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Arctic Blast Grips U.S., Upending Markets, Setting Records

  • Storms bring wintry mix to East Coast; Texas may get snow
  • U.S. deep freeze sends gas prices Up 4,090% in Oklahoma
People walk along the snow-covered lakefront near downtown Chicago.
People walk along the snow-covered lakefront near downtown Chicago.Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images
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The Arctic blast sweeping the U.S. has unleashed winter weather from coast to coast, spawned deadly ice storms as far south as Houston and sent natural gas and power prices soaring to record levels. Conditions are set to get even worse.

Storm warnings and advisories stretch from Washington state in the west, south to Texas and up the East Coast to New Jersey. Across the central U.S., wind chill warnings and advisories cover most of the Great Plains and upper Midwest. Temperatures in Chicago could drop to -2 degrees Fahrenheit (-19 Celsius) Saturday and Sunday but the wind will make it feel closer to -25. After this system clears out, another will arrive by the middle of next week.

“It is not just the magnitude of the cold, it is also how persistent it is,” said Marc Chenard, a senior branch forecaster with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center. “We have about another week of this. There is another system behind this one impacting similar areas.”

While winter lashes the nation, it’s even reaching into areas that are usually spared the season’s worst. Texas is about to be barreled over by snow, ice and cold, and that has shaken energy markets.

Gas processing plants across Texas are shutting as liquids freeze inside pipes, disrupting output just as demand for the heating fuel jumps. Prices have surged more than 4,000% in two days in Oklahoma. Electricity in some parts of Texas have topped $5,000 a megawatt-hour. Meanwhile oil output in the Permian Basin, the biggest U.S. shale play, is moderating as wells slow down or halt completely.