Power Restoration Continues As Texas Grid Expects To Emerge From 'Emergency Conditions'

Feb 19, 2021
Originally published on February 19, 2021 5:01 am

ERCOT To End Emergency Conditions, Oncor Works To Restore Power

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said it expects to come out of emergency conditions later this morning.

“There is enough generation on the electric system to allow us to begin to return to more normal operating conditions,” said Senior Director of System Operations Dan Woodfin in a statement.

No additional outages were needed overnight to keep power supply and electric demand in balance.

Oncor expects to have power restored to a substantial number of customers by this evening. About 27,000 outages remain.

As of 7 a.m., Oncor is reporting 11,594 Dallas County residents are without power, while Tarrant County has 9,320. In Collin County, 1,309 remain affected.

Customers that are without power likely fall into one of these three categories:

  • Areas out due to ice storm damage on the distribution system
  • Areas that were taken out of service due to the energy emergency load shed that need to be restored manually (i.e., sending a crew to the location to reenergize the line)
  • Large industrial facilities that voluntarily went offline to help during this energy emergency

Warming Trend Continues In Forecast

Temperatures today are expected to reach the mid-30s today with sunny skies helping thaw the snow and ice. Dangerous spots on roads and highways will persist, however.

Fort Worth ISD, Food Bank Host Distribution Events

Tarrant Area Food Bank and the Fort Worth school district are hosting two more food distribution events at Herman Clark Stadium, 5201 CA Roberson Blvd. in Fort Worth. They will happen from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday.

The food bank's weekly Mega MObile Market is taking place today as scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

All three events are open to the public, first come, first served.

Abbott Moves To Prioritize Winterization, Ask For More Federal Assistance

Gov. Greg Abbott’s list of emergency items for the Texas legislative session continues to grow in response to this week’s devastating electrical outage crisis.

Extreme winter conditions affected all of the state’s sources of power generation, reducing supply as demand surged during frigid temperatures. Abbott outlined two new items for state lawmakers to tackle at a news conference Thursday.

“I’m asking the legislature to mandate the winterization of generators and the power system. Second, I’m calling for the funding needed to ensure that this winterization and modernization occurs," Abbott said.

Earlier this week, Abbott announced reforming the Electric Reliability Council of Texas as an emergency item. He is also requesting a major disaster declaration from the Biden Administration as the power outage crisis morphs into a growing water crisis.

Not only is nearly half the state subject to boil water notices, but many are dealing with the effects of broken pipes in the wake of severe winter weather. Abbott said today if the request is granted Texans can apply for individual assistance from FEMA.

“That individual assistance will assist them with funding to restore damage to their homes to the extent that it is not covered by private insurance," Abbott said.

The number of Texans who must boil their water to make it safe to consume has nearly doubled in the last 24 hours.

Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, gave an update Thursday at a news conference with Abbott.

"Out of approximately 7,000 public drinking water systems across the state of Texas due to lack of power, frozen, or broken pipes, or high demand, 797 of those water systems are reporting some sort of issue," Baker said.

Baker spoke Thursday at a news conference with Abbott.

Most of those water systems are under a boil water notice affecting 13 million Texans.

Fort Worth Expands Boil Water Notice

Fort Worth is extending the boil water notice to include residents in the western portions of the city in addition to those in the north side neighborhoods already impacted.

The expanded notice impacts customers from Montgomery Street westward. The three cities in this area that buy drinking water from Fort Worth are also impacted: Aledo, White Settlement and Westover Hills.

The order had already been expanded to cover the northern third of the city earlier this week. Nine other cities were impacted in that expansion: Haslet, Keller, Lake Worth, Northlake, Roanoke, Saginaw, Southlake, Trophy Club and Westlake.

Fort Worth Water says there’s been a loss of water pressure due to water main breaks. It also says there are many crews and contractors working around the clock to fix the problem.

Benbrook Water Authority has also issued a Boil Water Notice for portions of Benbrook.

Residents in these areas should bring water to a vigorous boil for 2 minutes before it’s cooled. This covers water used for drinking, cooking, ice making, brushing teeth, or washing the hands and face.

Limited bottled water is available for pickup at specific distribution sites. Fort Worth Water has location information on its Facebook page.

Houston, Austin and other cities around the state are under boil water notices as well.

Oncor Stops Rolling Blackouts

ERCOT on Wednesday instructed Oncor and other utility companies to begin restoring power to Texas residents.

Oncor previously conducted rolling blackouts or outages to protect the power grid from the high electricity demand.

There are roughly 150,000 Oncor customers without power due to winter storm damage, as of Thursday morning.

Oncor said it will work to restore power to those customers.

“We recognize the hardships that this power emergency has caused for our customers and communities,” the company said in a statement. “We appreciate their patience as we awaited the return of electric generation and protected the Texas electric grid.”

