More than 150 million Americans were under winter weather advisories Monday as snowfall and icy conditions sent temperatures plunging, caused multiple deadly crashes and forced power outages across much of the United States.
The National Weather Service said the storm was expected to bring “frigid arctic air” and “dangerously cold wind chills” from coast to coast through at least Tuesday. The brutal and potentially record-setting weather has led to emergency declarations in at least seven states from the Northwest to the South, including Oregon, Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi.
In Texas, where most residents are not used to snow emergencies, a disaster declaration was issued over the weekend in anticipation of dangerously low temperatures and messy road conditions. The historic storm forced state officials to implement rotating power outages early Monday, meaning thousands of households and even traffic lights would lose electricity for short periods of time to prevent a massive blackout.
“Energy conservation is critical,” the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said in a tweet. “Rotating outages are underway to reduce demand on the electric system. We urge Texans to put safety first during this time.”
As of 8 am, nearly 2.4 million customers were without electricity in Texas, according to PowerOutages.us, which tracks data from utilities across the country. Other states experiencing power outages include Oregon, with more than 300,000, as well as Louisiana, North Carolina, Utah and Virginia.
The severe weather also caused hundreds of flight cancellations and numerous accidents over the weekend. Some of the crashes were fatal, killing nine people in Texas on Friday, one person in Kentucky and another in Oklahoma on Sunday, according to CNN. In Houston, more than 134 crashes were reported Sunday across the city, including a 10-car pileup, Police Chief Art Acevedo said.
State officials urged drivers to avoid traveling Monday given the challenging road conditions and rotating power outages.
“Most roads are certainly not safe for passage and many signals are also not operational due to power outages,” the Texas Department of Transportation tweeted.
In an advisory Monday morning, the National Weather Service said a large swath of 6 to 12 inches of snow was forecast from the Ohio Valley and eastern Great Lakes all the way to northern New England, according to the National Weather Service. From Texas to southern New England, meanwhile, freezing rain appeared to be the main threat, with significant ice accumulation expected to cause “a plethora of problems” in the region, according to the agency.
Officials also said that “this impressive onslaught of wicked wintry weather” was the result of both strong arctic high pressure with sub-freezing temperatures and an active storm track “escorting waves of precipitation” across the country.