The Arctic weather system — which has seen temperatures plummet to record-setting lows in places ill-prepared for such conditions — has overwhelmed local utility companies, infuriating residents left to huddle under coats and blankets and fend for themselves.
In Texas, power companies have implemented rolling blackouts to avoid grids being overloaded as residents cranked up electric heaters. Some people have been without power for days.
“Spending my second night without power during the coldest weather in Southeast Texas in more than 30 years,” Wes Wolfe, a newswriter in Lake Jackson, Texas said on Twitter.
“Eating half a falafel wrap by laptop light for dinner, before getting under my blankets, which are augmented by a heavy overcoat.”
According to the Poweroutage.us tracker, nearly three million residential, commercial and industrial customers in Texas remained without power Wednesday morning.
This week’s surge in electricity demand came just as icy conditions knocked gas-fired power stations offline and saw wind turbines freeze to a standstill.
The American Red Cross said it had opened over 35 warming centers across Texas.
More than 20 storm-related deaths have been registered since the cold weather arrived last week, including in traffic accidents in Texas, Kentucky and Missouri.
At Primarily Primates, a wildlife sanctuary near San Antonio, Texas, several animals reportedly died when staff were unable to warm them after the facility lost power Monday.
Brooke Chavez, the center’s executive director, told the San Antonio Express-News that a chimpanzee, several monkeys, lemurs and tropical birds had perished.
In the small western Texas community of Colorado City, the mayor resigned after telling residents impacted by a power outage to “come up with a game plan” and “get off your ass and take care of your own family!”
“I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout!” Tim Boyd wrote on a now-deleted Facebook post.
– ‘Devastating’ conditions –
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), more than 71 percent of the continental United States was covered in snow Wednesday.