In the midst of winter storms, millions were still without electricity, with more snow expected across the South and East in the coming days.
This is a very unusual weather for Texas, the state is more known for its sprawling deserts and excruciating heatwaves – but right now, it’s covered in a thick layer of ice.
Texas had frosty winter storms on Wednesday as a fresh arctic blast deepened an electricity supply crisis that has forced millions to endure days without power and heat.
Pipes froze and burst across the state, and warming centers that had opened lost power. Icicles hung from kitchen faucets in Houston, ambulances in San Antonio were unable to meet the surging demand, and the county government in coastal Galveston called for refrigerated trucks to hold the bodies they expect to find in freezing, powerless houses.
The state is seeing some of its coldest temperatures in more than 30 years, with some areas breaking records that are more than a century old. Parts of Texas hit -18C on Sunday!
Why is Texas suddenly freezing?
According to the US National Weather Service (NWS), this is down to an “Arctic outbreak” that originated just above the US-Canada border, bringing a winter snow storm as well as plummeting temperatures.
Cold air outbreaks such as these are normally kept in the Arctic by a series of low-pressure systems, the NWS said. However, this one moved through Canada and spilled out into the US last week.
For the first time in the state, all 254 counties are under a winter storm warning, US media report. The temperature in Dallas is already colder than in Anchorage, Alaska, according to CBS News.
In a statement on Sunday night, President Joe Biden declared an emergency in Texas, which authorises US agencies to co-ordinate disaster relief in the state.
Rotating power outages have been initiated by the state’s power grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (Ercot), early on Monday, to reduce demand on the electricity system.
“Traffic lights and other infrastructure may be temporarily without power,” it added in a tweet.
It has also issued a level-three energy emergency alert, urging consumers to reduce electricity use.
Nearly 120 car accidents were reported on Sunday, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña tweeted.
Hundreds of flights in and out of the state have also been cancelled.
The weather has already proved deadly. On Thursday, icy roads led to a massive crash involving more than 100 vehicles in Fort Worth, killing six people and leaving dozens more needing hospital treatment.
The United States South is spinning from a rare cold snap. The temperature in Houston on Monday night — 13 degrees — was lower than that in Houston, Alaska. And Oklahoma’s capital on Tuesday experienced its coldest morning since 1899.