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100 million Americans are bracing for more snow, ice and cold.

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100 million Americans are bracing for more snow, ice and cold.

 

In the record-breaking cold, winter weather that has overwhelmed power grids unprepared for climate change and left millions without electricity maintained its grip on the midsection of the nation Wednesday.

At least 20 people have died, some struggling inside their homes to find warmth. One family in the Houston area succumbed to carbon monoxide in their garage from car exhaust; another died after flames spread from their fireplace.

Blame the polar vortex, a pattern of weather that usually sticks to the Arctic, but visits lower latitudes more and more and stays beyond its welcome. Scientists say human-induced global warming is partly responsible for making the southward escapes of the polar vortex longer and more frequent.

The National Weather Service said that more than 100 million people live in areas covered by some type of winter weather warning, watch or advisory on Wednesday, as another winter storm hits Texas and other parts of the southern plains.

Rolling blackouts were introduced by utilities from Minnesota to Texas and Mississippi to ease the burden on power grids straining to meet extreme demand for heat and electricity as record low temperatures were reported in city after city. In Mexico, more than one-third of the country was covered by rolling blackouts Tuesday after storms in Texas cut the supply of imported natural gas.

 

Winter weather that has overwhelmed power grids unprepared for climate change and left millions without electricity in record-breaking cold maintained its grip on the midsection of the nation Wednesday.

At least 20 people have died, some struggling inside their homes to find warmth. One family in the Houston area succumbed to carbon monoxide in their garage from car exhaust; another died after flames spread from their fireplace.

Blame the polar vortex, a pattern of weather that usually sticks to the Arctic, but visits lower latitudes more and more and stays beyond its welcome. Scientists say human-induced global warming is partly responsible for making the southward escapes of the polar vortex longer and more frequent.

The National Weather Service said that more than 100 million people live in areas covered by some type of winter weather warning, watch or advisory on Wednesday, as another winter storm hits Texas and other parts of the southern plains.

Rolling blackouts were introduced by utilities from Minnesota to Texas and Mississippi to ease the burden on power grids straining to meet extreme demand for heat and electricity as record low temperatures were reported in city after city. In Mexico, more than one-third of the country was covered by rolling blackouts Tuesday after storms in Texas cut the supply of imported natural gas.

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

Before moving to the northeast on Thursday, the latest storm front was predicted to bring snow and ice to East Texas, Arkansas and the Lower Mississippi Valley. From Baltimore to Boston, winter storm watches were in effect, and Texas was bracing for more icy rain and perhaps more snow.

 

“Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service, said, “There’s really no letup to some of the misery people are feeling across that region.

The weather has threatened the COVID-19 vaccination effort by the nation. The administration of President Joe Biden said delays in vaccine shipments and deliveries were probable.

By far, the worst U.S. power outages have been in Texas, where officials asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 60 generators and planned to prioritise hospitals and nursing homes. 35 shelters were opened by the state to more than 1,000 occupants, the agency said.

The Texas Electric Reliability Council, Texas’ power grid manager, said that by Tuesday night, electricity had been restored to 600,000 homes and businesses, but that 2.7 million households were still without power.

Before dawn Tuesday in and around Oklahoma City, blackouts lasting more than an hour had begun, stopping electric space heaters, furnaces and lights just as temperatures hovered around minus 8 degrees (minus 22 degrees Celsius). Users were urged by Oklahoma Gas & Electric to set thermostats at 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit), avoid the use of major electrical appliances and turn off lights or appliances not in use.

“According to a statement from the New Orleans-based utility, 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 avoid more extensive, prolonged power outages that could severely affect the reliability of the power grid.

A group of utilities covering 14 states, the Southwest Power Pool, said the blackouts were “a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electrical system as a whole.”

During a live interview Wednesday on NBC’s “Today,” Vice President Kamala Harris addressed those who had lost power.

“I know they can’t see us right now because they’re without electricity, but the president and I are thinking about them and really hope we can do everything possible to get federal relief to support them by signing emergency orders,” Harris said.

At the International Energy Forum on Wednesday, the situation in Texas drew attention, including messages of support from Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy and OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo.

As the extreme weather in Texas has shown, even in a country like the United States, we can’t take energy security for granted,” Barkindo said in a virtual forum.”

In much of the United States, travel remains ill-advised, with roadways treacherous and thousands of flights cancelled. Face-to-face classes have been delayed or cancelled by many school systems.

But in places without power, even staying at home can be dangerous.

Authorities said a fire in the Houston area that killed three young children and their grandmother was likely spreading from the fireplace they were using to keep warm. In Oregon, authorities confirmed Tuesday that four people died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the Portland area.

At least 13 children were treated at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth for carbon monoxide poisoning and one parent died of the toxic fumes, officials from the hospital said.

At least in Texas, by the weekend, temperatures were expected to rise above freezing.

“On the horizon, there is some hope,” Oravec said.

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