Winter storm brings bitter cold, power cuts and deadly tornado to US

A boy walks up a snow-covered hill after sledding down it in a box in Houston Texas the United States

Governor Greg Abbott today declared the reform of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) an emergency item this legislative session.

Single-digit temperatures created a surge in demand for electricity to warm up homes unaccustomed to such extreme lows, buckling the state's power grid and causing widespread blackouts.

A 10-year-old boy died near Millington, Tennessee, after he fell through ice, and late Monday night, a tornado spawned by the storm hit Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, leaving three dead and 10 injured.

The worst outages were in Texas, affecting more than 4 million homes and businesses Tuesday.

An Arctic air mass causing the chill extended southward well beyond areas accustomed to icy weather, with winter storm warnings posted for much of the Gulf Coast region, Oklahoma and Missouri, the National Weather Service said.

After a facility storing 8,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in Houston lost power, health officials hurriedly worked to distribute it before it expired at the same time authorities were pleading for people to stay home.

"It feels wonderful. I'm very grateful", said Harry Golen, a 19-year-old student who waited for almost four hours with his friends, much of it in the cold.

The tornado that hit Brunswick County was an EF3 with winds estimated at 160 miles per hour, the weather service said on Twitter.

Four died in Monterrey, three of them homeless people who succumbed to exposure and one person who died at home from carbon monoxide poisoning from a heater.

Sharon Benson, 63, said her roof was damaged and her garage door blown off. Windows were shattered and nearby trees were uprooted.

"The sky lit up and there was a lot of pop-pop-popping".

Authorities were reportedly struggling to clear roads, as they did not have snow plows because the state so rarely needs them. One parent died of the toxic fumes, pediatrician Phillip Scott told Fort Worth television station KTVT.

In hardest-hit Texas - where freezing conditions prompted utility companies to implement rotating blackouts - a woman and girl died from carbon monoxide poisoning after using a auto to generate heat, according to NBC News.

Rolling outages also affected some northern Iowa counties, where overnight lows dipped to almost 30 below around Sioux City and wind chills to around 40 below in some places.

Several cities had record lows: In Minnesota, the Hibbing/Chisholm weather station registered minus 38 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 39 degrees Celsius), while Sioux Falls, South Dakota, dropped to minus 26 Fahrenheit (minus 26 degrees Celsius). About 100 school systems closed, delayed opening or switched to remote classes in Alabama, where forecasters said conditions might not improve until temperatures rise above freezing Wednesday afternoon.