Cold blasts and power outages are becoming an annual event for the state and region
An unwelcome theme is developing in parts of the American South and the state of Texas, each of the last three winters has now provided a crippling storm of ice and frigid weather that has caused mass power outages.
Frozen power lines in Texas.—Austin Energy photo
While this time around, state officials said the state's overall power grid is stable, the local level has been hit hard.
In an update Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott said the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT “expects sufficient generation to meet forecasted demand and is continuing to monitor forecasts throughout the week.” The situation this week is different from what happened during the 2021 winter storm, when demand was in danger of surpassing supply. ERCOT said at the time it was minutes away from a complete blackout, which it avoided by ordering more outages.
On the local level this year, the capital city of Austin provides a template for where things stand, as it was hit hard. Austin Energy crews are working to restore weather-related power outages across the service area. These outages are reportedly "due to severe winter weather and are not related to a statewide grid issue," per a February 1 statement from Austin Energy. "Ice is accumulating on power lines, utility poles and tree limbs leading to power outages. Currently, the Austin area is seeing a quarter to a half inch of ice."
In advance of severe storms, Austin Energy prepared by securing additional staff and resources. Austin Energy is working to restore power as quickly and safely as possible, but challenging conditions may slow down these efforts. Crews are driving on icy roadways and working with frozen equipment. "Based on these changing conditions, it is not possible to provide estimated restoration times," the utility said. "It is possible some customers may be without power for 12 to 24 hours. Austin Energy crews are prioritizing power restoration to critical organizations and working to get the greatest number of customers online in the least amount of time."
Due to the storm severity and widespread outages, Austin Energy secured mutual aid assistance from other utilities to assist in power restoration. Mutual aid provides a process for coordinating activities, information and resources with other utilities for restoration efforts.