Speed Reads

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Central U.S. is 'the most unusually cold region on the planet' right now

Record-setting cold weather has paralyzed much of America, bringing freezing temperatures and snow to parts of the country that haven't seen such weather in decades — if ever in modern history.

More than 3 million Americans were without power Monday. The vast majority of those power outages — more than 2.6 million — were in Texas, CNN reports, where freezing temperatures and high demand for heat set off rolling outages. Austin, "the city with palm trees and typically mild weather," was covered with six inches of snow, "an amount not seen since 1966," The New York Times reports.

Texas' power outages can be attributed to "an electricity grid that is independent from surrounding states, low natural gas supplies, along with sky-high prices and reduced output from the state's numerous wind turbines," The Washington Post explains.

In some parts of the country, temperatures were 50 degrees below average, making the central United States "the most unusually cold region on the planet," the Post reports. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was bracing for temperatures of -10 Fahrenheit, which would make Monday night the coldest night ever observed. Wind chills hit -40 and -50 in parts of Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado. "There is the potential for more than 240 cold temperature records to be broken by Tuesday evening," CNN reports.

This is just the first of two major winter storms expected this week. The second is forecast to hit on Wednesday.