Millions endure record cold without power; at least 20 dead

Ice and snow blanket parts of a Grandview Avenue and Charles Walker Road, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021 in Odessa, Texas. A sprawling blast of winter weather across the U.S. plunged Texas into an unusually snowy emergency Monday that knocked out power for more than 2 million people, shut down grocery stores and air travel and closed schools ahead of frigid days still to come.
Ice and snow blanket parts of a Grandview Avenue and Charles Walker Road, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021 in Odessa, Texas. A sprawling blast of winter weather across the U.S. plunged Texas into an unusually snowy emergency Monday that knocked out power for more than 2 million people, shut down grocery stores and air travel and closed schools ahead of frigid days still to come.
Winter_Weather_Texas_24331 Ice and snow blanket parts of a Grandview Avenue and Charles Walker Road, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021 in Odessa, Texas. A sprawling blast of winter weather across the U.S. plunged Texas into an unusually snowy emergency Monday that knocked out power for more than 2 million people, shut down grocery stores and air travel and closed schools ahead of frigid days still to come.
Winter_Weather_Texas_Power_Failures_34853 Bethany Fischer, right, rests her head on the shoulder of her husband Nic, while staying at a church warming center Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Houston. The couple, who lost power at their home on Monday, are part of the more than 4 million people in Texas who still had no power a full day after 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.
Tornado_North_Carolina_83102 A property owner videos the damage to a home from severe weather in Brunswick County, N.C. near the town of Sunset Beach, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. North Carolina authorities say an apparent tornado killed multiple people and injured at several in the coastal community. Officials say it struck just before midnight Monday in Brunswick County's Ocean Ridge Plantation neighborhood, destroying homes, downing powerlines and snapping trees in half.
Winter_Weather_Texas_Power_Failures_88160 People seeking shelter from below freezing temperatures rest inside a church warming center Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Houston. More than 4 million people in Texas still had no power a full day after 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.
Virus_Outbreak_Texas_08485 Tim tends a fire he used for heat and cooking at a homeless camp in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday Feb. 16, 2021, during an extreme cold snap. Temperatures dropped into the single digits as snow shut down air travel and grocery stores.
Winter_Weather_Texas_15428 Ivan Gonzales, left, works with his brother-in-law Gabriel Martinez to assist a motorist using a carpet up a hill along the snow-covered Cherrywood Road in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. The statewide freeze has resulted in many roads to become layered with ice and snow making several impassible and hazardous to both drivers and pedestrians..
Winter_Weather_Mississippi_66141 A truck slowly makes its way up an icy west bound exit ramp at I-22 after leaving a full Love's Travel Stop early Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021 in Belden, Miss.
Winter_Weather_Texas_85302 City of Richardson worker Kaleb Love breaks ice on a frozen fountain Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Richardson, Texas. Temperatures dropped into the single digits as snow shut down air travel and grocery stores.
Winter_Weather_Texas_Power_Failures_59503 People seeking shelter from below freezing temperatures rest inside a church warming center Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Houston. More than 4 million people in Texas still had no power a full day after 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.
Winter_Weather_Mississippi_37666 Crews with Tupelo Public Works begin to clear the intersection of South Green and Eason Blvd., Monday night, Feb. 15, 2021, as they work through the night to make the roads safe for travel in Tupelo, Miss.
APTOPIX_Winter_Weather_Texas_Power_Failures_34853 Bethany Fischer, right, rests her head on the shoulder of her husband Nic, while staying at a church warming center Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Houston. The couple, who lost power at their home on Monday, are part of the more than 4 million people in Texas who still had no power a full day after 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.
