An unrelenting winter weather pattern – one of the most merciless in years – showed no signs of letting up Tuesday as it left a trail of destruction, outages and subzero temperatures across dozens of states
At least 11 people have died as a result of a series of storms that moved from coast to coast this weekend, including three killed in a tornado that tore through a seaside North Carolina town. In Texas, millions of people remained without power.
Heavy snow and freezing rain were expected in parts of the Great Lakes and Northeast on Tuesday; showers and thunderstorms in south Florida could lead to flash floods, the National Weather Service said.
Across the middle of the U.S., another bitter cold day brought more record low temperatures, and additional snow was expected to bury parts of the southern Plains on Tuesday evening, the Weather Service said.
In the Chicago area, the storm dumped up to a foot and a half of snow, shuttering schools to in-person classes Tuesday as officials urged residents to stay off the snow-filled roads.
And more was on the way: Another winter storm with snow and ice was forecast to pummel the South and Midwest on Wednesday.
Why is itso cold? How the polar vortex brings record low temperatures and winter storms
Millions are still without power in Texas. Why are there rolling outages?
More than 4 million homes and businesses were without power early Tuesday in Texas, where temperatures dipped into the single digits overnight. And more power outages could be coming, the Weather Service said, threatening people’s ability to heat their homes amid the record cold temperatures.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday said the state’s National Guard had been deployed to conduct welfare checks and help bring people to one of the 135 warming centers established across the state.
The bitter cold across the state has led to some power companies being unable to produce electricity from coal, natural gas and wind because of the freezing temperatures, Abbott said.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages power for 26 million customers, said Monday that it was conducting controlled outages “to protect the electric grid from uncontrolled, cascading outages.”
Much of east Texas was under a winter storm warning Tuesday in anticipation of the next round of snow and ice. In Dallas, the Weather Service said more ice and another 2 to 6 inches of snow were expected Tuesday evening.
“Ice accumulations ranging between a quarter to a half inch are possible, which would make for hazardous travel conditions, induce more power outages, and cause additional tree damage in these areas,” the Weather Service said.
Forecasters in Houston, where north of the city could also see up to half an inch of ice, said the accumulations could be “potentially devastating should these amounts be even higher.” Early Tuesday, a woman and a girl there died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at a home without electricity from a car running in an attached garage, police said.
The storm could also be to blame for the deaths of two men found along Houston-area roadways, law enforcement officials said. Causes of death were pending Monday night.
Brunswick County tornado leaves 3 dead in North Carolina
In North Carolina, at least three people died and 10 were injured when a deadly tornado hit early Tuesday in southeastern Brunswick County near Grissettown in the Ocean Ridge Plantation Community.
The tornado damaged at least 50 homes, snapped trees in half and downed powerlines that left thousands without electricity.
“It’s something like I have never seen before. A lot of destruction. It’s going to be a long recovery process,” Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram said at a press conference Tuesday.
People were trapped in homes, Brunswick County Emergency Management said, and searches were being conducted throughout the day.
South braces for more cold, another snow and ice storm
A new winter storm was expected to develop in the southern Plains on Tuesday and head for the South on Wednesday, the Weather Service reported.
Across the Lower Mississippi Valley and into the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, about 3 to 6 inches of snow could accumulate on Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.
Parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas could see up to 8 inches of snow Tuesday and Wednesday, local forecasters said.
The forecast office in Norman, Oklahoma, said light winds Tuesday could lead to “periods of very dangerous wind chills,” dropping below negative 20 degrees in Oklahoma City and much of the northern part of the state.
The northern part of Louisiana may only see a couple inches of snow, but nearly half an inch of ice was possible, the Weather Service said. Over 76,000 people were without power Tuesday morning. Gov. John Bel Edwards called the weather “a very serious emergency” on Monday.
“We can’t tell exactly when the thaw-out is going to happen and the roads may go from being unsafe to safe to unsafe again so we need everybody to be very mindful of that,” he said.
In Nashville, forecasters said the storm Wednesday will be “another snow/ice producer, although not of the magnitude as this past system.” Memphis could also see up to half a foot of snow through Thursday.
More than 50 million people could see temperatures dip below zero during the next several days, according to the Capital Weather Gang.
On Monday, record-smashing cold accompanied the storm across the central U.S. Hundreds of daily record low temperatures have been or will be broken during this prolonged “polar plunge,” the weather service said, “with some February and even all-time low temperature records in jeopardy.”
The Weather Service said the cold Tuesday could lead to “daily anomalies … between 35 to 45 degrees below normal.”
Slim chance of half a foot of snow in Mid-Atlantic later this week
In the Northeast on Tuesday, up to 10 inches of snow could fall in some areas, the Weather Service offices in New Hampshire and Maine said.
The Great Lakes region was also seeing snow on Tuesday. In Chicago, forecasters said Tuesday marked the 12th of 16 days in February that had seen measurable snowfall in a “remarkable stretch.” A winter storm warning in Detroit was in effect through noon with “moderate to occasionally heavy snow.” With gusts up to 20 to 30 mph, wind chills were hover near 0 degrees.
Several more inches of snow are possible Thursday and Friday once the storm moves from the South to mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
Most of New Jersey, Delaware and the eastern shore of Maryland could expect snow that changes into a wintry mix Thursday into Friday, forecasters said.
In Baltimore and Washington, D.C., 1 to 3 inches of snow was likely, but the Weather Service office said there was a 10% chance of the storm bringing 6 to 8 inches of snow.
Contributing: Emma Dill, Wilmington StarNews; The Associated Press