Unprecedented winter storm paralyzes South, brings treacherous conditions on roads

The life-threatening cold temperatures are straining the power grid, leaving millions in Texas without heat. The same system is set to bring big snow to the frozen Midwest.
5:41 | 02/16/21

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Transcript for Unprecedented winter storm paralyzes South, brings treacherous conditions on roads
we begin tonight with this dangerous and deadly storm already. Millions without power. Brutal cold. And countless accidents on the highways across the south and the middle of this country. Texas, Oklahoma and this hits right up into the northeast tonight. Then another major storm right behind all of this, then will move across the country. 200 million people on alert in more than 40 states tonight. We're talking about historic k08d and record snow and ice in some places. A very rough week ahead on the road and for the millions without power already. Look at the images coming in tonight. The treacherous driving across hundreds of millions. Whiteout continues on the roads in Oklahoma City right there. A multivehicle pile yul on I-10 near El Paso. This scene was repeated across parts of Texas. A truck losing control on a snowy highway in Toledo, Ohio. Narrowly missing a direct hit on this car. A pickup truck sliding out of control down a street in Nashville. Really all over this country, and there's real concern tonight with millions without power in dangerous cold and with little relief soon. You can see the sparks there, the balls of fire traveling along this power line in Louisiana. There are rolling blackouts in Texas and 14 other states just to try to keep the power grids from failing to give heat to those that still have power. And of course all of this playing out in the middle of the pandemic. In the middle of this rush to get the vaccine out, there's news tonight of freezers with vaccine out of power. The backup generators failing and now they're trying to get those shots into arms. So, we're going to get to all of this one piece at a time tonight. Ginger zee tracking the storms and ABC's Marcus Moore leading us off from Dallas tonight. Reporter: Tonight, this unprecedented winter storm is paralyzing the south, with treacherous road conditions and life-threatening cold temperatures. Now the extreme cold straining the power grid. We're talking about millions and millions of people throughout Texas without heat today. Reporter: Power officials in Texas instituting those rolling blackouts and begging residents to conserve electricity. It's a huge demand and then there are a number of generation plants that have been taken offline, like your wind turbines that are frozen over. Reporter: The power is still out in this neighborhood and look at the street lights just behind me here. Off completely. It looks and feels like we're in Iowa, but this is Dallas, Texas. The temperatures have been in the teens throughout most of the day and it won't get above freezing until later this week. Families back in Houston trying to cope. We're under like three blankets last night and still very cold. Reporter: Bill Flanders using a heat blanket to try and thaw his frozen pipes. I thought I'd drain the pipes in the attic overnight so they wouldn't freeze, but came out this morning and the supply line froze. Reporter: The strain on the power grid effecing the entire region. 14 states being used to conserve. The system now bringing snow to the frozen midwest. Alex Perez in Chicago. This is stub born arctic air and it will not loosen its grip in the U.S. Some are dealing with temperatures that feel like 30 to 50 below zero. That field of snow, that's actually a frozen lake Michigan, blanketed with snow. Reporter: The roads treacherous across the region over the last 24 hours. A man by an SUV barely escaping being hit by a second carolinaing down an embankment. This pickup truck backing out of a driveway in Nashville skating sideways on a sheet of ice. And this Nashville couple's camera came during the moment they tumble down icy stairs. And back in Texas, and unbelievable sight. The beach in galveston blanketed in white. Snow melting into the gulf of Mexico. Just incredible images tonight and this is really going to be an issue all week long with these multiple systems. Marcus Moore live from Dallas tonight. And we know this kind of weather and days of dangerous cold all playing out in the middle of? Pandemic. We learned of vaccination sites forced to close. And now with the power problems, we've learned of a facility holding vaccines losing power? Reporter: Officials in Harris county, they scrambled to give out more than 5,000 doses of the modern vaccine after that facility lost power and then the backup generator failed. They feared those doses would spoil and they had to get through large group of places fast. They went to a hospital, a university and even the county jail. Folks being tested on so many levels tonight. Marcus Moore and Alex Perez in that piece, thank you. The first storm still on the move at this hour, hitting the northeast overnight and then brutal cold across the country and then, of course, that second storm we've been mentioning. Let's get right to ginger zee to guide us through it all tonight. Hi, ginger. Reporter: Hi, David. That dangerous freezing drizzle has just started here. It's moving into Pennsylvania now and we've got tornado watches as if we haven't had enough to worry about, all the way down to Jacksonville, Florida. Let me take you to the timing of this first storm. It blows through tonight. If you have driving anywhere from Scranton, Pennsylvania, to Albany New York, that's where the heaviest ice could set up. You're going to see soaking rain and warming toward the coast, so, New York City, you're going to end up with that. Look at all the alerts on the map, from the cascades to new England down to Texas. And those are new alerts because there's another storm, you barely got a breath and then Dallas, you're going to get more ice. Oklahoma, where you had a half a foot of snow, get it again by Wednesday morning. And behind -- before that, you've got the coldest mardi gras on record potentially tomorrow. The coldest fat Tuesday, we could be breaking records all the way to the gulf coast. David? Ginger, thank you. We move on to other news tonight and to the coronavirus

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