Written by Michael Levenson, Derrick Bryson Taylor and Campbell Robertson
Millions of people were without power early Tuesday after a deadly winter storm bulldozed its way across the southern and central parts of the United States, in places where such perilously frigid conditions tend to arrive just once in a generation.
Though the massive storm was not finished with the country yet — it brought snow, sleet and freezing rain to the Northeast — the damage left in its icy wake was deepening.
At least 20 people have died since winter weather began wreaking havoc last week, some from the cold itself and some from attempts to escape it.
And more than 5 million customers across the country remained without electricity early Tuesday, according to PowerOutage.us, which aggregates live power data from utilities. Most of the outages were in Texas, where power was interrupted Sunday and Monday because of storm damage or in rotating outages ordered by regulators.
Many people had been without power for hours in freezing temperatures, and did not know when it would be back.
The disruptions forced Abilene, Texas, to shut off its three water treatment plants. It was unclear when service to the city of about 125,000 people would be restored, and officials asked residents to conserve electricity to ease the strain on the state’s power grid.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said on Monday that the state had deployed “maximum resources” to respond to the severe weather and to restore power to communities. Among those resources were National Guard troops, who were called up to conduct welfare checks and to help those in need move to one of the state’s 135 warming centers.
In Houston, a woman and a girl died from carbon monoxide poisoning after a car was left running in a garage to generate heat, police said Tuesday. A homeless man was also found dead at an overpass. In Sugar Land, Texas, a grandmother and three children were killed in a house fire early Tuesday in a neighborhood that was without power, according to local news reports.
A man in Louisiana died after slipping on the ice and hitting his head, officials said, and a 10-year-old boy died in Tennessee after falling into an icy pond. And authorities in San Antonio said that weather conditions contributed to the death of a 78-year-old man.
Slippery roads were responsible for 10 deaths in Kentucky and Texas, including a pileup in Fort Worth that involved more than 100 vehicles and killed six people.
The weather-driven destruction this week did not come solely from ice and snow; in coastal North Carolina, a tornado killed three and injured at least 10 others early Tuesday morning, though it was unclear how it was meteorologically related to the winter storm.