Millions endure record, bitter cold without power, at least 20 dead; ‘A complete bungle’: Texas’ energy pride goes out with freezing temperatures
A bitter U.S. winter storm that has left millions without power in record-breaking cold has claimed more lives, including three people 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.
At least 20 deaths across the country were reported.
The storm, which 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. Bryan Anderson reports.
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 Appalachia, and another 200,000 were without electricity following an ice storm in northwest Oregon.
Four million people lost power in Mexico.
The tornado that hit North Carolina's Brunswick County had winds estimated at 160 mph, the weather service said. Three people died and 10 were injured when it tore through a golf course community and another rural area, destroying dozens of homes.
VIDEO: Aerial video shows tornado damage in North Carolina.
The paralyzing winter storm also wreaked havoc with COVID-19 vaccination efforts around the country, forcing the cancellation of appointments and delaying vaccine deliveries just as the federal government rolled out new mass vaccination sites to reach hard-hit communities, Eugene Garcia and Jocelyn Noveck report.
Power Failures: Anger over Texas' power grid failing in the face of a record winter freeze mounted as millions there remained shivering with no assurances that their electricity and heat — out for 36 hours or longer in many homes — would return soon or stay on once it finally does. One Austin resident summed up the prevailing feeling: "We’re all angry because there is no reason to leave entire neighborhoods freezing to death. This is a complete bungle,” she said. Paul J. Weber reports from Austin.
VIDEO: Millions of Texans without power after storm.
Power Failure Misinformation: Conservative commentators shared a false narrative that wind turbines and solar energy were primarily to blame for power outages across Texas as the power grid buckled. A variety of misleading claims spread on social media, with the Green New Deal and wind turbines getting much of the attention. But the Texas state power agency said gas, coal and nuclear plants actually caused nearly twice as many outages as wind and solar power, Ali Swenson and Arijeta Lajka report.
EXPLAINER: Topsy-turvy weather comes from polar vortex. It seems like the world's weather has turned upside-down. There have been record subzero temperatures in Texas and Oklahoma, and Greenland is warmer than normal. Snow fell in Greece and Turkey. Meteorologists blame the all-too-familiar polar vortex. The cold air that's normally penned up in the high Arctic got slammed by an atmospheric wave in late December. It broke apart in early January and moved out of its normal area. The result has been crazy winter weather, Seth Borenstein reports.