The devastating winter wipeout ravaging the US has now blanketed the nation in the most snow since records began 18 years ago while at least 23 have been killed nationwide and millions have been left without power.
A staggering 73.2 percent of the 48 contiguous states were covered in snow with an average depth of 6 inches Tuesday, according to the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center, marking the most coverage since data collection began back in 2003.
The previous record was on January 12 2011 when 70.9 percent of snow coverage occurred and Florida was the only state in 50 not to have snow on the ground.
This time last year just 35.5 percent of the nation was covered with an average depth of 4.6 inches.
The death toll climbed higher Tuesday with the freezing storm claiming 23 lives across the hard-hit states of Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, North Carolina and Missouri including car crashes and carbon monoxide poisoning.
More than 150 million Americans have been placed under winter weather warnings, impacting almost half the entire population and marking the largest extent of such a warning bulletin since 2005, as yet another winter storm plows into Texas and other parts of the southern Plains.
An aerial photo made with a drone shows snow and ice on Lake Michigan after an overnight snowfall left more than 18 inches
An overnight snowfall left more than 18 inches on the ground and roadways in Wilmette, Illinois
Chicago, Illinois. The devastating winter wipeout ravaging the US has now blanketed the nation in the most snow since records began 18 years ago while at least 23 have been killed nationwide and millions have been left without power
Austin, Texas: People walk on snowy streets Tuesday. Temperatures dropped into the single digits in the state Tuesday
Richardson, Texas: Shaemiya Taylor, left front, and Marsha Williams, right front, play a board game as Jeremiah Murphy, left rear, and Khloee Williams, right rear, look on at a warming shelter Tuesday. In cooperation with the cities emergency management center, this location is one of seven that have opened in the city, offering those in need a place to keep warm
Utilities from Minnesota to Texas and Mississippi have implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on power grids straining to meet extreme demand for heat and electricity as record low temperatures were reported in city after city.
Early Wednesday, nearly 3 million customers remained without power in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, more than 200,000 more in four Appalachian states, and nearly that many in the Pacific Northwest, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility outage reports.
The storm that overwhelmed power grids and immobilized the Southern Plains carried heavy snow and freezing rain into New England and the Deep South and left behind painfully low temperatures while wind-chill warnings extended from Canada into Mexico.
The latest storm front was predicted to bring snow and ice to east Texas, Arkansas and the Lower Mississippi Valley before moving to the northeast Thursday.
Winter storm watches were in effect from Baltimore to Boston, and Texas was braced for more icy rain and possibly more snow.
Not even forecasters were ready for the magnitude of the snowstorm with National Weather Service Emergency Services Director Ed Conrow admitting the agency was ‘very surprised how rapidly this storm intensified’.
Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service, warned ‘there’s really no letup to some of the misery people are feeling’ as much of the country braces for more icy weather.
Vice President Kamala Harris said on NBC’s ‘Today’ show Wednesday that she and Joe Biden are doing ‘everything that is possible through the signing of the emergency orders to get federal relief to support them’ while the president warned the severe weather will slow down the COVID-19 vaccine rollout critical to tackling the nation’s other crisis point – the pandemic.
Texas has born the brunt of the crisis with the electricity grid in the nation’s second most populous state catastrophically failing plunging millions into darkness and freezing temperatures for a second night in a row overnight Tuesday.
In Texas, record-smashing low temperatures have plunged the state’s energy industry into crisis leaving millions struggle to survive with no power to power to stay warm for a second straight day.
Dallas on Tuesday recorded its coldest day since 1949 as temperatures plummeted to -2 degrees while Austin reached a low of 7 degrees – the coldest since 6 degrees was recorded two days before Christmas 1989.
In San Antonio it was the coldest February 16 in more than a century Tuesday with its low of 12 degrees smashing the previous record of 16 degrees in 1895.
The record-breaking cold weather claimed more lives Tuesday, including four family members who perished in a Houston-area house fire while using a fireplace to stay warm and a woman and a girl who died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning from a car running in a garage after their home in the city lost power.
Two men found along Houston-area roadways likely died in subfreezing temperatures, law enforcement officials said.
In Harris County, officials reported more than 300 carbon monoxide poisoning cases as people use BBQ pits and generators indoors in an effort to stay warm.
Dr. Samuel Prater, a UTHealth emergency physician told The Houston Chronicle: ‘With that number of patients going in, it’s turning into a mini mass casualty event.’
In Galveston, the medical examiner’s office requested a refrigerated truck to expand body storage.
Jeremy Bixby shovels snow out of his driveway in the BlackHawk neighborhood in Pflugerville Texas
Desperate residents flocked to shelters and hotels in Texas for refuge from the cold with the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston already reaching capacity by noon Tuesday.
Officials requested 60 generators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and opened 35 shelters as around 2.7 million continued to be left without power Wednesday.
The power breakdown sparked growing outrage and demands for answers over how Texas — whose Republican leaders as recently as last year taunted California over the Democratic-led state’s rolling blackouts — failed such a massive test of a major point of state pride: energy independence.
