The southern United States continues to face problems due to a severe cold snap, which created a large lack of energy. As of Wednesday (17), about 3 million homes and businesses were in the dark, according to the PowerOutage website. The day before, there were around 4 million. The majority of those affected, 2.9 million points of consumption, are in Texas, which has a population of 29 million.
The National Weather Service (NWS) said snowfall is expected to stop around noon in North Texas, but low temperatures, between -6 ° and 1 ° C, are expected to continue for a few more days in the region.
The organization has issued warnings as the storm is expected to continue in the direction of Virginia and North Carolina on Wednesday evening and affect, in total, up to 100 million people in the central area of the country. In addition to Texas, states like Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi are expected to have large accumulations of ice, which will make it difficult to navigate on streets and highways.
So far, at least 21 people have died in the country because of this cold snap. Most are due to road accidents or attempts to warm up. In Houston, a woman and a child died of carbon monoxide poisoning. They got into a car, the engine running, in a garage, looking for heat.
Laura Nowell, 45, has four children, lives in Waco, in the Texas interior, and has been without power since Monday (15). In order to stay warm, she tried to run inside the house and stay in the car for short periods. “We have never been so cold. There is ice everywhere,” she told Reuters.
Neither the local government nor the companies give clear predictions about the return of energy. The systems are expected to resume operations by the end of the week. The Ercot company, which operates in Texas, said it was making controlled casters to meet the high demand.
Snowstorms are rare in Texas. Because of this, their businesses were not prepared for the extreme cold, and energy production ended up being hampered in a time of high demand, by the use of home heaters.
In Austin, one of the areas hardest hit by a power outage, “heating centers” have been set up in schools so people can seek shelter if their homes are too cold.
Lack of energy affects the production of petroleum and petroleum products, a strong sector in the south of the country. About a fifth of all US refineries are out of service. There has also been a drop in the extraction of oil – by 1 million barrels per day – and natural gas. Gas represents 50% of electricity production in Texas.
Experts point out that it will take a few days for the equipment in the energy sector to be reconnected, as it will be necessary to make assessments and possible repairs. Bad weather has also led to the closure of ports including Houston and Galveston, which are locking down supply chains.
Texas is the only continental state in the United States to have its own power grid, disconnected from its neighbors, preventing laborers from quickly sending power from other states.
The cold snap prompted President Joe Biden to declare an emergency on Monday (15) and release federal aid to Texas and other states facing problems due to the snowstorm.
Below average temperatures are also creating problems in immigrant camps in Mexico, near the border. Foreigners awaiting responses to asylum claims in the United States report suffering from low temperatures because the tents are not heated and most do not have appropriate clothing.
“Everything froze. The water we used to cook with, even the clothes were hard with ice, ”says Roberto Manuel, 43, from Nicaragua and in a field in Matamoros, near the border, with around 1,000 other foreigners. In Mexico, at least six people have died from the cold, including four in Monterrey.