Frigid Arctic air, winter storms grip much of US

Francois Picard with Chris Lefkow in Washington
·3-min read

Arctic weather that already killed 10 people and left millions without power in the United States was set to continue into Tuesday, after dumping deep snow and bringing perilous conditions across swathes of the country.

The National Weather Service (NWS) warned of an "unprecedented and expansive area of hazardous winter weather" from coast to coast, with more than 150 million Americans under winter weather advisories.

"Hundreds of daily low maximum and minimum temperatures have been/will be broken during this prolonged 'polar plunge,' with some February and even all-time low temperature records in jeopardy," it said.

The grim conditions particularly afflicted regions unaccustomed to snow and sleet. PowerOutage.US reported more than 2.7 million people were without power in Texas, where temperatures in the major metropolis of Houston dipped to 16 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 degrees Celsius), well below average February lows of 34.

A number of deaths were linked to the bad weather, and authorities urged residents to exercise caution in navigating the perilous conditions.

"We did not make it through almost a year of a pandemic to lose people to a snow or ice storm," said Governor Andrew Beshear of Kentucky, where CBS reported a man had died after icy weather caused him to lose control of his vehicle and crash.

The storm has caused havoc in parts of Texas, including a 100-car pile-up on Interstate 35 near Fort Worth that killed at least six people last week.

Authorities in Louisiana confirmed that a 50-year-old man died in Lafayette on Monday -- the deep southern state's first death linked to the bad weather.

And a young boy died on Sunday after falling into an icy pond in Tennessee, local media quoted police as saying.

A separate storm front was due to hit the northeastern Great Lakes region, with New York governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday ordering emergency services to prepare for sleet, ice and freezing rain.

"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.

Extreme weather is also set to hit even further south, with the NWS warning "severe thunderstorms, heavy rain, and warm temperatures are expected for southern Georgia and Florida".

President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration for Texas on Sunday, providing federal assistance to supplement state relief efforts.

Weather-related emergencies have also been declared in Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas, Mississippi and Oregon -- where more than 300,000 people were without power.

- 'Our pipes are all frozen' -

"We woke up this morning, our pipes are all frozen and we have no water in the house," Houston resident Burke Nixon told AFP.

And Michael, another Houston resident, who gave only his first name, said: "It's lovely to see the white but very dangerous at the same time because people here don't know how to drive in it. You know they're driving too fast."

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport said all flights had been canceled Monday due to the "historic weather." Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport also closed.

The extreme weather in the United States triggered a massive blackout in northern Mexico that left almost five million people without power as natural gas supplies across the border were disrupted.

Of the just over seven million in the northern region of the country, "4,766,901 were affected and so far 79 percent of the electricity has been restored," Mexico's Federal Electricity Commission said on Twitter.