Tornado_North_Carolina_31590 A damaged vehicle sits among debris after a deadly tornado tore through Brunswick County, N.C., Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. North Carolina authorities say multiple people are dead and others were injured after a tornado ripped through Brunswick County, leaving a trail of heavy destruction.
Tornado_North_Carolina_30268 A man surveys the damage after a deadly tornado tore through Brunswick County, N.C., Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. North Carolina authorities say multiple people are dead and others were injured after a tornado ripped through Brunswick County, leaving a trail of heavy destruction.
Winter_Weather_Oklahoma_04721 Francisco Nara with Cowan Landscaping clears snow from a sidewalk on 21st Street near Xanthus Ave., Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla.
APTOPIX_Winter_Weather_Texas_80052 Dan Bryant and his wife Anna huddle by the fire with sons Benny, 3, and Sam, 12 weeks, along with their dog Joey, also wearing two doggie sweaters, with power out and temperatures dropping inside their home after a winter storm brought snow and freezing temperatures to North Texas on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, in Garland, Texas. More than 2 million Texans were without power after the winter storm prompted outages.
Winter_Weather_Chicago_36695 Commuters wait in the street Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, for a Chicago Transit Authority bus in the Bronzville neighborhood of Chicago. A winter storm has blanketed the Chicago area overnight with up to 18.5 inches of snow.
APTOPIX_Winter_Weather_Texas_16821 Icicles form on a citrus tree from a sprinkler system used to protect the trees from the freezing temperatures on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021 in Edinburg, Texas. A sprawling blast of winter weather across the U.S. plunged Texas into an unusually snowy emergency Monday that knocked out power for more than 2 million people, shut down grocery stores and air travel and closed schools ahead of frigid days still to come.
APTOPIX_Winter_Weather_Tennessee_18754 Peyton McKinney uses a laundry basket for a sled Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, in Nolensville, Tenn. Much of Tennessee was hit with a winter storm that brought freezing rain, snow, sleet and freezing temperatures.
APTOPIX_Winter_Weather_Texas_85834 A truck drives past a highway sign Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, in Houston. A frigid blast of winter weather across the U.S. plunged Texas into an unusually icy emergency Monday that knocked out power to more than 2 million people and shut down grocery stores and dangerously snowy roads.
Dan Bryant and his wife Anna huddle by the fire with sons Benny, 3, and Sam, 12 weeks, along with their dog Joey, also wearing two doggie sweaters, with power out and temperatures dropping inside their home after a winter storm brought snow and freezing temperatures to North Texas on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, in Garland, Texas. The Bryant's, who lost power Monday morning, were wearing outdoor winter clothes, down to snow boots, hat, and ski pants, and even their dog Joey had two doggie sweaters. More than 2 million Texans were without power after the winter storm prompted outages.
Winter_Weather_24966 A camera flash illuminates snow near icicles Monday, Feb. 15 at the Rum Village Nature Center in South Bend, Ind..
Winter_Weather_Missouri_79395 A pedestrian crosses Market Street during a snow storm in downtown St. Louis on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021. The brutally cold weather is expected to continue through Saturday with more snow in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday.
Icicles form on a citrus tree from a sprinkler system used to protect the trees from the freezing temperatures on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021 in Edinburg, Texas. A sprawling blast of winter weather across the U.S. plunged Texas into an unusually snowy emergency Monday that knocked out power for more than 2 million people, shut down grocery stores and air travel and closed schools ahead of frigid days still to come.
Peyton McKinney uses a laundry basket for a sled Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, in Nolensville, Tenn. Much of Tennessee was hit with a winter storm that brought freezing rain, snow, sleet and freezing temperatures.
