At least 30 dead, millions without power in U.S. after extreme weather

(CBC.CA) – Utility crews raced Wednesday to restore power to nearly 3.4 million customers around the U.S. who were still without electricity or heat in the aftermath of a deadly winter storm, and another blast of ice and snow threatened to sow more chaos.

The latest storm front was expected to bring more hardship, especially to states that are unaccustomed to such frigid weather — parts of Texas, Arkansas and the Lower Mississippi Valley.

“There’s really no letup to some of the misery people are feeling across that area,” said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the U.S. National Weather Service, referring to Texas.

The system was forecast to move into the Northeast on Thursday. More than 100 million people live in areas covered by some type of winter weather warning, watch or advisory, the weather service said.

At least 30 people have died in the extreme weather this week, some while struggling to find warmth inside their homes. In the Houston area, one family succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning from car exhaust in their garage. Another perished as they used a fireplace to keep warm.

Record low temperatures were reported in city after city. Scientists say the polar vortex, a weather pattern that usually keeps to the Arctic, is increasingly spilling into lower latitudes and staying there longer, and global warming is partly responsible.

Rolling blackouts

Utilities from Minnesota to Texas and Mississippi have implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on power grids straining to meet extreme demand for heat and electricity. In Mexico, rolling blackouts Tuesday covered more than one-third of the country after the storms in Texas cut the supply of imported natural gas.

The worst U.S. power outages by far have been in Texas, where three million homes and businesses remained without power as of midday Wednesday. The state’s power grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said electricity had been restored to 600,000 homes and businesses by Tuesday night. Officials did not know when power would be restored, but council president Bill Magness said he hoped many customers would see at least partial service restored by later Wednesday or Thursday.

Magness also defended the decision to force outages “to prevent an event that would have been even more catastrophic than the terrible events we’ve seen this week.”

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