Skip to Content
Weather

The power is off in many US homes as millions deal with frigid wintry weather

By Hollie Silverman and Joe Sutton, CNN

 (CNN) -- Millions of people were stuck in homes without electricity in sub-freezing temperatures Monday afternoon as the demand for power outpaced the ability to provide it.

More than 4 million customers in the United States had no power as of Monday afternoon because of the deadly storm system. At least 3.6 million outages were reported in Texas, where rolling blackouts started overnight because utility companies were dealing with problems with natural gas supplies and frozen wind turbines.

The city of Galveston said up to 95% of households were powerless early Monday afternoon.

Nearly 145 million people in the United States were under some sort of winter weather alert Monday, with icy roads, power outages and dangerously low temperatures threatening to snarl traffic and paralyze cities from coast to coast.

At least 13 people have died in weather-related vehicle accidents since cold temperatures took hold of the country. Nine died in three incidents in Texas on Thursday, one person died in a wreck in Oklahoma on Sunday and three people were killed in Kentucky, including two in separate accidents Monday.

The bad weather was widespread, with more than a third of the continental US recording below-zero temperatures Monday.

The mercury dropped to 5 degrees in Dallas, 6 below zero in Oklahoma City and 32 below zero in Kansas City, Missouri -- the coldest for those cities since 1989. Snow fell in Brownsville, Texas, where measurable snow has occurred only twice on record since 1898.

The severe winter weather has sparked emergency declarations in at least seven states, including Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Texas.

Live updates on the winter storm

Texas has borne the brunt of the cold weather. Officials in Harris County -- the state's most populous county, which includes Houston -- warned its 4 million residents to stay indoors because the cold weather will be around for a while.

"The safest place to be is in your home, even if you lose power," Francisco Sanchez, the county's deputy emergency management coordinator, told CNN affiliate KPRC Monday morning. "It's going to get colder before it gets warmer. These conditions will not improve until Tuesday night or Wednesday morning."

Air traffic disrupted

Air traffic was halted, at least temporarily, at a number of airports.

George Bush Intercontinental and William P. Hobby in Houston, Lafayette Regional and Baton Rouge Metropolitan in Louisiana and Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International in Mississippi were closed Monday, the FAA said.

Delays were reported at Dallas/Fort Worth International, Chicago O'Hare International, Austin-Bergstrom International and other airports, the FAA said.

More than 3,700 flights with US destinations or departures had been canceled Monday morning, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.com.

Icy conditions on roadways

The Houston area has been hit especially hard. City police responded to more than 130 traffic accidents Sunday night, Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a tweet.

A 10-car pileup on Interstate 45, south of downtown, was just one of many incidents on icy roads. Acevedo urged people to avoid traveling.

"On patrol in center of the city, about every business is closed. No reason to be driving in these conditions ... Button down & stay home the icing is going to get worse as the day progresses," Acevedo said in another Twitter post.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who declared a state of emergency earlier in the day, echoed the chief's orders.

"Please stay off the roads tonight and through tomorrow. This is serious! The roads are dangerous!"

On top of the danger icy roads pose, the mayor also cautioned residents that the weather could cause rolling blackouts.

Icy roads in Texas have already proved deadly. A pileup in Fort Worth on Thursday, involving more than 130 cars, killed nine people and injured dozens more, with at least 65 people seeking treatment at local hospitals following the crash.

Shelters opened and power outages widespread in Texas

Houston rushed to open warming facilities for its homeless population.

City Councilwoman Letitia Plummer told CNN a line formed early for a place inside the George R. Brown Convention Center.

"We are leading in evictions around the country and because of that, our homeless numbers are increasing. These are people at the convention center that wouldn't normally be there," Plummer said, adding people have been "self-evicting."

Plummer said the city has opened six additional warming facilities, each housing 50-60 homeless, and that none of them are full at the moment. The city is working to open more warming facilities to ensure no one in need is turned away, she said.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) tweeted that it started rolling outages early Monday.

"This is typically done through rotating outages, which are controlled, temporary interruptions of electric service. This type of demand reduction is only used as a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole," ERCOT said in a statement.

The council had previously asked consumers and businesses to reduce their electricity use as much as possible through Tuesday.

