Texas’ power grid is ready to deal with the winter storm that is expected to hit the state on Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders said Tuesday at a news conference in Austin.
Abbott said the state has been preparing for nearly a year of weather with conditions similar to last year’s deadly storm, which caused a failure in the state’s power grid and day-long power outages across Texas. The freeze is not expected to be as long as the winter storm of 2021. This week, freezing temperatures will last about 48 hours, in contrast to last year’s 139-hour frost, in which more than 240 people died as a result of the storm.
The power grid, managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, is ready for demand for electricity that may be close to what the state experienced last year, Abbott said.
ERCOT’s projection, released last Friday, showed that demand hit nearly 71.2 gigawatts on February 4th. The peak demand during last year’s winter storm was 77 gigawatts. More than 15,000 megawatts of power will be available to help demand, Abbott said.
Abbott said there could be several reasons other than the power grid for people losing power, such as fallen tree branches or ice on power lines.
In Houston on Monday afternoon, more than 5,000 people were without power after widespread showers moved across southeast Texas, that It reported the Houston Chronicle. Abbott said the power outage was due to possible felled trees that were not related to the winter weather. Power was restored a few hours later.
Brad Jones, the interim president and CEO of ERCOT, said the power grid chief has inspected his devices and generators over the past year to make sure they are prepared.
“We feel very comfortable with their level of readiness,” Jones said. “We are ready for this storm. We will be prepared for that.”
Abbott apparently contradicted himself during the news conference, saying no one could guarantee that there would be no “load shed events” during the storm – a term synonymous with ERCOT-induced blackouts.
However, Abbott has repeatedly guaranteed that the power will remain on this winter.
The stability of the web has been a political issue used by Abbott and his political rivals.
Democratic candidate for governor Beto O’Rourke announced Monday that he will embark on a “Keep the Lights On” campaign tour on Friday to underscore his main line of attack against Abbott. O’Rourke continued his offensive Tuesday.
“Abbott failed to prepare us for a disaster that could be completely prevented, and so he failed to make changes that would protect us from the next extreme weather event,” O’Rourke said in a press release. “To add insult to injury, this governor is forcing taxpayers across the state to clean up his mess.”
After the press conference, Abbott’s campaign shot back, calling O’Rourke’s road trip “pathetic” and “shameful.”
“Just when you think Beto O’Rourke could not sink lower, he joins his ‘Praying The Lights Go Out’ tour,” campaign spokeswoman Renea Eze said in a press release. “While Beto crosses the state and messes with the pain and suffering of other Texans, Governor Abbott has worked to strengthen the network with the PUC, ERCOT and the Legislature to ensure Texas remains a national leader in energy.”
About 4,000 employees of the Texas Department of Transportation were deployed to help pre-treat the roads, which are expected to be icy cold and treacherous, Abbott said. He asked everyone who travels within the next few days to do so with caution.
The Texas Railroad Commission contacted local gas distribution companies, major gas producers and pipeline operators across the state yesterday, all of which are prepared for potentially bad weather, Abbott said.
Peter Lake, chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, said the state’s power grid and transmission system exceed federal winterization standards. Lake also said PUC has worked with the Railway Commission to identify critical gas infrastructure to ensure natural gas continues to flow to power generators.
Texas Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd urged people to follow local weather forecasts as the storm approaches. He also warned that pipes are freezing and said everyone should have a plan to stay warm.
Other government agencies, such as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Division of Emergency Management, are prepared for the bad weather and will be available to help local governments, Abbott said. TDEM will have local shelters and heating centers with cots, blankets and water. Resources for the nearest location can be found on the TDEM website.
National Weather Service in Fort Worth issued a winter storm guard for the Dallas-Fort Worth area in front of the Arctic cold front, which is expected to blow up northern and central Texas from Wednesday. The clock is in effect from 6 pm on Wednesday to 6 pm on Thursday, the weather service informs.
Rain is expected to start Wednesday morning and continue into the evening before turning to ice and a wintry mix overnight as temperatures drop. Some snow is possible Thursday morning, the forecast reads.
Dangerous chills of minus 10 to 10 degrees above zero are possible Friday to Saturday, the weather service informs. Low temperatures will be in the teens and warming is not expected until Saturday.
The weather service expects up to 0.25 inches of ice in Dallas and Tarrant counties, according to Tuesday’s forecast. Less than an inch of snow is forecast for Dallas County.
Areas northwest of D-FW, such as Montague and Jack counties, could see up to 4 inches of snow.
Driving will be dangerous on Wednesday night as lanes – especially highways such as crossings and bridges – freeze over. The weather service also said ice could accumulate on trees and power lines, causing interruptions.
The weather service advised people to prepare for the storm. It said people should wrap outdoor plumbing; fill up with non-perishable food and water; prepare for a power outage; and fill vehicles with emergency supplies.
Staff Writer Maggie Prosser and Austin Correspondent Philip Jankowski contributed to this report.