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Winter weather death roll rises across US as tornado slams North Carolina

Written by on February 16, 2021

A blast of wintry weather that has dumped snow and ice across the nation’s midsection is being blamed for at least seven deaths Tuesday as millions of Texans are waking up without power.  

As temperatures remain below freezing for much of the central U.S., first responders are also racing to find people trapped in homes after a tornado ripped through a town in North Carolina, killing at least three there. 

“It’s something like I have never seen before. A lot of destruction. It’s going to be a long recovery process,” Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram said during a news conference early Tuesday after the tornado hit just after midnight near Grissettown in the Ocean Ridge Plantation Community. 

Firefighters respond to a site after a deadly tornado tore through Brunswick County, N.C., on Tuesday. (AP/Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office)

Firefighters respond to a site after a deadly tornado tore through Brunswick County, N.C., on Tuesday. (AP/Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office)

The tornado destroyed homes, downing powerlines that left thousands without electricity and snapping trees in half, news outlets reported. Authorities say at least 10 have people have been injured and others are trapped in homes.  

TORNADO HITS NORTH CAROLINA

Ingram said searches for missing people were underway and will increase during the day. He asked people to avoid the area while crews work to clear the streets and search for victims. 

Damaged vehicles sit among debris after the tornado hit Brunswick County, N.C. (AP/Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office)

Damaged vehicles sit among debris after the tornado hit Brunswick County, N.C. (AP/Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office)

Meanwhile, nearly 4 million homes and businesses were without power early Tuesday in Texas, where temperatures dipped into the single digits overnight. 

More than 1 million of those outages were reported in the Houston area, according to Poweroutage.us, a website that tracks disruptions. Elsewhere, more than 300,000 customers are without power in both the San Antonio and Austin areas, it added.

People push a car free after spinning out in the snow Monday in Waco, Texas. (AP/Waco Tribune-Herald)

People push a car free after spinning out in the snow Monday in Waco, Texas. (AP/Waco Tribune-Herald)

The cold weather currently gripping that region is responsible for at least seven deaths. Winter weather advisories remain in effect for dozens of counties across Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.

In Houston, a woman and a girl died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at a home without electricity from a car running in an attached garage, police have said. 

Law enforcement also reported two men were found dead along Houston-area roadways. Causes of death were pending, but officials said the subfreezing temperatures were likely to blame. 

As of Tuesday morning, more than 200 locations along roads in the Houston area are covered with ice and are “not safe for travel,” according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

“Late tonight an approaching low pressure system will bring a period of dangerous and destructive freezing rain across the region,” the National Weather Service added in an advisory. “Even though some areas may thaw out briefly the potential for refreeze will be high Wednesday night with another cold front bringing subfreezing temperatures back across the region.”

The Louisiana Department of Health announced the state’s first storm-related death Monday evening after a 50-year-old Lafayette Parish resident slipped on ice and fatally hit his head on the ground. 

The victim was not immediately identified. 

Drivers on Interstate 55 in Jackson, Miss., on Monday. (AP)

Drivers on Interstate 55 in Jackson, Miss., on Monday. (AP)

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Two people also died in separate crashes in Kentucky on Monday as winter weather hit across the state. 

One crash happened on Interstate 64 and one was on I-75, Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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