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Winter storm: Millions without power in Texas; snow grounds flights

By Clyde Hughes & Accuweather.com & Sommer Brokaw
1/12
Winter storm: Millions without power in Texas; snow grounds flights
Snowplows clear away snow along Highway 270 in Des Peres, Mo., on Monday. The St. Louis area received about 8 inches of snow as temperatures remained around zero for the day. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Millions of people were without electricity and hundreds of flights were canceled on Tuesday due to a major winter storm spanning from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic that's produced deep snow and killed several people.

The storm has battered Texas, which rarely sees extreme cold and snow. More than 4 million people in the state were without power early Tuesday, according to poweroutage.us.

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Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a news conference Tuesday that 1.3 million people were without power in the Houston region, and a large segment have been without power since Monday morning. He expected power to be restored to 400,000 customers some time Tuesday.

"It's critical for power to be restored as quickly as possible," he said. "That's important. That's the No. 1 priority, especially for our seniors."

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Turner added that homeless shelters are reaching capacity due to the power outages, with a downtown shelter "maxed out" at 797 people amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and in some cases people are being transported by bus to Lakewood, where a church has warming shelters for the winter storm.

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Hundreds of thousands more were also without electricity in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said that 135,000 people in the state were without power on Tuesday, down from 150,000 on Monday, while 32 counties and 22 cities have declared states of emergency.

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A tornado related to the storm system in North Carolina killed at least three people early Tuesday.

Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram said damage from the twister is "like nothing" he has seen before and urged non-residents to stay away. At least 50 buildings were damaged by the storm.

Another tornado was reported near Damascus, Ga., which damaged several homes.

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Harris County, Texas, Judge Lina Hidalgo compared the winter storm to a Category 5 hurricane and warned that it could cut off grocery stores and other vital resources.

Turner urged residents to stay off the roads unless it's a dire emergency.

In Fort Worth, about 100,000 people were told to boil their water after a treatment plant lost power. Those who could not boil water were encouraged to use bottled water. Officials are working to set up water bottle distribution centers.

Freezing rain made travel dangerous from Texas to the Appalachians. Nearly an inch of ice was measured in Frenchburg, Ky., more than triple the amount needed to weigh down branches and power lines. More than 150,000 had lost power in Kentucky by Tuesday morning.

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Ice storm threats stretched from Alabama and Mississippi to Maine. The heaviest icing was expected in central and western Tennessee, West Virginia, northern Virginia, Maryland and parts of southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

More than two dozen people have died so far, mostly in Texas, in weather-related incidents since Thursday, NBC News reported Tuesday.

Among them, a woman and an 8-year-old girl died due to carbon monoxide poisoning in southwest Houston after the car was left running in a garage, Houston police said.

"We are very concerned about the risk for widespread and long-term power outages as a result of significant ice from Texas northeast to the Mid-Atlantic," said Jon Porter, AccuWeather senior vice president of forecasting.

"Ice storms are bad enough, but ice storms in the South followed by dangerous cold could become a life-threatening crisis."

The winter storm has led some of Texas' busiest airports to cancel hundreds of flights, including Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, according to FlightAware.com.

Dozens of additional flights were canceled at airports in Nashville, San Antonio, Atlanta and Chicago.

The storm has also affected oil and gas production centers in Texas, with gasoline prices across the United States expected to rise by 10 cents per gallon within the next couple days, CNBC reported.

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"What we have is an electric generating problem," Lipow Oil Associates President Andy Lipow told CNBC. "You don't have natural gas, and you don't have electricity. It's difficult for refineries to turn crude into gasoline."

Lipow added that a number of refineries have shut down amid the freezing weather and power outages, including Motiva in Port Arthur, Texas, the largest refinery in the United States.

"This is temporary until the weather warms up," Lipow added.

Additionally, the storm has delayed shipments of COVID-19 vaccines to Georgia, Colorado and Florida, according to CNN.

AccuWeather contributed to this report

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