A mess of ice, sleet and snow lingered across much of the southern US on Thursday, as thousands in Texas endured freezing temperatures with no power, including many in the state capital, Austin.
Treacherous driving conditions had resulted in at least 10 deaths on slick roads since Monday, including seven in Texas, two in Oklahoma, and one in Arkansas. The Republican Texas governor, Greg Abbott, urged people not to drive.
A warming trend was forecast to bring relief from the deadly storm on Thursday.
However, an Arctic cold front was expected to move from Canada into the northern plains, upper midwest and north-east by Friday, bringing snow and bitter cold with windchills of more than -50F (-45C) in northern New England, the National Weather Service said.
More than 430,000 customers in Texas lacked power on Thursday, according to PowerOutage, a website tracking utility reports.
Frustration mounted in Austin, where more than 156,000 remained without power, more than 24 hours after electricity and heat went out. Power failures have affected about 30% of customers in the city of nearly a million at any given time since Wednesday.
Allison Rizzolo, who lost power in Austin, told KEYE-TV that she wished there were more clarity from the city on what to do or expect.
“I get that there’s a fine line between preparedness and panic, but I wish they’d been more aggressive in their communications,” Rizzolo said.
For many, it was the second time in three years a February freeze caused prolonged outages and uncertainty.
Mayor Kirk Watson, at a news conference on Thursday, said city officials will review their communication protocols in future disasters.
“I know that top of mind for everyone is restoring power to each and every home, and crews are working even as we speak and have through the night,” the mayor said. “Because of the length and nature of this storm, it has proven very challenging.”
Unlike the 2021 blackouts in Texas, when hundreds died after the state grid was pushed to the brink of total failure, the wide outages this time were largely the result of frozen equipment and trees falling on power lines. The Austin utility warned that all power may not be restored until Friday.
Pablo Vegas, who leads the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, had promised that the electrical grid and natural gas supply would be reliable and there would be no repeat of the February 2021 blackouts.
School systems in the Dallas and Austin areas, and many in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee, closed on Thursday as snow, sleet and freezing rain continued.
Hundreds more flights were canceled again in Texas, although not as many as in previous days.
Airport crews battled ice to keep runways open. By Thursday morning, airlines had canceled more than 500 flights at Dallas-Fort Worth international airport – more than a quarter of all flights scheduled for the day. Still, that was down from about 1,300 cancellations on Wednesday and more than 1,000 on Tuesday, according to FlightAware.com.
Dozens more flights were canceled at Dallas Love Field and Austin-Bergstrom international airport.
Watches and warnings about wintry conditions stretched from the west Texas border with Mexico through Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana and into western Tennessee and northern Mississippi.
The latest fatality on the roads of the region occurred late on Wednesday on Interstate 40 in western Oklahoma, when a semitrailer overturned and vehicles behind it, including several other rigs, “cascaded” in separate collisions on the icy road, the Oklahoma highway patrol said. Eastbound lanes were closed for more than five hours.
Public transportation in Dallas was experiencing “major delays”, according to Dallas Area Rapid Transit. The system serves about 220,000 riders daily in 13 cities within the Dallas area, with a network of streetcars, light rail, buses and vans.
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