Winter’s brutal assault on the U.S. continued Wednesday as another snowstorm roared its way across the nation, hitting some areas where millions already remained without electricity in record-breaking cold.
In all, over 100 million Americans were in the path of the next storm as it tracks from the southern Plains to the East Coast over the next couple of days, the National Weather Service said.
At least two dozen people have died because of the intense cold and a series of storms that moved from coast to coast since the weekend. In the Houston area, one family succumbed to carbon monoxide from car exhaust in their garage; another perished after flames spread from a fireplace.
And at least 13 children were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, hospital officials said.
In Texas, over 2.8 million homes and businesses remained without power Wednesday. Other states where power outages numbered in the tens of thousands included Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio and Oregon, according to poweroutage.us, a utility tracking site. Overall, about 3.4 million customers around the U.S. were without power.
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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 as record low temperatures were reported in city after city.
Josh Sklar, a resident from northwest Austin, said his family first lost power Thursday. After getting power back for a brief time Sunday, he said his family is again huddled together in their closet for warmth.
“We have zero confidence in ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) and Austin Energy caring about us or doing anything,” Sklar said.
Many residents are frustrated, including Amber Nichols, of north Austin.
“We are very angry,” she said. “I was checking on my neighbor, she’s angry, too. We’re all angry because there is no reason to leave entire neighborhoods freezing to death. This is a complete bungle.”
The power grid manager in Texas did not have firm estimates Wednesday for when power would be restored for Texans, millions of whom have been without electricity in frigid temperatures since early Monday.
Electric Reliability Council of Texas President Bill Magness said he’s hopeful many customers would see electricity at least partially restored – on a rotating basis, with outages coming in and out – by later Wednesday or Thursday.
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Another winter storm targets the South, Midwest, Northeast
The next winter storm will bring more snow and ice and “just a real mess” to many areas of the country, including the South, Midwest and Northeast, AccuWeather meteorologist Bernie Rayno said.
As the storm advances to the northeast through Friday, snow is forecast to fall along a 2,000-mile-long swath from northwestern and north-central Texas to northern Maine, AccuWeather said. Freezing rain and sleet will occur to the south and east of the snow zone, extending from central Texas to southeastern New York state.
Ice accumulations of a quarter to as much as three-quarters of an inch are forecast in some areas. “In the areas that contend with these devastating ice accumulations, residents can expect dangerous travel conditions, numerous power outages and extensive tree damage,” the weather service said.
While many areas continue to deal with the bitter cold, some parts of the Gulf Coast were expected to contend with the chance for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes later Wednesday, the Storm Prediction Center said. The severe storm threat will continue Thursday in portions of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.
The extreme weather has threatened to affect the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination effort. President Joe Biden’s administration said delays in vaccine shipments and deliveries were likely. After visiting Milwaukee on Tuesday, Biden said the weather was as “cold as the devil up there.”
There is a glimmer of hope for those dealing with power outages, major disruptions in daily activities or just plain exhaustion from all the winter storms: “Behind this winter storm, there may be a break in the relentless pattern of cross-country snow and ice,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Courtney Travis said.
“While a full week of dry weather may not be the case, the central and eastern parts of the country may get some relief from the constant storminess during the final week of February,” Travis added.
Contributing: The Austin-American Statesman; The Associated Press
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