US snow: Winter storm tightens grip in southern states

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Authorities across the US are on alert as a winter storm brings freezing winds, ice and snow to many areas that rarely see such frigid conditions.

In Texas, a surge in demand for electricity has led to widespread power cuts. The state is bracing for another icy storm later on Tuesday.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said more than 150 million Americans were now under winter storm warnings.

Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama and Oklahoma are among states affected.

The north-west state of Oregon has also seen severe weather.

The freezing storm even reached northern parts of Mexico where more than four million homes and businesses lost power early on Monday.

People have fun in the snow, in Ciudad Juarez, in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, 14 February 2021

EPA

US President Joe Biden has approved a a state of emergency in Texas, which has seen some of its coldest temperatures in more than 30 years – some areas hit 0F (-18C) on Sunday.

The high demand for electricity in the state has caused the power grid to fail. Rolling blackouts have been imposed in some areas to conserve power for hospitals, police and fire stations, leaving several million people without electricity.

The crisis was worsened when nearly half the state’s wind power generation was knocked out by the storm on Sunday. Wind power is the state’s second-largest source of electricity.

Francisco Sanchez wipes snow off his car with a boogie board before going out sledding with his kids on Valentine's Day at Memorial Park in El Paso, Texas, US, 14 February 2021

Reuters

Icy roads have also led to a spate of traffic accidents and people have been advised to avoid travel where possible.

In Houston, nearly 120 road crashes were reported on Sunday alone. A pile-up on a major highway near Oklahoma City during a snowstorm on Sunday left several lorries on fire.

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The George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and the city’s Hobby Airport were both closed until at least Tuesday.

Travellers in several states were warned that flights could be delayed or cancelled.

Texas Governor Gregg Abbott has urged “all Texans to remain vigilant against the extremely harsh weather”.

Temperatures in the city of Dallas have been colder than in Anchorage, Alaska, CBS News reported.

The NWS said unusual meteorological conditions had allowed an “Arctic outbreak” that originated just above the US-Canada border to spill out into and across the US.

Snow removal vehicles clear ice from around planes at Nashville International Airport on February 15, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee

Getty Images

“Over 150 million Americans are currently under winter storm warnings, ice storm warnings, winter storm watches, or winter weather advisories as impactful winter weather continues from coast to coast,” the NWS said in a statement.

“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.”

A delivery driver pushes a cart full of supplies down an icy sidewalk on February 11, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky

Getty Images

Up to 12in (30cm) of snow are expected across parts of the southern Plains – the large area that spans parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas – according to NWS meteorologist Marc Chenard.

“Typically, we just don’t have quite this much cold air in place that far south,” he said.

In Louisiana, some local authorities have imposed curfews to keep people off the icy roads. The state is also suffering power cuts and traffic disruption.

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