February 2021 North American Cold Waveby Wiki People
Wikipedia, February 2021
Tree limbs and entire trees fell under the weight of the ice,
with Salem, Oregon losing 18% of its tree cover.
288,000 households were without electricity in Portland.
The February 2021 North American cold wave was an extreme weather event that brought record low temperatures to a significant portion of Canada, the United States and parts of northern Mexico during the first half of February 2021. The cold was caused by a southern migration of the polar vortex, likely caused by a sudden stratospheric warming event that occurred the prior month. Temperatures fell as much as 25 to 50 F (-4 to 10 C) below average as far south as the Gulf Coast. Severe winter storms also were associated with the bitter cold, which allowed for heavy snowfall and ice accumulations to places as far south as Houston, Texas, and contributing to one of the snowiest winters ever in some areas in the Deep South.
With the record cold advancing so far south, effects were crippling and widespread. Many regions within the Southern Plains such as Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas broke or nearly reached record-low temperatures not seen in decades or even a century. In the latter state of Texas, the record cold caused enormous strain on the power grid and froze pipelines, leading millions to lose power and many pipes to burst. At least 278 people were killed directly or indirectly by severe cold, and the damages are estimated to exceed $198.575 billion (2021 USD), including at least $197.075 billion in the United States and $1.5 billion in Mexico.
As with most cold waves, the origins of the cold wave occurred when the jet stream migrated southward in early February 2021, allowing bitterly cold air from the polar vortex to spill south into the Upper Midwest and Great Plains. The weakening of the jet stream is likely to have been caused by a sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) event that occurred in early January. However, the effects of this event did not materialize within North America until the pattern began to become unstable near the end of the month. An arctic front then proceeded to usher in the cold air by February 6.
Texas by far was the state worst affected by the cold wave. A record low temperature at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport of -2 F (-19 C) on February 16 was the coldest in North Texas in 72 years. Power equipment in Texas was not winterized, leaving it vulnerable to extended periods of cold weather, leading to widespread power outages. Five times as much natural gas as wind power had been lost because of the cold. When power was cut, it disabled some compressors that push gas through pipelines, and the resulting shortage knocked out more gas plants.
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