The middle of the country, from Colorado to Texas and back up to the Ohio Valley, has been pummeled by historic winter storms in the past few days. At least eleven deaths have been attributed to the record-breaking storm, which has left millions of Americans without power and over a hundred million under some form of winter weather advisory.
Among the tragic deaths from the storm’s impact include a Texas family who died in their garage after running their car for heat during a power outage. The family seemingly was unaware of the risks posed by carbon monoxide accumulation in a small, enclosed space and tragically died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Most of the landmass of the continental US was blanketed in either snow or a massive storm system that has been a result of the weakened jet stream. The polar vortex plunged so far south that Galveston, Texas got snow for the first time in generations. Much of Texas looks more like New England currently, with snowfall reported in Houston, Dallas and Austin.
While the snow accumulation might not be a big deal for regions like the Northeast or the Northern Plains, it’s unheard of for Texas. The Lone Star State doesn’t have the infrastructure to respond to such snowfall, and the extremely low temperatures are taxing the state’s already-beleaguered populace. After a year of COVID-19 lockdown efforts and a summer of civil unrest, much of the US is simply tired.
Heaping a mammoth snowstorm and rolling blackouts on top of that is a recipe for misery.
The cold snap has broken records all over the Midwest. In Oklahoma, the temperature stayed below 20 degrees for five consecutive days for only the third time ever. Texas has seen more snow in one weekend than it usually sees all year. Texas’ power grid is seeing its highest emergency level in over ten years.
What’s worse, this is a crisis on top of a crisis. The US is still fighting the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, and the power outages have threatened stocks of vaccine doses. In many places, the sudden power outage led to medical professionals scrambling to administer the vaccines to anyone who wanted one before they spoiled. Since the vaccines have to be stored in freezing temperatures, it’s extremely easy for them to go bad after even a short power outage.