(The Center Square) – For the first time in Texas history, the entire state was placed under a winter storm warning, with record low temperatures and snowfall occurring in the Gulf Monday.
Some counties along the immediate Texas coastline near Houston had never been under a winter storm warning until Sunday.
Webcam images showed snow covering the beaches in Galveston.
“We did get someone on the beach making a snow angel,” Kent Prochazka, lead meteorologist at the Houston Weather Service office, said.
Meteorologists have predicted ocean-effect snow over bays of the Gulf of Mexico.
Thundersleet and thundersnow were observed throughout Houston and Galveston along the beaches.
In Houston, emergency officials issued a wireless emergency alert, warning that “life-threatening road conditions will spread through Harris County.” The police department reported more than 100 accidents Sunday evening, including a 10-car pileup.
“Dangerous, life and property threatening bitterly cold air will continue even as the precipitation ends,” the Weather Service in Houston said early Monday. It warned, “*** ROADS ARE DANGEROUS — STAY WHERE YOU ARE***.”
Ahead of the storm, Gov. Greg Abbott urged Texans to stay off the roads in a news conference on Saturday. He said, "Every part of the state will face freezing conditions over the coming days, and I urge all Texans to remain vigilant against the extremely harsh weather that is coming.
"Stay off the roads, take conscious steps to conserve energy, and avoid dangerous practices like bringing generators indoors or heating homes with ovens or stovetops.”
Abbott also activated 34 warming centers throughout the state and deployed approximately 3,000 National Guard troops to mitigate damage.
On Sunday, the White House approved Abbott’s request for a Federal Emergency Declaration for all 254 counties in the state. The declaration authorizes FEMA to provide emergency protective measures for mass care and sheltering and direct federal assistance to all 254 counties in Texas.
By Monday morning, numerous Texas cities reported subzero temperatures, including minus 10 degrees in Amarillo, minus 9 degrees in Dalhart, minus 5 degrees in Farwell, and minus 4 degrees in Childress. Temperatures below zero were also recorded in Wichita Falls and San Angelo, which got 10 inches of snow.
In Abilene, 8 to 11 inches of snow fell, with drifts reaching 18 inches tall.
Preliminary reports suggest the Dallas-Fort Worth area got 4 to 6 inches of snow. If the airport gets more than 5 inches, it will be the city’s third-largest snowstorm on record since 1974.
Houston’s Bush Intercontinental and Hobby airports are closed, with a recorded temperature of 17 degrees early Monday morning, the coldest recorded since Dec. 23, 1989. Tuesday morning's low is expected to reach 11 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, with a wind chill of 1 degree.
All flights out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport are canceled.
In Texas, 2.7 million customers were without electricity as of 10 a.m. CST Monday, according to poweroutage.us.
“The millions of power outages were tied to record-high demand, an electricity grid that is independent on surrounding states, low natural gas supplies, along with sky-high prices and reduced output from the state’s numerous wind turbines,” the Washington Post reports.
Power providers are telling residents to keep their thermostats at 68 degrees or lower, turn off lights and other unneeded electric sources, avoid using the oven and close blinds to reduce heat loss.
"Every grid operator and every electric company is fighting to restore power right now," Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) president Bill Magness said in a statement. "Rotating outages will likely last throughout the morning and could be initiated until this weather emergency ends."
ERCOT warned that short-term, rolling blackouts would be implemented across the state as energy demands exceed supply.
“Extreme weather conditions caused many generating units – across fuel types – to trip offline and become unavailable,” ERCOT said, with roughly 30,000 megawatts of electricity generation lost because of cold and snowy conditions.