About 105 million Americans throughout the county remain under a winter storm warning or watch as many deal with frustrating power outages and stinging cold temperatures.
“Significant snow, sleet, and freezing rain accumulations will spread across most of the Mid-South Wednesday and Thursday,” the National Weather Service said.
Winter storm warnings are in effect in parts of Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and all of Arkansas. Watches are in place from Kentucky to New England.
For some it is misery upon misery. Already, about 2,000 records for low temperatures have been shattered this past week, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.
On Tuesday alone, at least 20 cities suffered their coldest weather in history. Many more new records are expected this week.
At least 15 people have died in weather-related vehicle crashes since the cold temperatures set in. In Oklahoma alone, 123 people were hospitalized Monday with weather-related injuries.
And in North Carolina, at least three people were killed when an overnight tornado shredded parts of Brunswick County near the South Carolina border.
No power, no running water
Plunging temperatures have frozen or overworked power sources, leaving millions of people in the dark.
As of Tuesday afternoon, about 3.9 million homes and businesses across much of the country didn’t have power, according to Poweroutage.US. The vast majority of those outages are in Texas.
In Abilene, Texas, about 123,000 residents were without water due to power outages. All three water treatment plants in the city had to be shut off when both of their power sources went out, the City of Abilene said in a statement.
Power has since been restored to one water plant and crews are working toward the goal of restoring service to most of the city by day’s end Tuesday, officials said.
Though rolling power outages are not planned for Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards said they could happen if the power generation is unable to keep up with the demand.
This will be the coldest weather the state has experienced in several decades, Edwards said. He said about 125,000 households have lost power, some for over 12 hours.
Record-breaking snow coverage
More than 73% of the mainland US was covered by snow Tuesday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Water Prediction.
That’s the largest area covered by snow since such records started in 2003. The measurements are based on ground reports as well as airborne and satellite measurements.
As of 6 a.m. Tuesday, snow cover was found in 45 of the 48 states in the continental US.
Florida, Georgia and South Carolina were the only snow-free states.
The Northeast is under the gun
The storm that left a trail of destruction in the South this week will move through the Northeast late Tuesday, leaving heavy snow and ice along the way, CNN meteorologist Tyler Mauldin said.
Millions will endure wind chills below zero through late this week.
“This cold snap is forecast to result in record low temperatures that are comparable to the historical cold snaps of Feb 1899 & 1905,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
While temperatures are expected to rise as the system moves, record cold mornings and afternoons will linger through Saturday, Mauldin said.
Heavy snow could reach areas downwind of Lake Erie and Ontario as the system leaves New England on Tuesday evening.
“I’m almost certain that we are slowly watching one of the first billion-dollar weather disaster of 2021 unfold,” Mauldin said.
What’s next for the states already hammered
A weather system that’s been dumping cold precipitation on the West Coast is heading to the South, Maudlin said.
Seattle reported more than 11 inches of snow over the weekend, the most since January 1972.
And parts of Wyoming got hit with more than 4 feet of snow in just a few days.
Dangerous wind chills have been recorded in Colorado and Kansas, according to the National Weather Service in Pueblo, Colorado.
Wind chills ranging from 42 degrees below zero near Yuma, Colorado, to 25 below near Norton, Kansas, were reported this week.
More than 6 inches of snow has fallen from East Texas to Ohio, with some areas picking up more than a foot. Oklahoma City has gone a record five days without climbing over 20 degrees. That record will likely stretch until Thursday, or nine days.
As if the power and water losses weren’t enough, the brutal weather has also delayed Covid-19 vaccinations.
Vaccine shipments from manufacturers to Ohio providers could be delayed one to two days, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday.
For the second day in a row, vaccinations were postponed at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
In Harris County, home to Houston, officials raced to salvage and allocate 8,400 vaccines that were in jeopardy of spoiling after the generator and back-up generator failed Monday morning.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said the state canceled all of its mass vaccination events scheduled through Friday because of the extreme winter weather, according to a news release from the governor’s office.
“Missouri is experiencing severe winter weather that makes driving dangerous and threatens the health and safety of anyone exposed to the cold. These conditions will also likely delay some vaccine shipments,” Parson said.
‘Roads are getting covered faster than we can get them cleared’
While waiting for the power to come back on, officials have urged residents to stay off the roads.
The Mississippi Highway Patrol said it’s investigated more than 400 weather-related traffic incidents since Sunday.
All but eight counties in the state have reported ice on roads and bridges, the agency tweeted.
In Illinois, the brutal storm left “an absolute mess just about everywhere,” the Illinois Department of Transportation tweeted.
“Heavy snowfall rates combined with blowing snow means that roads are getting covered faster than we can get them cleared,” according to the agency.
The storm crippled air travel, too. More than 2,800 flights involving at least one US airport were canceled Tuesday, according to FlightAware.com, and more than 1,900 are already scratched for Wednesday.
45 degrees inside a Texas home
Texas, a state not used to brutal winter weather, has been one of the hardest hit. On Tuesday morning, temperatures were well below freezing across the entire state.
More than 3.5 million customers are without power, according to Poweroutages.US.
Because “customers” can represent a business or a household, millions more people are impacted.
The cold even interrupted cell service in Fort Bend County on Monday night, Fort Bend County Judge KP George said.
“Cell phone service is starting to break down over the region as back-up generators at towers are freezing or running out of fuel or both,” Judge George tweeted.
For Jamie Taylor, a mother of five in Dallas, the more than 18-hour power outage meant caring for her family in 45-degree temperatures inside her apartment.
“Currently wearing a sweatsuit, 2 robes, knee high Ugg boots and a beanie,” she tweeted.
“We’re surviving on cereal and chips. Only slightly losing it.”