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More Than 2 Million Texans Without Power Due To Rolling Outages From Historic Winter Storm

Cedar Hill Street in Oak Cliff.
Rick Holter
/
KERA News
Cedar Hill Street in Oak Cliff.

Get the latest updates on how the extreme cold weather and heavy snow forecast for the next few days is affecting North Texas.

North Texas is experiencing what will almost certainly be the coldest cold snap so far this century, with lows in the single digits and wind chills well below zero. Temperatures haven't dropped below 10 degrees in Dallas since 1990, and haven't gone below zero since 1930.

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.

—Associated Press, KERA and Houston Public Media

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.

City Of Fort Worth Issues Boil Water Notice For Northside Residents

The city is urging its northside residents to boil their water before consumption due to a power outage and loss of water pressure at a water treatment plant.

The Eagle Mountain Water Plant and raw water pump station on Bowman Roberts Road has been without power for over two hours due to rolling blackouts.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is requiring the city to notify residents of north Fort Worth to boil their water before activities like washing, brushing their teeth and drinking.

The city said water should be boiled for two minutes, or bottled water should be used.

Officials will notify customers when the boil water notice is no longer in effect and water is safe again for consumption.

Contact the water utility at 817-392-4477 or email MyWaterAccount@FortWorthTexas.gov with questions.

Dallas City Council Member Urges Residents, Non-Essential Businesses To Limit Electricity Use

Adam Bazaldua, who represents District 7 on the Dallas City Council, on Monday urged residents and non-essential businesses to conserve electricity use during the winter storm. He said residents need to do what they can to avoid overwhelming the power grid.

“We have thousands of residents experiencing power outages, many with elders and/or young children and it is critical for us to prioritize the safety and well-being of all Dallas citizens and that will require diligence and sacrifice from us all,” he said.

Bazaldua urged business owners to work remotely if possible and shut off any electronics that aren’t needed, including decorative signs or lights. He said the lights at the Omni Hotel will remain off through Friday.

Gov. Abbott Announces Federal Emergency Declaration For Severe Weather

Abbott announced Thursday that the White House has issued a Federal Emergency Declaration for Texas in response to severe weather across the state. The governor had requested the declaration on Saturday.

“I thank President Biden for quickly issuing a Federal Emergency Declaration for Texas as we continue to respond to severe winter weather conditions throughout the state,” Abbott said. “This disaster declaration provides Texas with additional resources and assistance that will help our communities respond to this winter weather."

The emergency declaration allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide direct federal assistance, emergency care and sheltering in the state.

Winter Storm Keeps Ambulances Busy

MedStar, the ambulance service for several communities in Tarrant County, said it had responded to more than 200 emergency service calls by 11:15 a.m. Monday, a 37% increase from the same time period the previous Monday.

Several calls were related to power outages and patients whose at-home oxygen devices weren’t working due to a lack of power. MedStar has treated 19 patients for hypothermia.

—Eric Aasen

TxDOT Monitoring Highways: 'Stay Home If Possible'

Many Texans are waiting out the winter storm at home, but the Texas Department of Transportation continues to monitor roads and highways. Patrick Clarke, a TxDOT spokesman, encourages Texans to visit DriveTexas.org to get information on highway conditions. Clarke said at least 415 crew members were on rotating shifts as the storm continues to pass through North Texas.

TxDOT's Dallas district says crews are plowing roads and treating icy patches, but travel remains strongly discouraged. Bridges and overpasses are especially vulnerable, TxDOT officials say. "Although snow is slowing down in our area, the effects will be felt for days due to extremely low temperatures," TxDOT said on Twitter. "Stay home if possible."

—Ana Perez

Wind Chill Warning Issued

The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill warning for North Texas through Tuesday afternoon. Wind chills were as low as -18 in parts of Fort Worth Monday morning.

Extreme wind chills will become life-threatening to people and animals outside without adequate warmth or shelter, the weather service says. Texans are encouraged to avoid outdoor activities.

The arctic air has also swept significant snow and ice into a region unaccustomed to this kind of weather.

Hundreds of flights have been canceled and officials are telling people to stay off the roads.

Flavio Moreira of Dallas said he doesn’t have much experience driving in these conditions.

“We drove once in Colorado through the Rockies in a blizzard. So that’s as much experience as I’ve had,” he said, laughing. “So yeah, pretty concerned.”

The White House has declared a federal emergency so agencies can coordinate their response.

—Bret Jaspers

DART Suspends Rail Operations

Dallas Area Rapid Transit suspended all rail service through Wednesday, Feb. 17. All DART bus routes will operate on a Saturday schedule, including a limited service added on local routes 63 and 362. The Dallas Streetcar will not operate, but there will be a shuttle bus running to and from EBJ Union Station and the Bishop Arts District, making all stops.

