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Millions of people across the United States endure record cold weather without power; at least 20 dead – The Denver Post

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OCEAN ISLE BEACH, North Carolina A winter storm that left millions of people without power in a record cold weather killed more people on Tuesday, including three people found dead after a tornado hit a North Carolina beach town and four family members who perished in the Houston area. house fire while using a fireplace to stay warm.

The storm that overwhelmed power grids and crippled the southern plains brought heavy snowfall and freezing rain to New England and the Deep South and left temperatures extremely low. Wind chill warnings have spread from Canada to Mexico.

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

North Carolinas Brunswick County received little warning of dangerous weather conditions and a tornado warning was only issued when the storm was already on the ground.

The National Weather Service was very surprised at how quickly this storm has intensified and by the time of the night when most people are home and in bed it creates a very dangerous situation, said the director of emergency services, Ed Conrow.

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

The worst power outages in the United States occurred in Texas, affecting more than 2 million homes and businesses. More than 250,000 people also lost power in parts of the Appalachians, and another 200,000 were without power following an ice storm in northwestern Oregon, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the utility outage reports. Four million people have lost power in Mexico.

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

More than 500 people sought comfort at a Houston shelter. Mayor Sylvester Turner said other warming centers have been closed because they lost electricity.

After losing power on Monday, Natalie Harrell said she, her boyfriend and four children were sheltered at a Gallery furniture store in Houston. The store’s warming center provided people with food, water and electricity to charge essential electronic devices.

It’s worse than a hurricane, Harrell said. I think we’re going to be more days without light, that’s what it looks like.

Utilities from Minnesota to Texas have implemented continual blackouts to ease the burden on power grids that must meet the extreme demand for heat and electricity.

Power outages lasting more than an hour began around dawn Tuesday for Oklahoma City and more than a dozen other communities, shutting down heaters, ovens and electric lights as temperatures hovered around minus 8 degrees (minus 22 degrees Celsius).

Oklahoma Gas & Electric has canceled plans for additional power outages, but urged users to set thermostats to 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), avoid using large electrical appliances, and turn off lights or appliances. not used.

However, Entergy began triggering power outages Tuesday night in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Southeast Texas under the direction of its grid manager, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, most recently. remedies and in order to avoid more extensive and prolonged power outages that could seriously affect the reliability of the power grid, according to a statement from the New Orleans-based utility.

Due to extremely cold temperatures in recent days, demand for electricity has reached an all-time high, the Entergy statement said. In addition, these weather conditions forced production resources to withdraw throughout the system. The implementation of this load shedding in the Entergy region will help ensure an adequate reserve margin, which will allow Entergy to be better positioned to handle additional extreme weather conditions this week.

Entergy has nearly 3 million electricity customers in the four states.

The power outages in the Nebraskas came in some of the coldest weather on record: In Omaha, the temperature hit a low of 23 degrees below zero overnight (minus 30 degrees Celsius), the coldest in 25 years.

The Southwest Power Pool, a utility group spanning 14 states, said outages were a last resort to preserve the reliability of the power system as a whole.

The blackouts forced a county in Texas to scramble to administer more than 8,000 doses of Modernas coronavirus vaccine after a public health facility lost power early Monday and its back-up generator also failed, said Rafael Lemaitre, spokesperson for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

County officials distributed the doses that could have spoiled to 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’s incredible. I am very grateful, said Harry Golen, a sophomore university student who waited almost four hours with his friends, much of it in the cold, and was among the last people to get the vaccine, who otherwise would not have reached the students before March or April. .

Texas officials said more than 400,000 doses currently expected will not arrive until at least Wednesday due to the storm.

The tornado that struck North Carolinas Brunswick County was an EF3 with winds estimated at 160 mph (257 km / h), the weather service said on Twitter.

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

Sharon Benson, 63, said her roof was damaged and her garage door was ripped off. Windows were smashed and neighboring trees were uprooted.

The sky lit up and there was a lot of pop-pop-pop-pop and thunder, she says.

Authorities in several states have reported deaths in crashes on icy roads, including two people whose vehicles slipped on a road and overturned in a waterway in Kentucky on Sunday, state police said . A Mississippi man has died after losing control of his vehicle, which overturned on an icy road Monday night near Starkville, Oktibbeha County Coroner Michael Hunt said on Tuesday.

In Texas, three young children and their grandmother died in the Houston-area fire, which likely started when they used a fireplace to warm themselves during a power outage, a fire official said. And in Oregon, officials on Tuesday confirmed the deaths of four people last weekend in the Portland metro area from carbon monoxide poisoning.

At least 13 children have been treated for carbon monoxide poisoning at Cook Childrens Medical Center in Fort Worth, the hospital said in a social media post, which warned families would take extreme measures to heat their homes with propane or diesel engines and generators. , gas ovens and hobs. A relative died of toxic fumes, pediatrician Phillip Scott told Fort Worth television station KTVT.

Other Texas deaths include a woman and girl who died of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning in Houston in a home without power from a car left running in an attached garage, and two men found along of roads in the Houston area that probably died in subzero temperatures. 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 have experienced record lows: in Minnesota, the Hibbing / Chisholm weather station recorded minus 38 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 39 degrees Celsius). Sioux Falls in South Dakota has dropped to minus 26 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 26 degrees Celsius).

By noon, more than 2,700 U.S. flights had been canceled, conducted by more than 800 to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and more than 700 to Bush Intercontinental in Houston.

Authorities pleaded with residents to stay at home on Tuesday. About 100 school systems have closed, delayed opening, or moved to distant classrooms in Alabama, where forecasters said conditions may not improve until temperatures exceed freezing on Wednesday after- midday.

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

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