Over the weekend, a coast-to-coast winter storm sprawled through much of the United States and put millions of people without power. According to the New York Times, more than 150 million Americans are under some form of winter storm warning.
Many states, including Texas, Kentucky and Oregon, have already declared a state of emergency. Roads are covered with snow and air travel had to be suspended in some states. As such, authorities are urging residents to stay home and prepare for more blackouts as the extreme winter weather is forecast to continue gripping the country in the coming days.
Millions without power amid frigid temperatures
Temperatures hit the single digits in many Midwestern and Southern states. In Texas, the winter storm grounded flights and knocked out the state’s electrical grid, leaving 3.5 million homes without power as of Tuesday, Feb. 16.
Earlier on Friday, Feb. 12, Gov. Greg Abbott had already declared a state of emergency in all counties.
“Every part of Texas will face freezing conditions,” Abbott said, noting that the storm is “unprecedented in Texas history and people across the state need to get ready for the extremely harsh conditions coming.”
Abbott assured Texans that all 25 offices of the Texas Department of Transportation would be working round the clock to clear roadways and address other challenges. He also sought the help of Texas Army National Guard troops to conduct welfare checks and help residents evacuate to one of the state’s 135 warming centers.
At the same time, the state also urged residents to start conserving energy now to secure enough energy for early next week. It recommended unplugging devices when not in use, closing windows and blinds, and adjusting thermostats to 68 degrees or below.
In Kentucky, more than 150,000 did not have power as of Tuesday, Feb. 16., according to PowerOutage.US. The state has been under a state of emergency and has faced three winter storms in seven days, according to Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray.
Gray said that upcoming snow, sleet and freezing rain will not only impact roadways but down more power lines and trees. He urged residents to stay home as much as possible.
The winter storm also barreled through the Pacific Northwest. More than 11 inches of snow fell in Seattle between Feb. 12 to 13. The daily snowfall on Saturday was nearly nine inches, making it the snowiest day in the city in more than 50 years.
In Oregon, freezing rain coated roads and power lines with ice. By the morning of Saturday, Feb. 13, more than 270,000 people were without power. Gov. Kate Brown was forced to declare a state of emergency later that afternoon due to extreme weather conditions, power outages and transportation problems.
Expect more power outages, says power pool
Power supply is expected to remain intermittent across several states. The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) ordered member electric utilities in 14 states to implement controlled rolling blackouts because the sky-high demand in the region is overwhelming the available generation.
“This is an unprecedented event and marks the first time SPP has ever had to call for controlled interruptions of service,” said Lanny Nickell, the power pool’s chief operating officer.
“It’s a last resort that we understand puts a burden on our member utilities and the customers they serve, but it’s a step we’re consciously taking to prevent circumstances from getting worse,” Nickell continued. (Related: 10 Ugly truths about long-term power outages and how to deal with them.)
The Arkansas-based power pool manages the electric grid linking utilities in all of Oklahoma and Kansas and parts of Arkansas, Iowa, Texas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North and South Dakota, and Wyoming. Most of the power outages will last for around an hour and will cut power to a few thousand customers at a time.
The National Weather Service warned that millions of Americans from coast to coast will remain under winter storm warnings, ice storm warnings, winter storm watches and winter weather advisories, according to the Times.
For the latest news about winter storms and other disasters, visit Disaster.news.