Texas under snow, polar temperatures and millions without electricity: the cold wave that hits much of the United States left about twenty deaths, while northern Mexico, also affected by power cuts, reported six deaths.
“I never thought I would one day snowboard in front of my own house … IN SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS!” Tweeted a netizen, Armen Chakmakian, along with a video in which he was seen sliding down a white street.
In San Antonio, where, as in the rest of the state, average temperatures in February hover around 20 ° C, on Tuesday they were -8 ° C, below the -7 ° C marked by the thermometer in Anchorage, Alaska. In Austin, the state capital, it reached -12 ° C.
According to press reports, more than 20 people have perished due to bad winter weather since last Thursday, most in Texas, but also in Louisiana and Tennessee.
The network NBC reported that a woman and a girl were found dead Tuesday by carbon monoxide poisoning after using a vehicle to generate heat in a house in Houston affected by power outages.
In Texas, a populous southern US state more accustomed to heat spikes than drastic drops in temperature, power companies have been carrying out partial blackouts since the weekend to avoid overloading the system.
More than 3.7 million residents and businesses were without power Tuesday afternoon across the United States, 3.2 million of them in Texas, according to the Poweroutage.us site .
Some even woke up without running water.
“Our neighbor just got us a propane tank to try to defrost our pipes because they are frozen. We are not used to this in Texas, ” Houston-resident Burke Nixon told AFP .
Dangerous conditions from the storm affected COVID-19 vaccine shipments, interrupting planned injections, health authorities said.
President Joe Biden, who activated federal assistance for Texas on Sunday, spoke with the governor of that state on Tuesday and with those of other affected states: Louisiana, Kentucky, Kansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Oklahoma.
The president told them he will “deploy any additional federal emergency resources available to help the residents of their states weather this historic storm,” the White House reported.
Further north, Chicago expected up to 14 inches of snow before the end of the cold snap. Weather conditions prompted nearly 60 flight cancellations at local airports on Tuesday, according to an ABC affiliate.
The National Weather Service (NWS) announced that a low-pressure area will develop over southern Texas Tuesday night producing “heavy snow and ice” from the southern Great Plains, through the Mississippi Valley on Wednesday and to the northeast of the country on Thursday.
The icy Arctic air will linger over the central area of the country in the coming days, the NWS said, after warning that the polar wind chill will spread to Mexico.
Also affected by unusual sub-zero temperatures, northern Mexico recorded at least six deaths and power outages in different states, reported authorities, who carried out operations to transfer homeless people or with homes not adequate to withstand the cold to shelters.
In Nuevo León, the capital Monterrey, the third largest city in the country, three people died from hypothermia and another from carbon monoxide poisoning from a heater. In the neighboring state of Tamaulipas, the death, also due to hypothermia, of two agricultural workers was reported.
Power outages in the United States also had an impact on Mexico, since they caused the suspension of the gas supply that feeds Mexican electricity generation plants.
Nearly five million users in six northern states were affected by a blackout on Monday. Until this Tuesday, 82% of the service had been restored.
The winter storm also sparked four tornadoes, according to the Atlanta-based site weather.com , including one off the North Carolina coast Monday night that killed three people and injured 10 more.
“It is estimated that at least 50 homes were affected and several power lines were damaged, causing power outages,” according to emergency services in Brunswick County, where two coastal communities were particularly hit.
Photos posted on social media showed uprooted trees, flattened houses and wrecked cars.
Getting back to normal will be “a long process of recovery,” said local Sheriff John Ingram.
Travis M. Andrews is a features writer for The Washington Post. He joined The Post in 2016 as a reporter for Morning Mix. He was previously a travel and culture editor for Southern Living magazine, a contributing pop culture reporter for Mashable and the Week, and a contributing editor for the Syfy blog Dvice. He also has freelanced for magazines, including Esquire, GQ and Time. He is the author of the coming book “Because He’s Jeff Goldblum,” a semi-rumination and semi-ridiculous look at the career of the enigmatic actor and an exploration of the shifting nature of fame in the 21st century, to be published in November by Plume.