The suspected tornado hit North Carolina's Brunswick County around midnight and left at least three people dead and 10 injured, Brunswick County Emergency Services said Tuesday, ripping homes from their foundations and snapping trees in half.
In Texas, two people, one a child, died from carbon monoxide poisoning after a car was used to generate power for heat, Houston Police said.
More than 4.1 million people are waking up without power in Texas, according to poweroutage.us., as record low temperatures bring a demand for power that the state's electric grid cannot keep up with.
The areas hardest hit by outages were around Galveston and Houston, according to poweroutage.us.
The storm that dropped snow and ice from Arkansas to Indiana — and brought record-low temperatures from Oklahoma City to Minnesota's Iron Range, where thermometers dipped to minus 38 — was expected to move into the northeast Tuesday, the National Weather Service said. Snow, freezing rain and ice are expected from the Ohio Valley to Pennsylvania and Maine, the forecaster added.
Texas officials pleaded with residents to stay off the roads, conserve power and seal up drafty windows and doors.
In North Carolina's Brunswick County, there were reports of people trapped in homes or feared missing as rescue operations got underway after the possible tornado, Brunswick County emergency management officials said. An estimated 50 homes were affected and a temporary shelter had been set-up for the displaced.
"It's something like I have never seen before. A lot of destruction," Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram told a press conference Tuesday. "It's going to be a long recovery process."
Power lines were also downed, Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation said, leaving thousands of people without electricity.
There were also fears over power outages and failures of backup generators at public health departments in Texas, where thousands of coronavirus vaccines are being held in cold storage.
Elsewhere in the state, San Antonio International Airport canceled all flights scheduled for Tuesday, and the Dallas Stars delayed a National Hockey League game against the Nashville Predators, in an effort to conserve energy.
The Houston Chronicle, meanwhile, was forced to stop producing its print edition after its plant lost power at 2 a.m. In a note to subscribers, the newspaper said that hadn't even happened when the city was battered by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Abilene, a city of about 170,000 residents, shut off its water services as a result of power outages at all three of its water treatment plants, it tweeted.
Kansas City, Missouri, like cities scattered across the U.S., including in Tennessee and Iowa, were threatened with rolling power outages Monday. The Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities across 17 states, called for rolling outages because the supply of reserve energy had been exhausted.
The Pacific Northwest was hammered by a weekend storm and was dealing with lingering problems, with hundreds of thousands of people in Oregon still in the dark after heavy snow and ice brought down tree branches this weekend and blocked storm drains in Washington state and Idaho, raising concerns about flooding.
Nearly 5,000 power lines were brought down by ice and tree limbs and multiple transmission lines were severely damaged by the storm that swept through.
The National Weather Service said the next storm was expected to move from the Rockies into the Southern Plains on Tuesday, bringing freezing rain to east Texas and Louisiana and as much as 8 inches of snow to parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas and southern Missouri.
—The Associated Press contributed to this report.