Winter_Weather_Texas_18639 Colin McDonald along with his daughter Greta pull Louise Boon, 7, Annie Boon, 5, and McDonald's son Townsend, 4, on a kayak in Austin on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021. After a heavy night of snow, the National Weather Service has received reports from around Central Texas of snowfall totals as high as half a foot.
Winter_Weather_Pennsylvania_41762 From left, George Shimko III, Devan Shimko, Hunter Shimko, and their father George Shimko Jr., shovel out a parking spot in Frackville, Pa., on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021.
Winter_Weather_Kansas_82394 Same Reals, left, and Tyler Panko run shirtless through Wichita, Kan., Monday, Feb. 15, 2021. Reals said he tries to run a 5k on the coldest day of the year. The temperature during their run was -3, with a wind chill of -11. Frigid temperatures continue to grip with the middle of the continent.
Winter_Weather_Mississippi_16714 Mitra Bumphis, District Managet of KFC on West Main Street, cleans the base of his windshield to keep his wiper blades from freezing to the glass as he lets his car warm up at the West Main Street KFC early Monday morning in Tupelo.
Winter_Weather_Michigan_01006 Snow and ice coat tree branches Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, at Tiscornia Park in St.Joseph, Mich.
Winter_Weather_Texas_99582 Eithan Colindres wears a winter coat inside after the apartment his family lives in the Greenspoint area that lost power following an overnight snowfall Monday, Feb. 15, 2021 in Houston. Temperatures plunged into the teens Monday with light snow and freezing rain.
Winter_Weather_Texas_17564 People wait in a long line to buy groceries at H-E-B on South Congress Avenue during an extreme cold snap and widespread power outage on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Austin, Texas.
Winter_Weather_North_Carolina_Tornado_34467 This aerial photo shows the devastation Tuesday Feb. 16, 2021, in the Ocean Ridge Plantation area of Brunswick County, N.C. following a tornado.
APTOPIX_Winter_Weather_Texas_Power_Failures_16087 Natalie Harrell holds her sleeping daughter, Natasha Tripeaux while sitting in a recliner at a Gallery Furniture store after the owner opened his business as a shelter for those without power at homes Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Houston. More than 4 million people in Texas still had no power a full day after 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.
Winter_Weather_68395 Pastor Gavin Rogers, left, tries to convince people to come to his warming shelter to escape sub-freezing temperatures, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in San Antonio.
Winter_Weather_Illinois_09517 A couple walk along the banks of a frozen Mississippi River near Chain of Rocks Bridge Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Madison County, Ill. The region has been plunged into the deep freeze with brutally cold temperatures and more snow in the forecast.
APTOPIX_Winter_Weather_Texas_91351 A man seeking shelter from the cold embraces his dog Dittle D Bear while resting at a warming shelter, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Odessa, Texas. The man who declined to give his real name was a traveler that arrived the night before and stated he was in Odessa this time last year.
Winter_Weather_Chicago_82493 Jennifer Evans stands beside her car, which was damaged when the building at 748 W. 91st St. collapsed in the Brainerd neighborhood, Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 16, 2021, in Chicago.
Winter_Weather_Illinois_62684 Water flows past rocks covered in ice along a frozen Mississippi River near Chain of Rocks Bridge Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Madison County, Ill. The region has been plunged into the deep freeze with brutally cold temperatures and more snow in the forecast.
Winter_Weather_Texas_73612 Sam Fagg skis on the beach near 45th Street in Galveston, Texas on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, after an overnight winter storm covered the island in ice and snow.
Winter_Weather_Texas_47561 City of Richardson worker Kaleb Love works to clear ice from a water fountain Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Richardson, Texas. Temperatures dropped into the single digits as snow shut down air travel and grocery stores.
Winter_Weather_Chicago_32574 Commuters wait for the bus in the Edgewater neighborhood, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, after a snowstorm in Chicago. A winter storm has blanketed parts of the Chicago area with up to a foot and a half of snow, shuttering schools to in-person classes Tuesday as officials urged residents to stay off the snow-filled roads.
