Sunday, April 21, 2024

Rolling power outages continue after coldest night in 72 years

Millions of Texans are enduring cold temperatures in their homes Tuesday as they go without consistent power for the second day, and there’s no indication of when things will go back to normal.

Power Outages

In a perfect storm of record-low temperatures and power generation during a period of record-high demand, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is continuing to direct utilities across the state to drop the power load through maintained controlled outages. These rolling outages, however, are not being evenly distributed, as some residents haven’t had power at all since early Monday morning, while others have had theirs turned on and off many times and other people have had few or no power interruptions at all. Sometimes, those who have had no power are in the same neighborhood — or even street — as people who have had no outages.

As of Tuesday morning, Oncor is reporting that more than 37,000 of its customers in Denton County are affected by the outage. CoServ says that more than 75,000 customers — about 27% of its total number of customers — are experiencing outages.

According to Oncor, poor grid conditions have prevented them and other utilities from rotating the entirety of the outages throughout all of its customers. Some grids with critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and fire stations, have been prioritized, also.

On Tuesday, ERCOT officials told state legislators that they couldn’t predict when grid conditions will stabilize, and all residents should be prepared for extended outages to continue. However, ERCOT said in a tweet that it has directed local utilities to restore 400,000 households. Once enough generation is available, Oncor will return to a regular cadence of rotating outages, with the goal of providing temporary relief for those who have been without power the longest.

CoServ, which also serves southern Denton County, is advising all customers to prepare for potential outages for the next several days. Many, if not most, local businesses and offices are closed Tuesday due to the outages. Many cable and internet customers are also reporting outages in the area.

ERCOT Investigation

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday afternoon that he issued an executive order to investigate ERCOT.

ERCOT “has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” Abbott said in a statement. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable. I have issued an executive order adding an emergency legislative item to review the preparations and decisions by ERCOT so we can determine was caused this problem and find long-term solutions.”

Schools Closed

All local schools are closed — including in-person and virtual learning — on Tuesday and will be closed at least through Wednesday. Northwest ISD, Lewisville ISD and Argyle ISD have announced that school will be out all week. As of Tuesday, Denton ISD and Liberty Christian School have not announced their plans beyond Wednesday. As long as the power outages continue, schools are not expected to require students attend classes virtually.

Record Cold

Those without power are experiencing very cold indoor temperatures. It reached 2 degrees below 0 at DFW Airport overnight, the lowest temperature recorded there since 1949 and matching the lowest recorded temperature since 1899. The high temperature Tuesday is not expected to pass 20 degrees in the area, and residents experiencing power outages are encouraged to close their blinds and curtains and load up on layers and blankets. Close doors and stuff towels in the cracks under the doors to contain heat in certain rooms.

If you are too cold in your home, several warming centers have been set up in the area:

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Rec Center, 1300 Wilson St., Denton (overnight shelter)
  • Lake Land Baptist Church, 397 South Stemmons Freeway, Lewisville (overnight)
  • Music City Mall, 2401 South Stemmons Freeway, Lewisville (overnight)
  • Lake Shore Baptist Church, 276 East Hundley Drive, Corinth (overnight)
  • Monsignor King Outreach Center, 300 South Woodrow Lane, Denton (5:30 p.m. to 9 a.m.)
  • Salvation Army, 1508 East McKinney St., Denton (5 p.m. to 7 a.m.)
  • Trietsch Memorial United Methodist Church Family Life Center, 6101 Morriss Road, Flower Mound (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

The town of Flower Mound has also set up a warming center for Flower Mound residents who have been without power for more than two hours and don’t have an alternate heat or power source, such as a fireplace or generator. It has a 60-person maximum capacity, and to request access, call 972-539-0525. There will be no showering facilities available and no pets allowed.

Disaster Declaration

Denton County Judge Andy Eads signed a Disaster Declaration and executive order Tuesday, and the county will keep offices closed Wednesday. Most area town governments will also be closed, and most trash pickup services keep getting delayed.

Frozen Pipes

Many residents are experiencing frozen pipes. Be sure to keep your faucets dripping and open the cupboards below sinks to allow warm air to reach the pipes. For laundry room pipes, the best bet is to move the washing machine away from the wall and set up a space heater near the pipes. When pipes burst, it is usually after the outside temperatures warm up above freezing, which is not expected to happen until Friday.

Boil Water Notice

Northlake and Roanoke-area residents are currently under a Boil Water Notice, caused by rolling blackouts. Corinth residents are currently without any water service.

Vaccines Postponed

Texas Health and Human Services announced Tuesday that this week’s shipments of COVID-19 vaccine doses were postponed, due to the storm, and they should begin arriving Wednesday at the earliest. Deliveries will be subject to the local situation, and the vaccines won’t be put at risk by trying to deliver them in dangerous condition. Vaccinations will resume as soon as it is safe.

Denton County Public Health announced that it will not conduct any COVID-19 clinics this week, but the vaccines will be stored and administered next week.

Scam Alert

ERCOT says there is a scam circulating on social media, asking customers to text their private account numbers. Don’t do it. ERCOT is working to get the power back on as soon as possible and doesn’t need your private information to do so.

Road conditions on Sunday, photo courtesy of the Flower Mound Fire Department

Road Conditions

There is still a lot of snow and ice on and along the roads on Tuesday morning. Back roads and neighborhood streets are more likely to be slippery, while major roads (for the most part) have at least one lane in each direction mostly clear of ice. Residents are encouraged to stay home if possible, and drivers should be extra cautious. Driving conditions will worsen again Tuesday night.

More Snow Coming

A Winter Storm Warning is in effect through Thursday morning for all of North Texas. The National Weather Service is forecasting that Denton County will receive heavy mixed precipitation — mostly snow — starting Tuesday evening and ending Wednesday afternoon. New snow accumulations are expected to reach 4-6 inches. The new precipitation will make driving conditions much more dangerous, and residents should avoid driving until Thursday, if possible.

This story will be updated throughout the day. Check back for updates.

Mark Smith
Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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