Millions of Americans remained without power on Wednesday, following an intense cold spell that swept across large portions of the United States and is expected to last until the weekend.
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The weather service, the National Weather Service (NWS), said Wednesday that more than 100 million Americans in the Midwest were affected by warnings of winter storms of varying severity.
According to the NWS, the cold air mass from the Arctic is starting to clear, but freezing temperatures are expected to hold up and “remain between 11 and 19.5 ° C below seasonal norms” in the central part of the United States. United, write meteorologists.
Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, said the cold was affecting the vaccination campaign, forcing sites to be closed.
President Joe Biden, for his part, had to postpone a visit, scheduled for Thursday, to a Pfizer plant producing vaccines in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to Friday.
2.3 million homes without electricity
More than 30 deaths linked to bad winter weather have been recorded across the country according to US media, and authorities have urged Americans to be careful.
“The failures of power”, headlined the daily Houston Chronicle on Wednesday, criticizing the Texan authorities by playing on the double meaning of “power” in English, both political power and electricity.
The distress was notably visible Wednesday at Lakewood Church in the state’s largest city, Houston, where many residents took refuge to escape the cold.
Among them, David Hernandez, 38, spent the night there after his vehicle broke down. “I was trying to sleep in the car, but it was just too cold. All liquids turned into ice cubes so it was like sleeping in a freezer, ”he said. “I had to come here, I had no choice. “
The bad weather and the cold did not spare the animals. The Primarily Primates protection organization, based near San Antonio and without power since Monday, reported the deaths of 12 monkeys on Wednesday despite efforts by caregivers to try to keep the primates warm.
Beto O’Rourke, former Texas candidate for the Democratic primary for the 2020 presidential election, judged on MSNBC that “it would have been possible to guard against most” of these difficulties, asserting: “Texas is not not far from being a failed state. “
The electricity supplier in Austin, the state capital, said nearly 200,000 homes were without power and that the blackouts would last all day Wednesday “and potentially longer.”
The energy companies have chained partial cuts since this weekend, in order to avoid the overheating of the whole system due to peaks in demand.
“I’m spending a second night without electricity in the coldest weather in Southeast Texas in over 30 years,” journalist Wes Wolfe, who lives in Lake Jackson, near Houston, tweeted Tuesday evening.
According to Poweroutage.us, which lists power outages in the United States, more than 2.3 million homes and businesses in Texas were without power as of Wednesday night.
The power shortage was compounded by the shutdown of several gas-fired power plants and wind turbines due to freezing conditions.
More snow forecast
Up to 73% of the United States, excluding Hawaii, Alaska and other non-mainland territories, were covered in snow overnight Tuesday through Wednesday, according to the NWS. A record since the start of these measures in 2003.
And Texas, used to mild temperatures even in winter, is no slouch: a 6-inch-thick white coat has blanketed the capital Austin, a record for more than 70 years, and more snowflakes could fall. in this state the next few days, warned the Weather Service.
This “spectacular cold snap that hit the continental United States is linked to the combination of an arctic high carrying freezing temperatures and a very active depression with waves of precipitation,” the NWS explained on Monday.
Outside of Texas, residents were also deprived of electricity across Oregon (northwest), Louisiana (south), Mississippi (south), Kentucky (central-east), Ohio (north -est), West Virginia (east), and Virginia (east), according to poweroutage.us.
The extreme conditions also caused the formation of several tornadoes, one of which struck overnight Monday to Tuesday over the southeastern United States, North Carolina, killing three people and injuring ten.