Gov. Abbott – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and several state leaders all say the state’s power grid is ready for its next test and that it’ll have no issues delivering adequate power to customers when bitter, dangerous cold arrives across the state on Thursday.

The governor met with several state leaders at the State Operations Center in Austin Wednesday, including PUC Chairman Peter Lake, ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas and Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd, to discuss the state’s preparations ahead of an approaching Arctic winter storm.

After the power grid’s failure in February 2021 to deliver adequate power to customers across the state, Abbott acknowledged Wednesday that the stability of the grid is a concern for many people but said state leaders are confident in the grid’s ability to reliably deliver electricity.

“With the ultra-cold temperature for several days there are many people in the state of Texas that are wondering about or may be concerned about the power grid,” Abbott said. “Both the PUC and ERCOT are prepared to make sure that the power grid will remain up and running very robustly during this very cold snap.”

Abbott said the grid’s performance during last winter and summer should help begin to rebuild trust in the state’s grid.

“Trust has to be earned. We earned that trust in part by going through this past summer with 11 new all-time records for power demand and being able to meet that power demand with ease,” Abbott said. “I think trust will be earned over the next few days as we have ultra-cold temperatures and the grid will be able to perform with ease.”

Peter Lake, chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, confidently said Wednesday “the grid is ready and reliable” and that they expect to have adequate power generation available throughout the weather event. Lake said landmark reforms added since the storm of February 2021, such as the winterization of infrastructure, puts the grid in a better position to handle the anticipated demand.

“I do want to remind folks that we will have high winds that could bring down branches and even if there are some localized power outages due to falling branches, that does not mean that ERCOT or the state does not have sufficient generation,” Lake said. “As always, stay in communication with your local power providers and local leadership and they will keep you up to date on local issues like that.”

BITTER, DANGEROUS COLD COMING TO NORTH TEXAS

The National Weather Service on Tuesday issued a Wind Chill Watch in effect from Thursday morning through Friday morning for all of North Texas, where dangerously cold temperatures are expected.

“You should get ready now for temperatures below freezing for about 60-70 hours. Please prepare your home, vehicles and pets for this arctic outbreak,” said NBC 5 Chief Meteorologist Rick Mitchell. “This will be cold enough air that you will need to drip your faucets Thursday night through Saturday morning. Temperatures may briefly rise above freezing Saturday afternoon, but they will quickly fall below freezing Saturday night.”

There’s even a chance for a few snow flurries on Thursday or Friday thanks to the possibility of lake-effect snow, but that snow is not expected to accumulate.

The coldest temperatures look to arrive early Friday morning with many locations tumbling into the teens. With gusty winds, the “feels like” temperatures Friday morning will be below zero.

Nim Kidd, Chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said life-threatening wind chills of -10 were forecast for DFW and down to -30 in the Panhandle. Wind chills that low could lead to hypothermia, a condition where the body loses heat faster than it can produce it leading to a dangerously low body temperature.

“This is a dangerous storm coming our way. The temperatures will be extremely cold and the winds will be high which will generate some very dangerous wind chills,” Kidd said.

Kidd said warming centers are opening in Texas cities and a list will be published on the TDEM website. Meanwhile, he warned Texans to continue to winterize and prepare ahead of the storm.

“The grid is good, but that should not stop you from making plans to protect your home from these dangerous weather conditions and have your vehicle ready as well for these dangerous conditions,” Kidd said. “We’ve heard that precipitation is not in the forecast, very light in the Panhandle, so the rest of the state should stay dry, but listen, any flat tire, bad battery problem and [being] stuck out in this dangerous cold can be life-threatening. So please make plans to prepare your vehicles and your homes.”

Kidd also warned that burning wood or using a gas-burning appliance inside a home without proper ventilation can lead to fatalities. Carbon monoxide, Kidd said, is the number one killer in events like this and that carbon monoxide deaths are preventable.

ERCOT SAYS THEY’RE READY FOR ARCTIC STORM

ERCOT, the operator of the Texas power grid, said they expect to have enough power supplies to meet electricity demand during the winter storm.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said last week that it is monitoring weather forecasts and “expects sufficient generation to meet forecasted demand.”

ERCOT CEO Pable Vegas said they issued a watch Wednesday morning, their highest level of preparation and readiness, to make sure everyone was prepared for the weather conditions and that they have all of the tools available to deal with demand.

Vegas said ERCOT expects high demand from Thursday night through Saturday morning with the highest demand coming on Friday morning.

ERCOT forecasters expect demand to be near 70,000 megawatts on Friday morning. At the same time, ERCOT expects to have roughly 85,000 megawatts of generation available to meet that demand.

