Multiple people across Texas have been sickened and even killed from carbon monoxide poisoning after they are believed to have improperly used grills, generators and cars to stay warm indoors as record low temperatures continue to cause widespread power outages, authorities said.
In Houston, a woman and a child were found dead Tuesday morning after a car was apparently left running in their home’s attached garage to create heat amid an outage. A man and boy at the home were also taken to a hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning, the city’s police department said.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that is produced when fuel is burned, such as in vehicles, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges or furnaces. When those items are used indoors, the gas can build up and poison people and animals who breathe it in, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Breathing in a lot of the gas can cause one to pass out or die. Those who are sleeping or drunk may not realize they are being poisoned before it’s too late.
“Cars, grills and generators should not be used in or near a building,” the Houston Police Department said in a statement following the tragedy.
Similar incidents were reported a day earlier.
On Monday, a family of six was taken to a Houston-area hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning after they were believed to have used a charcoal grill to heat up their apartment for several hours, local authorities said.
“The family was reportedly burning the fire for warmth for about four hours,” the Cy-Fair Fire Department said.
The victims include four children ranging in age from 5 to 10. One of the children and one of the two adults hospitalized were listed as being in critical condition.
In Fort Worth, just west of Dallas, four people were also hospitalized Monday evening ― two in critical condition ― from a suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at their home, CBSN reported.
Roughly 4.4 million people in Texas were without power on Tuesday morning according to poweroutage.us as the state’s electric grid struggled to keep up with power demands brought by the extreme winter weather. In order to spread electricity out across the state, statewide blackouts have taken place, forcing some residents to go without electricity for hours at a time.
The White House issued a Federal Emergency Declaration for Texas on Monday, allowing the state to receive federal aid amid the crisis.
For those in need of warmth, warming stations have been set up across the state, with a map of the locations found on the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s website. The National Guard has also been deployed to conduct welfare checks and assist with connecting locals in need to their nearest warming station.