March 7, 2021

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Death toll rises as powerful winter storm knocks out power to millions in Texas – CBS News

3 min read

Plano, Texas — More than 3.5 million homes and businesses are without power in Texas, where some of the coldest temperatures in decades have hit the state. A second winter storm is moving in Tuesday night, with more snow and ice.

The storm has dumped snow and ice, knocking out power across dozens of states, and is blamed for at least 17 deaths, including a grandmother and three children who died in a house fire trying to keep warm in Sugar Land, Texas.

National Guard troops and thousands of state troopers are checking in on families who are struggling to stay warm. In parts of Texas and Oklahoma, temperatures haven’t been this low in 100 years — causing pipes to freeze and then explode.

The storm has also forced COVID-19 vaccination sites to close and has caused delays in new doses from being shipped across the country. Texas Governor Greg Abbott called the storm “the winter version of Hurricane Harvey.” State officials have asked people to conserve power if they have it.

In Houston, two others died of carbon monoxide poisoning while trying to stay warm inside their car. There was outrage after some skyscrapers were still lit up, while downtown Dallas went dark Monday night.

Texas winter storm
A woman crosses the street in Dallas on February 16, 2021.  LM Otero / AP

In Oklahoma City, the temperature dropped to minus 14 Tuesday morning — the coldest temperature there since 1899. And in Galveston, medical examiners have requested a refrigerated truck after reports of several cold weather-related deaths.

Residents in Fort Worth were forced to boil their own water after a water treatment plant shut down.

Jamie Blanton scrambled to cook and recharge her devices every time the lights come on. “We’ve probably had a total of maybe 2.5 hours of power. And that whole time since Sunday,” she said.

The situation is so bad, Terra Davis is leaving the state after she, her husband and 8-month-old baby had to huddle around their fireplace to stay warm. They went without power for 30 hours.

“It was negative 2 degrees last night,” Davis said. “We had our daughter wrapped up in as many pieces of clothing as we possibly could, but we were really scared.”

Texas is the only state in the continental U.S. that has its own power grid. It is not regulated by the federal government and residents are angry that it’s failed.

“I understand that people are angry that this has happened … let us get the power back on,” said CEO Bill Magness of ERCOT, the power utility that supplies Texas.

Texas — winter storm
People seeking shelter from below-freezing temperatures in Houston on February 16, 2021. David J. Phillip / AP

The same storm created a powerful tornado in a coastal region of North Carolina that blew apart homes and killed three people and injured 10 others. The powerful twister ripped homes from their foundations, snapped trees and pulled down power lines.

Ellen Acconcia and Bill Callahan rode out the storm in their laundry room before discovering their neighbor trapped under rubble. He later died. “I was able to talk to him … All he was able to say was basically that he hurt everywhere and was in so much pain,” Callahan said.

North Carolina was one of 15 states battered by the same massive storm system. Tornadoes also hit Georgia and Florida.

Officials said the tornado developed so quickly, people didn’t know it was coming. Many were in bed and didn’t have a chance to take cover. Acconcia and Callahan said they got an emergency alert after it had already hit their house.

North Carolina tornado kills at least 3 01:23

Jessi Mitchell contributed to this report.

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