Winter's wrath: Bitter cold, no power and a deadly tornado

Rodiano Bonacci
Febbraio 17, 2021

Millions were left without power as a deadly winter storm gripped the southern and central United States Tuesday, as weather chaos elsewhere saw at least three people killed when a tornado smashed into their community.

More than 500 people sought comfort at one shelter in Houston. Some utilities said they were starting blackouts, while others urged customers to reduce power usage. "I think we are going to be more days without light, that is what it seems like". At Dallas/Fort Worth International, the temperature was 4 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 degrees Celsius), colder than Moscow.

Hardest hit was Texas, where freezing conditions prompted utility companies to implement rotating blackouts to stop the power grid being overloaded by the surge in demand. The Harris County Public Health facility lost power between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. on Monday and its backup generator also failed, said Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

"You know they're driving too fast".

The tornado that hit Brunswick County was an EF3 with winds estimated at 160 miles per hour, the weather service said on Twitter.

"The sky lit up and there was a lot of pop-pop-popping".

Authorities were struggling to clear roads, as they do not have snow plows because the state so rarely needs them, The New York Times reported. Four family members also perished in a Houston-area house fire while using a fireplace to stay warm.

Christine Chapman, center, sets down an empty canister to exchange for a full propane tank from Robert Webster, left, outside a grocery store in Dallas, Texas, on February 16, 2021.

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

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.

Air travel was also affected. In Minnesota, the Chisholm-Hibbing weather station registered -39C (-38F), while Sioux Falls, South Dakota temperatures dropped to -32C (-26F).

Of the 25 000-plus megawatts of wind-power capacity normally available in Texas, some 12 000 megawatts was out of service as of Sunday morning "due to the winter weather event we're experiencing in Texas", ERCOT spokesperson Leslie Sopko said. 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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