People With Disabilities Face Additional Challenges During Winter Snowstorm, Expert Says

The lack of reliable utilities in Texas due to the freezing cold is hitting people with disabilities especially hard this week.

Stephanie Duke is an attorney with Disability Rights Texas. She helps people access resources after disasters.

“Without power and the inability to travel, those that are energy-dependent, transportation-dependent, healthcare-dependent, we don’t know how much or what they need at this point because we can’t hear from them,” she said. “We have no idea how to get to them.”

Duke said smaller care facilities in Texas are facing evacuations due to the lack of backup power and water supplies.

Carter BloodCare Urges Community To Donate Blood

Carter BloodCare is urging the community to donate blood once they open their doors on Thursday. Blood supply is low due to the winter snowstorm and pandemic.

“Nationwide, the blood supply is crippled,” Veronica Moore, vice president of Carter’s organizational relations, said. “We have struggled daily to meet hospital demands for patients throughout the pandemic, but the effects of this winter storm amplify an already insufficient supply.”

Moore said it’s uncertain how many donation locations will be open on Thursday, but that community members can visit their website for the most updated information.

City Of Dallas Provides Winter Weather Updates

The city of Dallas is listing information about its warming centers and city service closures on its website.

Residents can click here to find important updates.

Dallas Convention Convention Center Open 24-7 To Warm Residents

The City of Dallas' warming center at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Center is now open 24 hours a day until further notice.

The warming center is located in Exhibit Hall A in the building. The city says residents will be provided a chair and table, but should bring in meals for themselves and their family if they can. Water, coffee and light snacks will be made available.

The warming center is not an overnight shelter and cots will not be provided.

No ID needed, but a COVID-19 screening will be required at sign-in. City officials say the warming center is set-up for proper social distancing, mask usage is required.

Arlington & Tyler Join List Of Areas Under Boil Water Notice

All Arlington and Tyler residents are being told to boil water before drinking, bathing or brushing their teeth, among other things.

According to Tyler officials, as a result of the rolling blackouts at the Lake Palestine Raw Water Pump Station, the Lake Palestine Water Treatment Plant is offline.

Tyler officials say the Golden Road Water Treatment Plant is online and supplying pressure to the system. But without the added water pressure from the Lake Palestine Plant to mitigate pressure losses from extremely low temperatures, the City of Tyler's water pressure has been reduced to below the levels required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to maintain optimum safety.

In Arlington, unprecedented demand and a possible major water main break, have left some without water and some with reduced pressure. Arlington Water Utilities says it's working to restore water pressure in the distribution system.

Children, seniors, and persons with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to harmful bacteria, and all customers should follow the boil water instructions.

Residents in affected areas without power should purchase bottled water, and if unable to do so can relocate to warming centers to access safe water.

Tyler Water Utilities emite un aviso para la ciudad de Tyler de hervir el agua

City Of Plano Asks Residents To Conserve Water

The city is urging customers to reduce their water use due to the high demand over the city’s capacity.

North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD), the city’s water supplier, can’t meet the water demand due to equipment issues caused by the extreme weather.

Residents are being asked to delay laundry and dish washing, take short showers and shut off any sprinkler systems. Sprinkler systems in use will be shut off and residents fined.

City officials stressed in statement Thursday morning there is not a boil water notice in place, residents are just being asked to conserve water.

Residents can pick up water for free at Grace Church Plano from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. or until supplies are gone. Up to 12 bottles of water per household are available. Grace Church Plano is located at 3301 Preston Road.

North Texas YMCAs Open Warming Stations

YMCAs in Dallas, Denton, Ellis and Rockwall counties are providing warming stations for those without power or water.

The organization will provide hot coffee, water, charging stations and WiFi. Locker rooms are available for showers; families will be allowed 20 minutes exclusive use of lockers rooms for showering.

The following locations will be open from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on Wednesday:

· Moorland Family YMCA at Oak Cliff

· Park South YMCA

· Waxahachie Family YMCA

· White Rock Family YMCA

· J.E.R. Chilton Family YMCA at Rockwall

· Richardson Family YMCA

· Cross Timbers Family YMCA

· Semones Family YMCA

State Leaders Call On ERCOT To Answer For Power Outages

Gov. Greg Abbott today designated reforming the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state's power grid, as an emergency item during the legislative session.

State Rep. Jeff Leach is applauding the move. The Republican from Plano and other state lawmakers have been calling for an investigation into ERCOT after millions of Texans lost power on Monday.

"This situation is completely unacceptable, but it should not be unexplainable," Leach said on The Mark Davis Show Tuesday morning.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan has asked the House State Affairs and Energy Resources Committee to convene a joint hearing on Feb. 25 on what led to sustained power outages across the state.

Salvation Army Is Operating Warming Shelters Throughout North Texas

With more winter weather on the way, the Salvation Army of North Texas will keep its warming centers open in Collin, Tarrant, Denton, and Dallas counties. These centers will be open on a 24/7 basis and provide a safe, warm environment to those who need it, as well as food.

