Winter storm sweeps US, millions without power and 21 dead
Published: 02:00 PM, 17 February 2021
A historic winter storm has killed at least 21 people, left millions of Texans without power and spun killer tornadoes into the US Southeast on Tuesday. - Reports Reuters
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.
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 states 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.
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 centers 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.
With more than 4.4 million power outages in Texas alone, authorities shut down inoculation sites and scrambled to use 8,400 vaccines that require subzero refrigeration before they spoiled after a backup generator failed, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said. Doses were rushed to area hospitals and Rice University to be injected into the arms of people already at those locations and who did not have to travel on slick roads. - Reuters