Houston and the surrounding areas are under their first-ever wind chill warning. Every county in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas is currently under a winter storm warning.

Cold snap from coast to coast

Below-freezing temperatures are forecast to affect more than 245 million people in the lower 48 states over the next seven days, with more than 50 million Americans expected to experience temperatures below zero.

The cold air is so widespread that you could travel nearly 2,000 miles from the Rio Grande on the Mexican border to the St. Lawrence River on the Canadian border entirely in winter storm warnings or watches.

There is the potential for more than 240 cold temperature records to be broken by Tuesday evening, and some records have already been shattered.

The heaviest snow in the East is expected to fall from the Mississippi Valley, through the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes. A total of 6-12 inches is expected by Tuesday evening from Arkansas to upstate New York.

"What we're facing is three winter storms in seven days," said Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray in a Monday morning news conference.

Kentucky is experiencing its second storm of three. More snow is expected later Monday.

"We had what amounted to an intermission, actually, between the winter storms this weekend," Gray said. "That enabled our highway crews to get a bit of rest and make some headway in clearing fallen limbs and trees, for example, and restocking our salt supplies."

Oklahoma City has gone a record five days without climbing over 20 degrees Fahrenheit -- they are not expected to top that temperature until Thursday, for a stretch of nine days.

"This cold snap is forecast to result in record low temperatures that are comparable to the historical cold snaps of Feb 1899 & 1905," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Dangerous wind chills have been recorded in eastern Colorado and western Kansas, according to the National Weather Service in Pueblo, Colorado. Wind chills ranging from 42 degrees below zero near Yuma, Colorado, to 25 degrees below zero near Norton, Kansas, were reported late Sunday evening.

Along with the unusual, widespread cold are snow events that could also break records.

Seattle has already reported more than 11 inches of snow over the weekend, the most since January 1972, almost 50 years ago. More than 50 inches of snow has fallen in parts of Wyoming over the past few days.

Cities in the South, including Dallas and Oklahoma City, have the potential for their biggest snowfall in a decade, and between two snowstorms this week, have their snowiest weeks on record.

But not every place was cold. Miami hit a record high heat index of 91 on Sunday.

National & World / News

CNN

Comments

18 Comments

  1. Current temp is 52°F, low’s are in the mid 40°’s . . . Wood shed is still half full, gas generator is ready to go, plenty of food and water in the house . . . no reason to go out. Enjoy your weather!

      1. Also laughing at all the “Greenies” that swore wind and solar was their savior! Just read that almost half of Houston’s wind turbines are down from ice and snow. That’s 12,000Mw down.

        1. 1. Texas has an independent grid not tied to other states so they are isolated
          2. The overwhelming majority of power not on-line is gas and coal
          3. Just like their highways that are not prepared for ice, their utilities are privatized so no incentive to winterize
          4. Wind power in Canada does just fine in cold if winterized.

        2. Ten years ago this same scenario played out and utilities were instructed, but not mandated, to initiate cold weather protections. But those things cost money and, without federal regulations that would be required if Texan utilities were connected to the national grid which they aren’t by Texans’ choice, those preventions were never done. So Texans have no one but themselves to blame.

    1. For those that haven’t heard, wind turbines are freezing up all over the country . . . Solar panels are covered with snow and ice and very low output. Must be time to remove a couple more hydro dams and shut down some other power plants. Thank a “Greenie” today!

      1. Wind turbines have been operating in the Antarctic for a long time, so cold weather prevention is available if utilities are willing to invest some of their profits to do so. Government regulation is there to mandate such to counteract the greed factor. Of course, TX didn’t want anybody telling them what to do, so they didn’t hook up to neighboring state’s power grids which would have required regulation, so here they are, pointing fingers and claiming victimhood by a liberal Green conspiracy.

  2. Texas threatened to secede like 2 weeks ago, now they’re begging the government for help with 2 inches of snow. These GOP snowflakes can’t handle real snowflakes.

  3. More to come with stupid ideas like from Kerry and the rest who have the money. They could care less about you low lives that have to make a living. Sorry can’t get there the car needs a charge but we have no power. More solar panels and wind generators not built in US. And then Biden and Kamala.

Leave a Reply

Skip to content