Nearly 154 million people in the United States were under some sort of winter weather alert Monday, according to the National Weather Service. Wind chill warnings or advisories are in effect for about 68 million people. Icy roads, power outages and dangerously low temperatures were making life miserable.
The cold air is so widespread that you could travel nearly 2,000 miles from the Rio Grande on the Mexican border to the St. Lawrence River on the Canadian border entirely in winter storm warnings or watches.
The severe winter weather has sparked emergency declarations in at least seven states, including Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Texas.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Military Department have deployed the National Guard to conduct welfare checks on residents, according to a news release from his office.
State officials are also sending resources to assist local communities in clearing roadways and assisting health care personnel and power grid workers, the release said.
Officials have opened 135 warming centers across the state.
“Due to the severe weather and freezing temperatures across our state, many power companies have been unable to generate power, whether it’s from coal, natural gas, or wind power,” Abbott said.
The city of Galveston said up to 95% of households were powerless early Monday afternoon.
At least 13 storm-related deaths in past week
The bad weather was widespread, with more than a third of the continental United States recording below-zero temperatures Monday.
The mercury dropped to 5 degrees in Dallas, 6 below zero in Oklahoma City and 32 below zero in Kansas City, Missouri — the coldest for those cities since 1989. Snow fell in Brownsville, Texas, where measurable snow has occurred only twice on record since 1898.
Texas has borne the brunt of the cold weather. Officials in Harris County — the state’s most populous county, which includes Houston — warned its 4 million residents to stay indoors because the cold weather will be around for a while.
Please cut back on energy use, Kansas governor says
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly pleaded Monday with residents to conserve power.
“I can’t stress this point enough. We all must cut back on natural gas and electricity usage now to ensure we have enough available to make it through these sub-zero temperatures,” she said. “How we respond over the next 48 to 72 hours is critical.”
Kansas Corporation Commission Chairperson Andrew French echoed Kelly’s sentiments, as many Kansans experienced their first series of rolling blackouts Monday afternoon.
“We are right on the edge of whether curtailments of power are needed or not, and so to the extent folks can conserve safely, we would certainly encourage them to try to cut back on that usage of natural gas and electricity (over) the next 48 to 72 hours which will be the critical period,” French said.
More bad weather coming
“What we’re facing is three winter storms in seven days,” said Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray in a Monday morning news conference.
Kentucky is experiencing its second storm of three. More snow is expected later Monday.
“We had what amounted to an intermission, actually, between the winter storms this weekend,” Gray said. “That enabled our highway crews to get a bit of rest and make some headway in clearing fallen limbs and trees, for example, and restocking our salt supplies.”
Gov. Andy Beshear pleaded with residents to stay off the roads and to be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, saying “those are casualties we don’t want to see. We did not make it through almost a year of a pandemic to lose people to a snow or an ice storm.”
Air traffic disrupted
Air traffic was halted at a number of airports.
Delays were reported Monday evening at Chicago O’Hare International, the FAA said.
Icy conditions on roadways
A 10-car pileup on Interstate 45, south of downtown, was just one of many incidents on icy roads. Acevedo urged people to avoid traveling.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who declared a state of emergency earlier in the day, echoed the chief’s orders.
“Please stay off the roads tonight and through tomorrow. This is serious! The roads are dangerous!”
On top of the danger icy roads pose, the mayor also cautioned residents that the weather could cause rolling blackouts.
Shelters opened and power outages widespread in Texas
Houston rushed to open warming facilities for its homeless population.
City Councilwoman Letitia Plummer told CNN a line formed early for a place inside the George R. Brown Convention Center.
“We are leading in evictions around the country and because of that, our homeless numbers are increasing. These are people at the convention center that wouldn’t normally be there,” Plummer said, adding people have been “self-evicting.”
Plummer said the city has opened six additional warming facilities, each housing 50-60 homeless, and that none of them are full at the moment. The city is working to open more warming facilities to ensure no one in need is turned away, she said.
“This is typically done through rotating outages, which are controlled, temporary interruptions of electric service. This type of demand reduction is only used as a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole,” ERCOT said in a statement.
The council had previously asked consumers and businesses to reduce their electricity use as much as possible through Tuesday.
Houston and the surrounding areas are under their first-ever wind chill warning. Every county in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas is currently under a winter storm warning.
Cold snap from coast to coast
Below-freezing temperatures are forecast to affect more than 245 million people in the lower 48 states over the next seven days, with more than 50 million Americans expected to experience temperatures below zero.
There is the potential for more than 240 cold temperature records to be broken by Tuesday evening, and some records have already been shattered.
The heaviest snow in the East is expected to fall from the Mississippi Valley, through the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes. A total of 6-12 inches is expected by Tuesday evening from Arkansas to upstate New York.
Oklahoma City has gone a record five days without climbing over 20 degrees Fahrenheit — they are not expected to top that temperature until Thursday, for a stretch of nine days.
“This cold snap is forecast to result in record low temperatures that are comparable to the historical cold snaps of Feb 1899 & 1905,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Along with the unusual, widespread cold are snow events that could also break records.
Seattle has already reported more than 11 inches of snow over the weekend, the most since January 1972, almost 50 years ago. More than 50 inches of snow has fallen in parts of Wyoming over the past few days.
But not every place was cold. Miami hit a record high heat index of 91 on Sunday.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had the wrong day for the pileup in Fort Worth and the incorrect number of deaths. The Thursday pileup left nine people dead.
CNN’s Keith Allen, Gisela Crespo, Dave Hennen, Gregory Lemos, Tyler Mauldin, Brandon Miller and Konstantin Toropin contributed to this report.