Nightly News   |  January 24, 2014

Unusually Cold Arctic Air Cripples Travel

Icy conditions resulted in hundreds of accidents in Texas. The cold also hit Louisiana where plow and salt trucks are seldom needed, while other states coped with frozen waterways and frozen water hydrants.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> and back in this country tonight it happened once before this season but it is still rare to be able to report that during the day today, it was below freezing somewhere in each of our 50 states , including hawaii. further proof that this winter of 2014 is proving unusually cold. and again tonight, the story is how far south it is all spreading. like snow in louisiana, single digits in north carolina . there are states of emergency in the south tonight. and a lot of places are preparing for prolonged cold. janet shamlian is in houston tonight, good evening, janet.

>> reporter: brian, it was a dose of winter this area has little experience with, ice and snow, and it hit this region hard. we have at least two weather-related deaths and it brought cities like houston to their knees. the arctic blast dipped deep into texas with a rare snowfall, heavy sleet. and in houston , freezing rain that crippled the city.

>> it has been very slick, a lot of crashes, a lot of people losing control.

>> reporter: despite warnings to stay off the roads, accidents topped 500 by late morning.

>> 290 west proeb.

>> reporter: this emergency center was activated, and normal normally it was staffed for hurricanes.

>> you see all the traffic backed up one way.

>> reporter: dozens of icy roads were closed. overpasses like this turned to sheets of ice, where hundreds of accidents happened. ice blanketed san antonio , and further east, baton rouge . almost 700 flights were cancelled today, more than 2,000 delays. in indiana, i-94 reopened this morning, 20 hours after whiteout conditions triggered a deadly crash of more than 40 vehicles, 18 of them semis. three people died, more than 20 hurt. in blinding snow, the rescue took hours.

>> with a crash scene like that we had people that not even the first responders could get to.

>> reporter: bitter cold has frozen the waterways in pittsburgh. and new york, single digits, and in new jersey, firefighters in union city were forced to battle a massive six-alarm blaze with frozen hydrants and nozzle. the deep freeze pushed natural gas prices up, and here, it is 50% here than this time last year. miguel ramirez is using space heaters and blankets.

>> that is it, maybe 30 or 20% higher than the year before, same time this year.

>> reporter: and he knows there are more gas bills and winter weather still to come. and with those propane prices spiking, lawmakers in missouri are now calling for an investigation. they want to know if there has been any price fixing to those prices in this time of high demand. brian?

>>> janet shamlian in the cold in houston , texas, thank you.