Winter_Weather_Chicago_63683 A person walks a dog in the Edgewater neighborhood, Tuesday morning, Feb. 16, 2021, after a snowstorm in Chicago. A winter storm has blanketed parts of the Chicago area with up to a foot and a half of snow, shuttering schools to in-person classes Tuesday as officials urged residents to stay off the snow-filled roads.
Winter_Weather_Chicago_25428 A man walks past mounds of plowed snow from nine consecutive days of measurable and fresh fallen snow Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Chicago.
APTOPIX_Winter_Weather_Chicago_24667 A homeless man Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, sleeps at the Chicago Transit Authority's Clark & Dearborn bus station, the morning after a snowstorm dumped up to 18 inches in the greater Chicago area.
Winter_Weather_Texas_30192 A woman wrapped in a blanket crosses the street near downtown Dallas, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. Temperatures dropped into the single digits as snow shut down air travel and grocery stores.
APTOPIX_Winter_Weather_Texas_69152 Customers use the light from a cell phone to look in the meat section of a grocery store Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Dallas. Even though the store lost power, it was open for cash only sales.
Winter_Weather_Texas_61047 Naomi Lawlis, left, speaks with Betty Sims as they take shelter at Beltway Park North Church in Abilene, Texas Monday, Feb. 15, 2021. Lawlis, 73, said she lost power at 1 a.m. Monday morning and by 5 p.m. was still without it, making the decision to escape to the warmup center at the church. "I couldn't take it, I was too cold," she said.
Winter_Weather_Texas_09890 Christine Chapman, center, sets down an empty canister to exchange for a full propane tank from Robert Webster, left, outside a grocery store Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Dallas. Even though the store lost power, it was open for cash only sales. Chapman said she has been without power for two nights and is using the propane to keep warm.
Winter_Weather_Nebraska_29662 Ice coats trees along the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. A second day of Arctic temperatures across Middle America on Tuesday prompted rolling power outages in Nebraska and a call to cut energy use in Iowa.
Texas_Weather_Texas_97332 Shoppers purchase bottled water at an Abilene, Texas supermarket Monday Feb. 15, 2021. The extreme cold is increasing energy demand at the same time the storm has reduced energy generation. The city had released an emergency message that due to all three water treatment plants losing electricity, there was only 2-3 hours of water left.
Winter_Weather_Ohio_17737 A snow family sits on a lawn on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. The storm dropped several inches in the Columbus area overnight.
Winter_Weather_Texas_60668 Kristen Young sips a spoonful of soup at a warming center in an Abilene, Texas Church as her one-year-old son Shawn watches on Monday Feb. 15, 2021. Young came to Beltway Park North Church to shelter with Shawn and her daughter Olivia, 6, because the power in their Abilene home had been out for two days.
Winter_Weather_Chicago_29053 A maintenance worker plows fresh fallen snow Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in the Bronzville neighborhood of Chicago. A winter storm has blanketed the Chicago area overnight with up to 18.5 inches of snow.
Winter_Weather_Texas_42263 People wait in line to purchase groceries Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, in Houston. A frigid blast of winter weather across the U.S. plunged Texas into an unusually icy emergency Monday that knocked out power to more than 2 million people and shut down grocery stores and dangerously snowy roads.
APTOPIX_Winter_Weather_Texas_85302 City of Richardson worker Kaleb Love breaks ice on a frozen fountain Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Richardson, Texas. Temperatures dropped into the single digits as snow shut down air travel and grocery stores.
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OCEAN ISLE BEACH, N.C. (AP) — A winter storm that left millions without power in record-breaking cold weather claimed more lives Tuesday, including three people found dead after a tornado hit a seaside town in North Carolina and four family members who perished in a Houston-area house fire while using a fireplace to stay warm.

