to meet extreme demand for heat and electricity.
Around 3.4 million customers were still without power Wednesday morning in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, more than 200,000 more in four Appalachian states, and nearly that many in the Pacific Northwest, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility outage reports.
In Mexico, rolling blackouts Tuesday covered more than one-third of the country after the storms in Texas cut off the supply of imported natural gas.
By Wednesday afternoon, 2.6 million Texans were still without power and desperate residents flocked to wood heaps to get firewood to burn to stay warm.
Around 490,166 were also without power across seven states of Oregon, Louisiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio.
Storm Uri had moved north into Canada late Tuesday night leaving communities reeling as homes were left without heating or electricity while icy air was left in its wake throughout the Great Plains and Mississippi Valley.
There was no time for recovery, however, as the second storm this week slammed into the already hard-hit regions early Wednesday.
More than 150 million Americans have been placed under winter weather warnings, impacting almost half the entire population and marking the broadest warning bulletin since 2005, as it plowed into Texas and other parts of the southern Plains.
ILLINOIS: An overnight snowfall left more than 18 inches on the ground and roadways in Wilmette, Illinois
ILLINOIS: The devastating winter wipeout ravaging the US has now blanketed the nation in the most snow since records began 18 years ago while at least 23 have been killed nationwide and millions have been left without power
TEXAS: A child plays in an igloo in Pflugerville, Texas, as the state has been ravaged by the snowstorm that has killed 10
TEXAS: People walk on snowy streets in Dallas Tuesday. Temperatures dropped into the single digits in the state Tuesday
Winter storm watches were in effect from Baltimore to Boston, and Texas was braced for more icy rain and possibly more snow.
The storm currently stretches from the Gulf Coast to the Upper Midwest with more ice and low temperatures headed for the already hard hit areas of Texas and Oklahoma Wednesday morning.
Mississippi and Tennessee – which are both already blanketed in snow – will be hit by more snowfall Wednesday evening, while New Orleans and Florida have also been warned to prepare for storms.
Georgia and the Carolinas have been placed on flood and flash flood watches from Wednesday evening into Friday morning as the storm is expected to drop up to three inches of rain on the areas – on top of ground already hammered by up to six inches of rainfall last week.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said Wednesday he will declare a state of emergency as he warned incoming icy weather is a ‘real threat for widespread power outages’ especially in the northern, western and Piedmont counties.
By Thursday the storm will have passed through the mid-Atlantic and Northeast dumping up to 10 inches on New York City and also pummeling Washington DC and Philadelphia.
AccuWeather senior meteorologist Carl Erickson told the New York Post that New Yorkers should brace for 6 to 10 inches in the boroughs and inland suburbs, and 3 to 6 inches in Jersey Shore and Long Island.
This comes as the Big Apple has already been struck by more snowfall than in a typical season with 33.8 inches falling in Central Park since the start of the season late last year compared to an average of 17.8 inches for an entire season.
Meanwhile, DC could see 5 inches and Philadelphia up to one foot in parts of the suburbs Thursday.
More than 2,300 flights were canceled Wednesday, according to flightaware.com, including flights in and out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas Love Field, Houston’s Bush-Intercontinental and Hobby airports, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and regional airports in Mississippi.
Not even forecasters were ready for the magnitude of the week’s snowstorms with the National Weather Service said to be ‘very surprised how rapidly this storm intensified’.
Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service, warned ‘there’s really no letup to some of the misery people are feeling’ as the country braces for more icy weather.
Vice President Kamala Harris said on NBC’s Today show Wednesday that she and Joe Biden are doing ‘everything that is possible through the signing of the emergency orders to get federal relief to support them’ while the president warned the severe weather will slow down the COVID-19 vaccine rollout critical to tackling the nation’s other crisis point – the pandemic.
Vaccine sites in at least 15 states have now been hit by the winter storms with facilities either forced to close due to power outages and treacherous conditions or faced with delays in shipments coming from hard-hit areas.
The White House is now closely monitoring the situation in Texas and is on standby to send help to other states.
‘We’re preparing to quickly process requests from other states for emergency assistance, that’s how the process typically works, and we urge people in the affected states to of course listen to their emergency management officials,’ Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is sending generators, diesel, water and blankets to Texas as power grid officials warned it could be days before many regain power – despite some homes already going four days without power in the plunging temperatures.
