Extreme winter weather has threatened the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination effort with delays to vaccine shipments likely
A winter storm sweeping across the US has left millions of people without power and killed at least 20.
The rare bout of freezing weather has knocked out power, shut down shops, cancelled flights and closed schools across large parts of the country, including New England and the Deep South, with more freezing temperatures to come.
Several cities experienced record lows. Minnesota recorded -39C (-38F) and Sioux Falls in South Dakota, dropped to minus -26C (-14.8F). Omaha experienced -30C (-22F), its coldest temperature for 25 years.
More freezing temperatures are forecast, with wind-chill warnings reaching from Canada into Mexico.
This comes after the UK has recorded what is thought by some to be the lowest temperature recorded in the UK in more than 25 years, after readings show temperatures plummeting to nearly -23C in the Highland of Scotland.
The US National Weather Service said more than 100 million Americans were currently under winter storm warnings.
Texas has been hit particularly badly with the temperature plunging to -22C (-7.6F) on Tuesday, compared to the usual February average of between 20C (68F) and 24C (75F) in central and southern areas.
Three people died, and 10 were injured, after a tornado spawned by the storm, hit a seaside town in North Carolina and four family members died in a Houston-area house fire while using a fireplace to stay warm.
Death were also reported in Tennessee, Kentucky and Louisiana. In all, at least 20 people are said to have died from causes including car crashes and carbon monoxide poisoning.
The freezing weather also threatened to disrupt the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination effort, with the government warning delays in vaccine shipments were likely.
On Tuesday evening President Joe Biden spoke to governors of the impacted states and pledged emergency support.
The worst power outages were in Texas, where Mr Biden declared a federal emergency on Monday, affecting more than two million homes and businesses.
More than 250,000 people also lost power throughout parts of Appalachia, with another 200,000 living without electricity following an ice storm in the northwest of Oregon, according to poweroutage.us.
Utilities from Minnesota to Texas implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on power grids.
The storm has reached as far south as Mexico where four million people lost power.
This comes after the cold weather is set to be carrying into this week with winds, which made Sunday feel sub-zero in some places, to continue into Monday. The Met Office says that it has been “bitterly cold” as a result of the strong easterly winds coming from Ukraine and the Black Sea.
The outages forced a Texas county to scramble to administer more than 8,000 doses of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine after a public health facility lost power early Monday and its backup generator also failed, said Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
County officials distributed the doses that could have spoiled at three hospitals, Rice University and the county jail.
Texas officials said more than 400,000 doses due on Tuesday, will not arrive until at least Wednesday because of the storm.