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USA: Blackouts lengthen and another storm is on the horizon

Many crews of workers were rushing to restore power to nearly 3.4 million users in the United States who remained without power after a winter storm hit, while another barrage of ice and snow threatens to cause further chaos.

The new storm front is expected to bring more hardship to states unaccustomed to such freezing weather, namely parts of Texas, Arkansas and those located in the Lower Mississippi Valley.

“The misery gives people no truce in the area,” said Bob Oravec, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service, referring to Texas.

The system is expected to move to the northeast of the country on Thursday. More than 100 million people live in areas where some type of winter weather alert is in effect, according to the meteorological service.

At least 30 people have died this week due to the extreme weather, some while trying to warm themselves indoors. In the greater Houston area, a family succumbed to carbon monoxide from a vehicle exhaust in their garage. Others perished when they used a fireplace to warm themselves.

Low historical temperatures were recorded in various cities. Scientists say the polar vortex, a commonly held climate pattern in the Arctic, is expanding to lower latitudes and for longer, and that man-made global warming is partially responsible.

Power utilities from Minnesota to Texas to Mississippi conduct staggered blackouts to reduce the load on distribution networks to meet extreme demand for heat and electricity. In Mexico, staggered blackouts covered more than a third of the country on Tuesday as storms disrupted natural gas imports from Texas.

The worst blackouts in the United States have occurred in Texas, where 3 million homes and businesses were still without power as of Wednesday noon. The company that manages the state’s power lines, ERCOT, said service had been restored Tuesday night to 600,000 homes and businesses.

Authorities said they did not know when power would be restored to all, but ERCOT president Billa Magness expressed confidence that many users will have service partially restored by at least late Wednesday afternoon or Thursday.

Magness also defended the decision of forced blackouts “to prevent events even more catastrophic than those seen this week.”

Dashawn Walker, 33, was excited that he was back on Wednesday at his Dallas apartment. He had stayed in a suburban hotel Tuesday night after having been without power since Sunday, but said he was charged $ 474 a night.

“It’s crazy,” Walker said. “I mean why would all of you have to go to a hotel in the middle of the crisis?”

At least 200,000 other users were still without power in four Appalachian states, and nearly the same number in the Northwest region, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks reports of outages from power companies.

Oklahoma’s largest power company reported no blackouts on Wednesday, a day after staggered outages in and around Oklahoma City caused electric heaters and fireplaces, as well as lighting, to shut down in subzero weather.

However, Oklahoma Gas & Electric has warned customers of other potential short outages due to extreme cold and high demand for natural gas.