In Texas, at least 10 people have so far died from the effects of the storm as record-smashing low temperatures have plunged the state’s energy industry into crisis leaving millions struggle to survive with no power to stay warm for a second straight day.
Dallas on Tuesday recorded its coldest day since 1949 as temperatures plummeted to -2 degrees while Austin reached a low of 7 degrees – the coldest since 6 degrees was recorded two days before Christmas 1989.
In San Antonio it was the coldest February 16 in more than a century Tuesday with its low of 12 degrees smashing the previous record of 16 degrees in 1895.
In Houston, the temperature Monday night was lower than in Houston Alaska as it fell to 13 degrees.
The record-breaking cold weather claimed more lives Tuesday, including four family members who perished in a Houston-area house fire while using a fireplace to stay warm and a woman and a girl who died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning from a car running in a garage after their home in the city lost power.
Two men found along Houston-area roadways likely died in subfreezing temperatures, law enforcement officials said.
A 78-year-old man was found dead in his home in Bexar County Monday – presumably from extreme cold – while another man was killed when he was struck by a car along an interstate when he got out his car after crashing on the ice.
In Harris County, officials reported more than 300 carbon monoxide poisoning cases as people use BBQ pits and generators indoors in an effort to stay warm.
Dr. Samuel Prater, a UTHealth emergency physician told The Houston Chronicle: ‘With that number of patients going in, it’s turning into a mini mass casualty event.’
‘This is an absolute public health disaster,’ another medical official in Houston told KPRC-TV.
‘[Carbon monoxide poisoning] certainly happens when it gets cold, but never in these numbers.
In Galveston, the medical examiner’s office requested a refrigerated truck to expand body storage as it could need to suddenly take on an extra 20 to 50 bodies.
TEXAS: A satellite image of the snow storm over Texas at 12.20pm EST Wednesday
TEXAS: Ice covers the entryway to an apartment in Dallas as at least 10 people have so far died in Texas
TEXAS: Pools are turned to ice at a Dallas apartment complex as record-smashing low temperatures have plunged the state’s energy industry into crisis
TEXAS: A gas cooker runs in the home of Cynthia Valadez in Austin as she and her daughter try to stay warm after losing power due to Storm Uri
TEXAS: A Dallas man helps collect firewood to burn for warmth from wood heap opened to the public Wednesday
TEXAS: Customers wait outside on February 17 at a Home Depot in Pearland, Texas to enter the store to buy supplies Wednesday as the store and millions of homes are left without power
TEXAS: Jeremy Bixby shovels snow out of his driveway in the BlackHawk neighborhood in Pflugerville Texas
TEXAS: Shaemiya Taylor, left front, and Marsha Williams, right front, play a board game as Jeremiah Murphy, left rear, and Khloee Williams, right rear, look on at a warming shelter in Richardson Tuesday
TEXAS: People seeking shelter from below freezing temperatures rest inside a church warming center Tuesday in Houston
Desperate residents flocked to shelters and hotels in Texas for refuge from the cold with the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston already reaching capacity by noon Tuesday.
Officials requested 60 generators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Tuesday and set up 35 shelters.
Around 300 shelters had been set up by Wednesday afternoon as around 2.6 million continued to be left without power.
At Primarily Primates animal sanctuary in San Antonio about a dozen animals died including a 58-year-old chimpanzee named Violet, several monkeys, lemurs and other animals.
The sanctuary announced their deaths Wednesday, two days after the power went out at the site.
The power breakdown sparked growing outrage and demands for answers over how Texas — whose Republican leaders as recently as last year taunted California over the Democratic-led state’s rolling blackouts — failed such a massive test of a major point of state pride: energy independence.
The state is the only one in continental US that has its own power grid; it is not federally regulated.
ERCOT – which is in charge of managing the distribution of all of the energy in Texas and maintaining its grid – underestimated the storm woefully so didn’t produce enough reserve energy beforehand and now, plants can’t produce more power because they were unprepared for the storm.
The agency claims it predicted that peak energy demand would be 67 gigawatts but it reached 69 gigawatts on Sunday night – the first night of the storm.
The agency then cut the power across the state by close to half – reducing it to just over 40 gigawatts. Each gigawatt powers some 500 homes.
What compounded the sudden demand for energy was that ERCOT didn’t anticipate not being able to produce more energy during the storm.