Trinity Railway Express will also be suspended, starting Monday, Feb. 15 at 10 p.m. to Thursday, Feb. 18. For passengers connecting to DART services, rail operations are suspended until the beginning of service on Thursday, Feb. 18 as well.

Some DART transit centers will be open to assist customers. They are:

  • Addison Transit Center (Addison)
  • Bernal/Singleton Transfer Location (Dallas)
  • Central Business District (CBD) West Transfer Center (Dallas)
  • Cockrell Hill Transfer Location (Cockrell Hill)
  • Downtown Garland Station (Garland)
  • Downtown Irving/Heritage Crossing Station (Irving)
  • Hampton Station (Dallas)
  • Illinois Station (Dallas)
  • J.B. Jackson, Jr. Transit Center (Dallas)
  • Ledbetter Station (Dallas)
  • Parker Road Station (Plano)
  • Red Bird Transit Center (Dallas)
  • South Garland Transit Center (Garland)

DART Paratransit will be operating holiday service Monday through Wednesday. This means all subscription trips will be canceled, with the exception of dialysis service. Customers who need to book trips for Monday through Wednesday can contact reservations at 214-515-7272 or through the web portal.

More information about DART’s Severe Winter Weather Operating Plans is available here. TRE will continue to monitor the weather conditions across the North Texas area. Passengers can register for TRE Alerts at www.trinityrailwayexpress.org.

Utility Commission Echoes Call For Conserving Electricity

The Public Utility Commission of Texas joined the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in calling for electricity conservation.

“The lowest temperatures Texas has seen in decades necessitate a shared response across the state, from households to factories,” said commission Chairman DeAnn Walker. “Along with the tools ERCOT uses to maintain the reliability of the grid, common sense conservation also plays a critical role in our state’s endurance of this challenge.”

Tips for reducing electricity use include:

  • Turning down thermostats to 68-degrees or lower.
  • Closing shades and blinds to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows.
  • Turning off and unplugging non-essential lights and appliances.
  • Avoiding use of large appliances (i.e., ovens, washing machines, etc.).

Businesses should also minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible or even consider reducing non-essential production processes.

Flights Canceled At DFW, Love Field

Hundreds of flights at DFW International Airport and Love Field have been canceled, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines has canceled almost 300 flights at DFW while Dallas-based Southwest Airlines has canceled almost all flights from Love Field, the News reports.

Dallas Love Field spokesman Chris Perry told the News it could be Tuesday before airlines resume “bigger operations” before more snow is anticipated to arrive later in the week.

“With the early cancellations, we’re hopeful passengers will confirm their flight with their airline to avoid being stranded,” Perry said. “For those that are stuck, we’ll have cots, blankets and pillows available in the terminal.”

Snow Begins Falling Sunday

North Texas woke up to falling snow and sleet Sunday morning. Accumulations are expected to be about an inch Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, and more is expected overnight. The high temperature today will be in the 20s, and the low Sunday night will be in the single digits. A Winter Storm Warning is in effect for North Texas until 6 p.m. Monday.

National Weather Service Fort Worth Weather Briefing

A Glazed Saturday Morning

Some North Texans awoke Saturday to iced-over neighborhood streets and slick highway bridges and overpasses.

Most of that ice melted by the early afternoon, when the sun peeked through and temperatures inched past freezing.

Forecasters, though, say it was just a brief respite. The National Weather Service has issued a stunning winter storm warning for almost all of Texas.

In Dallas-Fort Worth, look for light snow starting overnight tonight, with the heavy stuff hitting Sunday evening along with gusty winds and plummeting temperatures. When it's all over, they project four to eight inches of snow, possibly over a glaze of early freezing precipitation.

Then things get really cold. The forecast low for Monday night in Dallas is 4, with northerly gusts up to 25 miles per hour and wind chills hitting 15 below zero.

In fact, the thermometer isn't expected to reach freezing again until Friday — after another batch of snow predicted for Wednesday.

The National Weather Service in Fort Worth's graphic forecast calls for a winter storm warning through 6 p.m. Monday.
NWS Fort Worth

Some Vaccination Sites Close

Parkland Health & Hospital System is closing the Ellis Davis Field House and Eastfield Community College in Mesquite will be closed Feb. 15 and 16. Those with appointments will be contacted with instrucitons.

The vaccine clinics at Parkland Memorial Hospital and the Outpatient Clinic will be closed Feb. 14 and 15. The Fair Park vaccination hub in Dallas will be closed through Feb. 15.

All of Tarrant County's vaccine sites will be closed Feb. 15.

Governor Declares Disaster For Entire State

Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for all 254 Texas counties in response to extreme cold and snowfall expected across the state.