BITTER COLD YES, BUT THIS ISN’T A REPEAT OF FEBRUARY 2021

While this is a potentially dangerous winter storm with temperatures well below freezing, it’s not shaping up to be a repeat of the prolonged cold we saw in February 2021.

By comparison, this event will have sub-freezing temperatures for only about two days. In February 2021, it was below freezing for more than five days.

In February 2021 there were several inches of snow blanketed North Texas. For this event, only a few flurries are expected and most of the state will be mostly sunny.

This event is not expected to be an ice event, which contributed to power outages in February 2021. Wind and extraordinary cold are the primary threats in this event.

TEXAS WINTERIZING TIPS

Winterizing Your Home
Before the cold, replace worn weatherstripping on doors and windows to ensure there is a good seal. This will make sure warm air stays inside and cold air stays outside. Most modern windows are sealed inside the frame, but older windows may be sealed with a glaze that can crack and need replacing. The glaze may need to be applied above a certain temperature and it’ll need time to cure — this maintenance is ideally done in the spring or fall. Lastly, check your gutters to make sure they are clear and allow for water to flow freely to the downspout. Blocked gutters can lead to water entering the home.  The Texas Department of Insurance also recommends trimming trees away from power lines, homes, and cars and checking the insulation level in attics.

Protecting Your Pipes
Most North Texans know to insulate their outdoor faucets, but if the cold snap is prolonged it could be a good idea to also leave inside faucets on external walls dripping overnight so that they don’t freeze. The drip, drip, drip from running faucets, if heard, can be annoying, so put a sponge or towel in the sink to silently catch each drop. If you’re leaving town for a few days, the Texas Department of Public Safety recommends leaving cabinet doors open so that pipes on external walls are more exposed to heat. If you have pipes in an attic or crawlspace, are any other exposed pipes outdoors, they’ll need insulation. About those external faucets, disconnect hoses and insulate the valves. Wrapping valves with towels is not the best long-term solution. Most if not all North Texas hardware stores sell inexpensive exterior faucet covers made of foam that easily attaches to the faucet bib in just a few seconds and do a great job protecting the pipe from freezing. If you do suspect a pipe has frozen, keep the faucet open so that water can flow when it melts. Additionally, make sure you know where your main water valve is located (and how to turn it off) in the event a pipe bursts.

Bring in Your Pets
Even if you have a pet or animal that normally lives or sleeps outdoors, they could be susceptible to cold, hypothermia and pneumonia. The SPCA of Texas says if you’d be cold outside, odds are your pet is cold too. Bring pets inside and make sure other outdoor animals have appropriate shelter, dry and well insulated, to protect them from frigid temperatures and possible death.

Turn Off Your Sprinkler System
You want to turn off your irrigation system for a number of reasons. One is that you don’t want it running on its normal schedule, potentially throwing water on streets where it can freeze and be dangerous for passing cars. Second, you don’t want to risk any broken pipes or valves that may come with a system that has not been winterized. To winterize your system, the city of Fort Worth recommends timers and back-flow devices both be turned off, even if you have freeze or rain sensors installed and that the main line is drained. Any pipes that are above the ground should also be insulated.

Protecting Your Plants
Perennial potted plants should be brought inside and those that cannot be brought inside will need to be covered. There are several products that can be used to help protect delicate plants. For plants left outside, a day or two before a freeze hits, the Dallas Arboretum recommends watering the soil only by hand only, keeping the foliage dry, to insulate the plant’s roots. The arboretum also recommends using frost cloth (image below) to trap heat instead of plastic sheeting — which doesn’t prevent condensation.

dallas-arboretum-frost-cloths


Dallas Arboretum

HVAC
Many air filters should be changed or cleaned every three months, or every season. But that’s not the only winterizing needed for your HVAC system. You should have your ductwork checked regularly for holes (whether from vibration or rodents) to make sure the airflow is uninterrupted. If part of your HVAC is in the attic, it may also be home to rats, mice and squirrels who find the warmth of the unit an ideal spot to build a nest.

Swimming Pools
Even if you have a freeze protector among your pool equipment, you’ll want to look at the pump every day to make sure it’s moving water through your pipes. Those pipes, too, can burst if they freeze. Some pool owners drain their equipment in the offseason to prevent busted pipes.

Batteries
It’s always a good idea to on hand a supply of fresh batteries in the event they’re needed for flashlights during a power outage.  If you didn’t replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors during daylight saving time — now is a good time to make the switch.

Winter Weather Fast Facts
According to the National Weather Service, in North Texas, from 1898 to 2022, the average date of the first freeze is Nov. 22. The earliest freeze on record is Oct. 22, 1898, and the latest is a tie for April 13, 1997, and April 13, 1957. From 1991-2020, North Texas averaged 29 freeze days between October and April. Most freeze days occur in January followed by December and February.

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