Governor Greg Abbot has demanded an investigation into grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, as cities including San Antonio, Dallas and Austin were left to shoulder the brunt of a catastrophic power failure.
Rep. Jeff Leach called it ‘ridiculous’ that five of the 15 ERCOT board members do not appear to live in Texas.
He tweeted: ‘I’m filing legislation this session requiring all @ERCOT_ISO officers and directors to be Texas residents. Completely ridiculous and unacceptable that current ERCOT Board Chair lives in Michigan!’
The state is the only one in continental US that has its own power grid; it is not federally regulated.
The extreme weather is also hitting hard Texas farms and ranches as cattle and other livestock are dying from exposure to the elements and forced shutdowns of plants means animal feed could soon be in short supply.
Frozen: More than 4million people in Texas were without power yesterday afternoon in subzero temperatures for the fourth day in a row.
HOUSTON: Karla Perez and Esperanza Gonzalez warm up by a barbecue grill during power outage caused by the winter storm on February 16, 2021 in Houston, Texas
Oklahoma City in Oklahoma experienced its coldest weather since 1899 Tuesday night and residents woke up to little relief Wednesday morning with temperatures of 10 degrees Fahrenheit and a real feel of zero.
Oklahoma City recorded its second lowest temperature on record Tuesday night, beaten only on February 12 1899.
The Department of Transportation is urging people to stay home and not travel Wednesday as snow continues to fall creating treacherous conditions on the roadways and overpasses.
Snow is forecast to continue falling through Wednesday, with up to six inches of accumulation forecast for the capital city and up to 12 inches in other worse hit parts of the state.
Temperatures will finally climb just above freezing Friday – marking the first time a high above freezing will be recorded since February 8.
Cherokee Nation casinos and businesses announced they were shuttering through Friday in desperate efforts to conserve power in the face of electricity shortages across the region.
Icicles form on a the frozen helmet of a Tulsa Firefigther working the scene of a 3 alarm fire on Tuesday in Tulsa
A Tulsa Firefighter is covered in ice Tuesday – the same day Oklahoma City recorded its second lowest temperature on record Tuesday night, beaten only on February 12 1899
In Louisiana, a 75-year-old woman was found dead outside her neighbor’s home in Lafayette early Tuesday more than six hours after she left her own home and succumbed to the elements, authorities said.
Her death comes after the state recorded its first storm-related death Monday night when a 50-year-old Lafayette Parish resident slipped on ice and struck his head on the ground.
Residents are bracing for the next winter storm system throughout Wednesday and people in New Orleans have been told to prepare for rolling power outages until midnight as demand for electricity reaches an all-time high.
Over in Memphis, Tennessee, single-digit temperatures entered the third day Wednesday and threatened to derail the city’s drinking water supply.
Memphis, Light, Gas & Water is asking customers to use less water and hold off washing clothes through Friday after several water mains have burst and pressure has dropped across the distribution system.
The utility also said late Tuesday it’s seeing reduced reservoir levels at pumping stations.
Over in western Tennessee, a 10-year-old boy died when he fell into an ice-covered pond on Sunday as the storm hammered the state.
Snow is cleared from taxiways at Nashville International Airport in Nashville, Tennessee
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation Tuesday for the entire state after the ‘dangerous and ongoing winter weather’ left around 7,000 households without power.
‘I have directed my administration to use all resources at our disposal to keep our communities safe amid dangerous and ongoing winter weather,’ Pritzker said.
‘We are in communication with local governments to ensure they have the support they need in disaster response and recovery operations. We are also working with our federal partners to pursue federal assistance to help communities recover and to do what we can to protect ratepayers from soaring utility bills.’
Schools in Chicago shuttered Tuesday after a foot and a half of new snow blanketed the city just one week after officials finally reached an agreement with teachers’ unions to get students back to in-person classes.
Warming centers were set up for residents to get some respite from the cold and Fire Commissioner Richard Ford urded Chicagoans to check on their vulnerable and elderly neighbors.
By Wednesday morning, the city had been pummeled by more than 17 inches of snow marking the snowiest three-week stretch in four decades.
The National Weather Service said more ‘light snow’ is on its way Wednesday afternoon which will break the city’s record by topping off the 10th straight day of snowfall.
Snow blankets a west side neighborhood after a winter storm accumulated more than a foot of snow in some portions of the area in Chicago
More snow is headed to Minnesota Wednesday after the state has been faced with almost two weeks of daily wind chills at or below zero.
In the northern part of the state, wind chill factors Wednesday morning fell to -35 degrees.
Power was cut to 9,800 residents in parts of Moorhead in western Minnesota Tuesday morning sparking fears of rolling blackouts amid freezing temperatures. But the electric grid quickly stabilized and the rolling blackouts were called off in the area.
It was a similar story in Duluth’s Bayview Heights, Piedmont Heights, and Hermantown areas when 2,737 customers were briefly left without power Tuesday morning.
By next week, the weather will have done a u-turn as highs of 40 degrees are forecast in the south.