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Texas deep freeze leaves millions without power, some snowboarding behind pickups

A historic winter storm has brought lower temperatures to Houston than in parts of Alaska, left millions of Texans without power and spun killer tornadoes into the U.S. Southeast on Tuesday (February 16).

The brutal cold that has engulfed vast swaths of the United States has shuttered COVID-19 inoculation centers and threatened to disrupt vaccine supplies to some areas.

Officials in Texas came under intense criticism as the state’s energy grid repeatedly failed. More than 4 million were without power after the rare deep freeze forced the state’s electric grid operator to impose rotating blackouts across the state because of higher power demand. The freezing weather stilled giant wind turbines that dot the West Texas landscape, making it impossible for energy companies to meet the escalating demand.

In Lubbock, Texas, university student Corbin Antu made the best of the situation. He snowboarded up and down snow-silent, white streets, clinging to a tow rope as friends in a pickup truck pulled him around the West Texas prairie town, where it’s nearly impossible to find a hill to sled or ski down.

“This is my first time snowboarding out in Lubbock. And trust me, it’s not disappointing,” Antu said. “There is so much powder out on the ground it feels like it’s Colorado almost.”

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.

Officials in south Texas warned citizens to not bring grills or propane heaters indoors – several people have been treated in hospitals for carbon monoxide poisoning as they tried to heat icy homes by using those outdoor-only items.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said shipments of vaccines around the state would be delayed, depending upon local weather conditions.

The freeze brought havoc to the Texas energy sector, grounding operations at the Houston Ship channel and curbing output in the nation’s largest oil field: the Permian in West Texas. Several of the biggest oil refineries remained offline.

Treacherous weather will maintain its grip on many parts of the United States from Tuesday through Friday, with up to 4 inches of snow and freezing rain expected from the southern Plains into the Northeast, forecasters said.

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Topics: Environment
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