Six centers are operating in North Texas, and strict COVID-19 precautions will be taken at the centers. Here are where the centers are:

  • Arlington: 712 W. Abrams Street
  • Denton: 2801 North Elm
  • Garland: 451 West Avenue D
  • Lewisville: 206 West Main Street
  • McKinney: 600 Wilson Creek Parkway
  • Plano: 3528 E. 14th Street

Fort Worth Is Working To Shelter Homeless People

Fort Worth's police chief says the city is working with local organizations to help find unsheltered individuals a place to stay. Neil Noakes spoke at a press conference earlier Tuesday.

"We're making sure we're getting them some shelter, whether it's in one of our community centers, a warming center, or one of our shelters," Noakes said.

Noakes said the police department's homeless outreach and crisis intervention teams are actively looking for people in encampments and on the streets to get them sheltered.

Dallas County Issues Disaster Declaration

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has declared an emergency in the county because of the record cold. He says some homes have been without power for much of Monday. He fears some residents could die as a result.

“The safety of people in their homes is my utmost concern right now,” Jenkins said. “Yes there is a danger of people freezing if this gets worse and the grid doesn't do what it needs to and they don't get their power back on.”

Jenkins has asked non-essential businesses to stay closed until 10 a.m. Tuesday in order to help the region conserve power. He says every business and homeowner should set thermostats no higher than 68 degrees.

Jenkins also warned hotel and Airbnb owners not to overcharge for rentals; he said he plans to issue an order against price gouging.

Tarrant County has also declared a local disaster as the area grapples with severe winter weather.

Denton Mayor Issues Disaster Declaration

Denton Mayor Gerard Hudspeth has declared a local disaster in light of the current winter weather emergency.

According to city officials, the declaration will allow the city enact its emergency management plan and make emergency purchases using emergency funding.

The declaration of disaster is in effect immediately and will last until the winter

weather emergency ends.

Denton County also declared a local disaster as of Tuesday.

Rotating Power Outages Issued

The Texas council that manages the majority of the state's electricity initiated rotating power outages Monday morning as a winter storm dropped snow and ice and temperatures remained below freezing. But some customers were without power for several hours.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has urged residents to reduce electricity. Over 2 million customers across Texas have gone without power as officials worked to conserve energy. In Dallas-Fort Worth, temperatures have fallen into the single digits and wind chills were below zero.

In North Texas, energy provider Oncor initially said outages would typically last up to 45 minutes. But then it said the outages have been "significantly extended" and could last for hours.

Across Dallas-Fort Worth, there were several reports of residential power outages lasting at least a few hours.

In addition to high demand, ERCOT has experienced a loss of generation, said Dan Woodfin, who oversees system operations at ERCOT. That’s due to gas supply, wind turbines icing over and generators tripping offline overnight.

“As the night progressed, that wound up being such a big number that the transmission providers are having difficulty doing the kind of normal rotation of one area and then switching to a different area being out, a different area being out,” he said. “They just don’t have enough options.”

Woodfin says this is why some areas are seeing extended power outages, rather than rolling blackouts. Blackouts were expected to continue throughout Monday and at least until Tuesday morning, with the potential to last all of Tuesday.

Authorities were reminding residents to call their local power provider to report outages. The Dallas Police Department said Monday afternoon its 911 call center was being overwhelmed with calls related to outages.

Oncor said its phone lines and reporting systems have experienced a "record influx of inquiries" and that may prevent customers from reaching a representative. The company said it was also responding to separate outages caused by the storm.

“Outages due to this electric emergency could last for hours and we ask you to be prepared,”according to a statement on the Oncor website. "We are doing everything possible to respond to each of these power emergency events. We remain in close coordination with ERCOT and we appreciate everyone’s patience as we do all we can to protect the integrity of the Texas grid."

Jennifer Roca of McKinney saw her family’s power switch on and off in 30-minute intervals.

“I guess the rolling blackouts started like really early this morning,” she said. “And I had to get up three times between probably 4 a.m. and 6:30 to turn off my TV because every time the satellite reset, the TV turned itself on at full volume and woke us all up.”

Conservation remains critical, Oncor says. Officials recommend turning thermostats down to 68 degrees, turning off and unplugging appliances and lights that aren’t essential, and avoid using large appliances, like washers, dryers and dishwashers.

“We urge Texans to put safety first,” ERCOT tweeted as it urged residents to reduce electricity use.

“Traffic lights and other infrastructure may be temporarily without power,” ERCOT said.

The council described the initial rotating outages as a “last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole,” adding that utility transmission companies are tasked with determining how to reduce demand on the system.

“Every grid operator and every electric company is fighting to restore power right now,” ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said in a statement.

The rotating outages were expected to last throughout Monday morning.

More than 2.6 million customers were in the dark in Texas as of 10 a.m., according to poweroutage.us, a utility tracking site.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Copyright 2021 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.