Millions struggle without power as cold snap grips US

A boy walks up a snow-covered hill after sledding down it in a box in Houston Texas the United States

-Canada border to the U.S. -Mexico border in the nation's midsection, according to forecasters.

The latest storm front was predicted to bring snow and ice to East Texas, Arkansas and the Lower Mississippi Valley before moving to the northeast on Thursday.

The power supply outages in Texas affected millions of people across the border in northern Mexico, where the Associated Press reported nearly 5 million customers were left in the dark.

"We're living through a really historic event going on right now", said Jason Furtado, a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma. The Harris County Public Health facility lost power between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. on Monday and its backup generator also failed, said Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

"This massive weather system is making its way across the country and ready to deliver a one-two punch of snow, ice and heavy winds across the entire state for the next two days", he said in a statement. The weather has led to at least 26 deaths, including three people who died in carbon monoxide related incidents and one driver who hit a snowplow.

Law enforcement reported two men were found dead along Houston-area roadways.

"Things will likely get worse before they get better", said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in the county of almost five million people around Houston.

The Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities across 14 states, called for rolling outages because the supply of reserve energy had been exhausted. Mayor Sylvester Turner said other warming centers had to be shut down because they lost power.

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.

More than 500 people sought comfort at one shelter in Houston.

The toll of the worsening conditions included the delivery of new Covid-19 vaccine shipments, which were expected to be delayed until at least midweek.

Several cities in the U.S. saw record lows as Arctic air remained over the central part of the country.

In Kansas, where wind chills dropped to as low as -34C (-30F) in some areas, Governor Laura Kelly declared a state of disaster.

Authorities pleaded with residents to stay home Tuesday.

"But not before it causes heavy snow and freezing rain in parts of the eastern Great Lakes and New England", the NWS said.

Air travel in and out of Texas has also been impacted. The weather had caused nearly 60 flight cancelations at local airports by Tuesday morning, the local ABC affiliate reported. Oklahoma Gas & Electric 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.

"Swaths of half an inch of ice will be possible" over the next three days for areas from Texas to MS and up through Virginia, according to the National Weather Service.

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