Rare winter deep freeze forces residents of southern U.S. to cope with cold

A rare deep freeze brought snow and ice to normally temperate parts of the southern United States, forcing Texas’s electric grid operator to impose rotating blackouts because of higher power demand. 

Weather forecasters predict more snow and ice late Tuesday and Wednesday along a storm front reaching from Texas to the Appalachian states.

U.S. President Joe Biden declared an emergency Monday, unlocking federal assistance for Texas, where temperatures ranged from -2 C to -22 C.

Here’s a look at how people are coping with the cold. 

Staying warm

The worst outages were in Texas, affecting more than four million homes and businesses Tuesday. People lit fires and bundled up to stay warm. 

In Garland, Texas, Dan Bryant and his wife, Anna, huddle by the fire with their sons and their dog Joey, who was wearing two doggie sweaters, as temperatures dropped inside their home.

(Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News/The Associated Press)

Authorities in Houston said a woman and a girl died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at a home without electricity, where a car was running in an attached garage.

In East Dallas, brothers Alfredo and Eduardo Colon lost their power during the night at around 2 a.m. They spent the day huddled around a fire outside.

“It feels better out here than it does in there,” Alfredo Colon said.

(Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News/The Associated Press)

Helping out

Volunteers in Oklahoma City checked on homeless people who had been sleeping on the ground under blankets during record-breaking cold weather. Hundreds of people in Houston relocated to warming centres in shelters, though some of those had to be shut down because they, too, lost power.

(Nick Oxford/Reuters)

Snowy, icy roads made for dangerous driving conditions. In the nearby state of Louisiana, police reported that it had investigated nearly 75 weather-related crashes caused by a mixture of snow, sleet and freezing rain in the past 24 hours.

For some in Oklahoma, driving wasn’t possible at all until they had help digging out their vehicles.

(Nick Oxford/Reuters)

Air travel was also affected. By mid-morning on Monday, 3,000 flights had been cancelled across the United States, about 1,600 of them at Dallas/Fort Worth International and Bush Intercontinental airports in Texas. 

Stocking up

The power outages forced some Houston grocery stores to shut down, leaving people waiting in long lines to purchase supplies.

(David J. Phillip/The Associated Press)

Alternative transportation

For some, a trip to the grocery store involved a long trudge through the snow-laden streets. At least one person could be seen riding a snowboard down Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas.

Colin McDonald wasn’t so lucky. He pulled his children down the road on a kayak.

(Bronte Wittpenn/Austin American-Statesman/The Associated Press)

Embracing it

For dozens of people, like these Baylor University students in Waco, Texas, the snow made for the perfect social media moment.

(Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald/The Associated Press)

They pulled out their cellphones and went for picturesque walks, and dozens in Houston headed to the nearest hill for some sledding.

(Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle/The Associated Press)

The massive winter storm that immobilized the Southern Plains was heading to the eastern Great Lakes and New England, where heavy snow and freezing rain was expected Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.

The storm system left behind record-setting cold temperatures, and another wave of snow and ice was predicted late Tuesday and Wednesday along a storm front extending deep into the South.

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