Texans covered in blankets wait in line for more than an hour to fill propane tanks to heat their homes in Houston on Wednesday. Millions across the state remain without power after a historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures created a surge of demand for electricity to warm up homes unaccustomed to such extreme lows, buckling the state’s power grid and causing widespread blackouts
TEXAS: Desperate Texans waited for more than an hour in freezing rain to fill propane tanks in Houston on Wednesday
TEXAS: Some desperate residents are defrosting snow for water in heir homes as parts of the state now face limited drinking water supplies
TEXAS: Workers work on a water main pipe that burst due to extreme cold in a neighborhood Wednesday in Richardson
Some families have now been without power for four days and are forced to huddle in their cars for warmth.
Governor Greg Abbot has demanded an investigation into grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, as cities including San Antonio, Dallas and Austin were left to shoulder the brunt of a catastrophic power failure.
On Wednesday, he ordered the state’s natural gas producers to sell fuel to in-state power generators in efforts to get power up and running as soon as possible to homes.
Rep. Jeff Leach called it ‘ridiculous’ that five of the 15 ERCOT board members do not appear to live in Texas.
He tweeted: ‘I’m filing legislation this session requiring all @ERCOT_ISO officers and directors to be Texas residents. Completely ridiculous and unacceptable that current ERCOT Board Chair lives in Michigan!’
As well as lack of power, parts of the state are also faced with a dwindling supply of drinking water.
Almost seven million Texans are now under boil water notices after more than 330 drinking water systems in 110 counties have been struck by blackouts and freezing temperatures.
In Waco, officials urged residents to slow down their water usage for the next two days but sought to debunk myths that water supply will be cut off.
Abbott urged Texans to turn off water to prevent their pipes bursting and to conserve water supply.
The extreme weather is also hitting hard Texas farms and ranches as cattle and other livestock are dying from exposure to the elements and forced shutdowns of plants means animal feed could soon be in short supply.
COVID-19 vaccination sites have been shuttered for four days in a row with Monday appointments in San Antonio now pushed back to at least Friday.
And all flights at Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport were canceled or diverted Wednesday.
TEXAS: Argyle is shrouded in darkness as blackouts affect millions across the state amid the winter storms
TEXAS : Karla Perez and Esperanza Gonzalez warm up by a barbecue grill during power outage caused by the winter storm on February 16 in Houston
Oklahoma City in Oklahoma experienced its coldest weather since 1899 Tuesday night and residents woke up to little relief Wednesday morning with temperatures of 10 degrees Fahrenheit and a real feel of zero.
Oklahoma City recorded its second lowest temperature on record Tuesday night, beaten only on February 12 1899.
The Department of Transportation is urging people to stay home and not travel Wednesday as snow continues to fall creating treacherous conditions on the roadways and overpasses.
Snow is forecast to continue falling through Wednesday, with up to six inches of accumulation forecast for the capital city and up to 12 inches in other worse hit parts of the state.
Temperatures will finally climb just above freezing Friday – marking the first time a high above freezing will be recorded since February 8.
Cherokee Nation casinos and businesses announced they were shuttering through Friday in desperate efforts to conserve power in the face of electricity shortages across the region.
OKLAHOMA: Icicles form on a the frozen helmet of a Tulsa Firefigther working the scene of a 3 alarm fire on Tuesday in Tulsa
OKLAHOMA: A Tulsa Firefighter is covered in ice Tuesday – the same day Oklahoma City recorded its second lowest temperature on record Tuesday night, beaten only on February 12 1899
OKLAHOMA: Francisco Nara with Cowan Landscaping clears snow from a sidewalk on 21st Street near Xanthus Avenue Monday in Tulsa
OKLAHOMA: A woman walks down a snow covered street during record breaking cold weather in Oklahoma City
In Louisiana, a 75-year-old woman was found dead outside her neighbor’s home in Lafayette early Tuesday more than six hours after she left her own home and succumbed to the elements, authorities said.
Her death comes after the state recorded its first storm-related death Monday night when a 50-year-old Lafayette Parish resident slipped on ice and struck his head on the ground.
Residents are bracing for the next winter storm system throughout Wednesday and people in New Orleans have been told to prepare for rolling power outages until midnight as demand for electricity reaches an all-time high.
Over in Memphis, Tennessee, single-digit temperatures entered the third day Wednesday and threatened to derail the city’s drinking water supply.
Memphis, Light, Gas & Water is asking customers to use less water and hold off washing clothes through Friday after several water mains have burst and pressure has dropped across the distribution system.
The utility also said late Tuesday it’s seeing reduced reservoir levels at pumping stations.
