Heat cut off in huge swathes of Texas due to punishing winter storm

HOUSTON : Ms Laura Nowell, a 45-year-old mother of four in Waco, Texas, said her family has been without electricity since before dawn on Monday and has been trying to keep warm by bundling up and running and sitting in their car for short stints.

"We have never had this much cold. There is ice everywhere," Ms Nowell said, adding that she was frustrated by the lack of communication about rolling blackouts to conserve the power grid.

"Tell me what is going on. It is silence."

What is going on is that millions of Texans braved their third day without heat on Wednesday following a punishing winter storm that has killed at least 21 people, as icy conditions threatened to hamstring the country's second largest state and surrounding region for days.

Some 2.7 million households were without power, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, a co-op responsible for 90 per cent of the state's electricity.

Writer Cassie Moore, 35, could see her breath in her house in a Houston suburb. Ms Moore and her husband built a tent with living-room curtains in front of their gas fireplace, Bloomberg reported. They slept in shifts on Tuesday night - with their two Australian Shepherds sharing their body heat.

"It is not the safest option, but it was between that and sitting in the car and freezing," Ms Moore told Bloomberg. "You are really relying on yourself."

Mr Trilby Landry, a 57-year-old homeless man, was escaping the cold at the Gallery Furniture store in Houston, which had opened its doors as a warming centre, joining people who had fled homes with busted heating systems and water pipes.

He said: "They are letting people sleep on couches and chairs."

The freezing temperatures, which also affected other US states, means Covid-19 vaccinations have stalled.

Mr Jeff Zients, the White House Covid-19 coordinator, said the cold weather was impacting the delivery and distribution of vaccines.

"There are certain parts of the country, Texas being one of them, where vaccination sites are understandably closed," Mr Zients said. "What we are encouraging governors and other partners to do is to extend hours once they are able to reopen." - REUTERS, AFP