The storm that overwhelmed power grids and immobilized the Southern Plains carried heavy snow and freezing rain into New England and the Deep South and left behind painfully low temperatures. Wind-chill warnings extended from Canada into Mexico.

In all, at least 20 deaths were reported. Other causes included car crashes and carbon monoxide poisoning. The weather also threatened to affect the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination effort. President Joe Biden’s administration said delays in vaccine shipments and deliveries were likely.

North Carolina’s Brunswick County had little notice of the dangerous weather, and a tornado warning was not issued until the storm was already on the ground.

The National Weather Service was “very surprised how rapidly this storm intensified … and at the time of night when most people are at home and in bed, it creates a very dangerous situation,” Emergency Services Director Ed Conrow said.

In Chicago, a foot and a half (46 centimeters) of new snow forced public schools to cancel in-person classes for Tuesday. Hours earlier, along the normally balmy Gulf of Mexico, cross-country skiier Sam Fagg hit fresh powder on the beach in Galveston, Texas.

The worst U.S. power outages were in Texas, affecting more than 2 million homes and businesses. More than 250,000 people also lost power across parts of Appalachia, and another 200,000 were without electricity following an ice storm in northwest Oregon, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility outage reports. Four million people lost power in Mexico.

Texas officials requested 60 generators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and planned to prioritize hospitals and nursing homes. The state opened 35 shelters to more than 1,000 occupants, the agency said.

More than 500 people sought comfort at one Houston shelter. Mayor Sylvester Turner said other warming centers were closed because they lost power.

After losing power Monday, Natalie Harrell said she, her boyfriend and four kids sheltered at a Gallery Furniture store in Houston. The warming center at the store provided people with food, water and power to charge essential electronics.

“It’s worse than a hurricane,” Harrell said. “I think we are going to be more days without light, that is what it seems like.”

Utilities from Minnesota to Texas implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on power grids straining to meet extreme demand for heat and electricity.

Blackouts lasting more than an hour began around dawn Tuesday for Oklahoma City and more than a dozen other communities, stopping electric-powered space heaters, furnaces and lights just as temperatures hovered around minus 8 degrees (minus 22 degrees Celsius).

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.

However, Entergy began 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.

“Due to extremely cold temperatures over the last several days, the demand for electricity has reached an all-time high,” the Entergy statement said. “Additionally, these weather conditions have forced off generation resources across the system. The implementation of this load shed across the Entergy region will help ensure an adequate reserve margin, which helps ensure Entergy is better positioned to manage through additional extreme weather this week.”

Entergy has almost 3 million electric power customers in the four states.

Nebraska’s blackouts came amid some of the coldest weather on record: In Omaha, the temperature bottomed out at 23 degrees below zero overnight (minus 30 degrees Celsius), the coldest in 25 years.

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

The outages forced a Texas county to scramble to administer more than 8,000 doses of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine after a public health facility lost power early Monday and its backup generator also failed, said Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

County officials distributed the doses that could have spoiled at three hospitals, Rice University and the county jail because there were large groups of people available who would not have to drive and appropriate medical personnel present.

“It feels amazing. I’m very grateful,” said Harry Golen, a college sophomore who waited for nearly four hours with his friends, much of it in the cold, and was among the last people to get the shots, which otherwise would not have reached students until March or April.

Texas officials said more than 400,000 doses due now will not arrive until at least Wednesday because of the storm.

The tornado that hit North Carolina’s Brunswick County was an EF3 with winds estimated at 160 mph (257 kph), the weather service said on Twitter.

Three people died and 10 were injured when the tornado tore through a golf course community and another rural area just before midnight Monday, destroying dozens of homes.

Sharon Benson, 63, said her roof was damaged and her garage door blown off. Windows were shattered and nearby trees were uprooted.

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

Authorities in multiple states reported deaths in crashes on icy roads , including two people whose vehicle slid off a road and overturned in a waterway in Kentucky on Sunday, state police said. A Mississippi 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 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 in Oregon, authorities on Tuesday confirmed the deaths four people last weekend in the Portland metro area of carbon monoxide poisoning.

At least 13 children were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, the hospital said in a social media post, which warned that families were “going to extreme measures to warm their homes” — with propane or diesel-burning engines and generators, gas ovens and stovetops. One parent died of the toxic fumes, pediatrician Phillip Scott told Fort Worth television station KTVT.

Other Texas deaths included a woman and a girl who died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning in Houston at a home without electricity from a car left running in an attached garage, and two men found along Houston-area roadways who likely died in subfreezing temperatures, law enforcement officials said.

In western Tennessee, a 10-year-old boy died after falling into an ice-covered pond on Sunday during a winter storm, fire officials said.

Several cities had record lows: In Minnesota, the Hibbing/Chisholm weather station registered minus 38 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 39 degrees Celsius). Sioux Falls, South Dakota, dropped to minus 26 Fahrenheit (minus 26 degrees Celsius).

At midday, more than 2,700 U.S. flights had been canceled, led by more than 800 at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and more than 700 at Bush Intercontinental in Houston.

Authorities pleaded with residents to stay home Tuesday. 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.

___

Associated Press staff around the United States contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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