"These resources will help us respond to this severe winter weather and keep our communities safe," Abbott said in a statement. "The State of Texas remains in close contact with officials on the ground and will provide any additional resources and support that are needed."

As part of the declaration, Texas Division of Emergency Management has deployed the and array of resources around the state:

  • Texas Department of Transportation: Winter weather roadway preparation equipment and response crews as well as road condition monitoring.
  • Texas Highway Patrol, Texas Department of Public Safety: Courtesy patrols to assist stranded motorists along major travel corridors.
  • Texas Military Department: Winter weather equipment and personnel to support Amarillo, Wichita Falls, Abilene, Fort Worth, and Waco to assist in stranded motorist operations.
  • Texas Parks and Wildlife Department: Four wheel drive vehicles and personnel to assist with stranded motorists along major travel corridors.
  • Texas A&M Forest Service: Motor graders and personnel to assist with snow/ice clearance and saw crews to assist with removal of downed trees.
  • Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, Texas Task Force 1: Search and rescue equipment and teams.
  • Public Utility Commission of Texas: Monitoring and reporting of power outages and monitoring of any issues impacting the power generation capability in the state.
  • Texas Animal Health Commission: Response equipment and personnel to address livestock concerns due to frigid temperatures.

DART Moves To Modified Schedule Starting Sunday Night

With heavy snow expected later this weekend, DART announced it's implementing Operating Scenario 1 of its Severe Winter Weather Operating Plans.

The alternate schedule will begin Sunday at 11 p.m. and continue through all of Monday.

Under the schedule, DART Rail operates mostly within the boundaries of the LBJ loop using a combination of rail and shuttle buses, and the Dallas Streetcar closes down.

According to DART, starting at Sunday 11 p.m. trains operate between these stations:

  • Red Line: LBJ/Central - 8th & Corinth
  • Blue Line: LBJ/Skillman - 8th & Corinth
  • Green Line: Farmers Branch - Lawnview
  • Orange Line: Irving Convention Center - LBJ/Central

There will be shuttle buses for customers using stations outside of these limits.

Map showing DART scenario one modified schedule.
DART

On Monday, DART bus routes will operate on normal Saturday schedules with limited service added on express routes 206, 208, 278, 283, and local routes 63 and 362.

All DART Paratransit subscription trips will be canceled for Monday, with the exception of dialysis service. Customers who need to book trips for Monday can contact reservations at (214) 515-7272 or online at www.dart.org/ridepara.

DART says it will continue to monitor the weather conditions across the area and make any additional necessary changes to keep passengers and employees safe. Get the latest news by registering for DART Alerts at www.dart.org.

Preparing The Roadways

The North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) says they'll continue to prepare roads for the additional ice and snow expected later this weekend.

NTTA said crews began treating roads on Tuesday and will continue over the next few days as near record low temperatures are forecast for later this weekend.

The organization said it uses brine — a heavily salted liquid solution that dries and helps treat roads prior to inclement winter weather.

The Texas Department of Transportation says in North Texas rotating 12-hour shifts of 453 crew members are working on a 24/7 schedule to pretreat main roads, bridges and overpasses.

Starting on Saturday, the department's Dallas district 24-hour Emergency Operations Center will be activated.

Freezing Temperatures To Continue Through The Weekend

record cold
NWS Fort Worth

A Winter Storm Watch is in effect for North Texas from late Saturday through Monday.

The National Weather Service's Fort Worth office forecasts cloudy skies and cold temperatures with highs from the upper 20s to the mid 30s on Friday. Wind chills will be in the teens and 20s.

Temperatures are expected to plunge even further on Saturday, when some areas north of Dallas-Fort Worth may reach the single digits at night. A wintery mix of freezing drizzle, sleet and snow mix is possible Saturday night.

Jason Dunn is a National Weather Service meteorologist who said the last time the region hit 10 degrees or below was 1996.

"It looks like it’s gonna be cold enough to where if you've got exposed pipes on the outside of the homes, those need to be wrapped up and protected, hoses disconnected, and things like that,” he said. “Pets, always gotta keep your pets indoors, because it’s gonna be too cold for them to stay outside."

The National Weather Service is predicting snow Sunday night through Monday, with with 2 to 7 inches possible or even more.

State Expected To Set Record For Energy Use

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) says if temperatures continue to drop, it could set a new record for peak electric demand by Monday.

The current record of 65,915 MW was set on Jan. 17, 2018.

The council issued an extreme cold weather notice for Feb.11-16. CEO Bill Magness said the state is expected to experience some of the coldest weather in decades.

“With temperatures rapidly declining, we are already seeing high electric use and anticipating record-breaking demand in the ERCOT region,” he said.

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