A historic winter storm has killed at least 21 people, left millions of Texans without power and spun killer tornadoes into the U.S. Southeast on Tuesday.
The brutal cold has engulfed vast swaths of the United States, shuttering COVID-19 inoculation centers and hindering vaccine supplies. It is not expected to relent until the weekend.
Officials in Texas drew criticism as the state energy grid repeatedly failed, forcing rolling blackouts. Freezing weather stilled giant wind turbines that dot the West Texas landscape, making it impossible for energy companies to meet escalating demand.
University student Corbin Antu found a way to snowboard in the flat West Texas plains town of Lubbock. He clung to a tow rope as friends in a pickup truck pulled him up and down silent white streets.
“This is my first time snowboarding out in Lubbock. Trust me, it’s not disappointing,” Antu said. “There is so much powder out on the ground it feels like it’s Colorado almost.”
DEATHS, NO POWER, VACCINE DELAYS
At least 21 people have died in Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky and Missouri including four killed in a house fire in Sugar Land, Texas, where the power was out, according to police and local media.
President Joe Biden assured the governors of hard-hit sates that the federal government stands ready to offer any emergency resources needed, the White House said in a statement.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a midday news conference that 1.3 million people in his city remain without power. The city is looking for businesses that still have power to open their doors as warming centers.
“It’s critically, critically important to get the power restored as quickly as possible. It’s priority number one!” Turner said.
Officials in south Texas warned citizens to not bring grills or propane heaters indoors. Hospitals have treated people for carbon monoxide poisoning as they tried to heat icy homes using those items.
Turner said vaccination centres in Houston would remain closed on Wednesday and probably Thursday. The Texas Department of State Health Services said vaccine shipments around the state would be delayed.
“No one wants to put vaccine at risk by attempting to deliver it in dangerous conditions,” department spokesman Douglas Loveday said by email, adding “it is not safe for people to be out across much of Texas.”