Over in western Tennessee, a 10-year-old boy died when he fell into an ice-covered pond on Sunday as the storm hammered the state.
TENNESSEE: Sledders climb a hill below the State Capitol Tuesday in Nashville, Tennessee, after the winter storm brought freezing temperatures, sleet and snow to Middle Tennessee
TENNESSEE: A snow removal vehicle at Nashville International Airport Tuesday. Meanwhile in Memphis, Tennessee, single-digit temperatures entered the third day Wednesday and threatened to derail the city’s drinking water supply
TENNESSEE: Snow is cleared from taxiways at Nashville International Airport in Nashville, Tennessee
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation Tuesday for the entire state after the ‘dangerous and ongoing winter weather’ left around 7,000 households without power.
‘I have directed my administration to use all resources at our disposal to keep our communities safe amid dangerous and ongoing winter weather,’ Pritzker said.
‘We are in communication with local governments to ensure they have the support they need in disaster response and recovery operations. We are also working with our federal partners to pursue federal assistance to help communities recover and to do what we can to protect ratepayers from soaring utility bills.’
Schools in Chicago shuttered Tuesday after a foot and a half of new snow blanketed the city just one week after officials finally reached an agreement with teachers’ unions to get students back to in-person classes.
Warming centers were set up for residents to get some respite from the cold and Fire Commissioner Richard Ford urded Chicagoans to check on their vulnerable and elderly neighbors.
By Wednesday morning, the city had been pummeled by more than 17 inches of snow marking the snowiest three-week stretch in four decades.
The National Weather Service said more ‘light snow’ is on its way Wednesday afternoon which will break the city’s record by topping off the 10th straight day of snowfall.
ILLINOIS: Drone footage over Chicago, Illinois. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation Tuesday for the entire state
ILLINOIS: Monuments in Chicago are covered in snow. The governor said ‘dangerous and ongoing winter weather’ left around 7,000 households without power
ILLINOIS: Schools in Chicago shuttered Tuesday after a foot and a half of new snow blanketed the city just one week after officials finally reached an agreement with teachers’ unions to get students back to in-person classes
ILLINOIS: By Wednesday morning, the city had been pummeled by more than 17 inches of snow marking the snowiest three-week stretch in four decades
ILLINOIS: The National Weather Service said more ‘light snow’ is on its way Wednesday afternoon which will break the city’s record by topping off the 10th straight day of snowfall
ILLINOIS: A train travels through Chicago during the extreme weather after the snow storm pummeled America this week
ILLINOIS: Snow blankets a west side neighborhood after a winter storm accumulated more than a foot of snow in some portions of the area in Chicago
ILLINOIS: A homeless man Tuesday sleeps at the Chicago Transit Authority’s Clark & Dearborn bus station
More snow is headed to Minnesota Wednesday after the state has been faced with almost two weeks of daily wind chills at or below zero.
In the northern part of the state, wind chill factors Wednesday morning fell to -35 degrees.
Power was cut to 9,800 residents in parts of Moorhead in western Minnesota Tuesday morning sparking fears of rolling blackouts amid freezing temperatures. But the electric grid quickly stabilized and the rolling blackouts were called off in the area.
It was a similar story in Duluth’s Bayview Heights, Piedmont Heights, and Hermantown areas when 2,737 customers were briefly left without power Tuesday morning.
By next week, the weather will have done a u-turn as highs of 40 degrees are forecast in the south.
More than 88,000 homes were without power Wednesday afternoon in Kentucky as the winter storms wreaked havoc on the state’s power infrastructure.
Govenror Andy Beshear warned Wednesday it could take several days to get people back online.
‘We believe that we’re going to make substantial headway through the end of this week in getting people their power back, but in some areas of eastern Kentucky it may take longer than through the end of the week,’ he said.
The Kentucky National Guard was drafted in earlier this week to help state police in 10 counties.
KENTUCKY: Larry Finley uses a broom to push snow off the top of his vehicle Tuesday in Owensboro, Kentucky
KENTUCKY: Plows clear snow and ice from Interstate 64 during a winter storm in Louisville, Kentucky
MISSISSIPPI: An MDOT snow plow clears off the snow, sleet and ice build up on Highway 178 in the Macedonia community of Lee County
MISSISSIPPI: Snow covers the ground at Bonita Lakes Park in Meridian Tuesday. Schools were closed and the city was placed under a curfew due to hazardous weather conditions