Two dead in Texas amid subfreezing cold snap

Two dead in Texas amid subfreezing cold snap

Ice storms knocked out almost half the wind-power generating capacity of Texas on Sunday as a rare deep freeze across the state locked up turbine towers while driving electricity demand to record levels, the state's grid operator reported. Bill Parker, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Jackson, said up to three-quarters of an inch (2 centimeters) of ice could accumulate in central MS, bringing the possibility of power outages or falling tree limbs.

The freeze also took a toll on the state's energy industry, by far the country's largest crude producer, shutting oil refineries and forcing restrictions from natural gas pipeline operators. Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) reassured residents on Monday, saying the state's power grid was not compromised by the freezing temperatures, but warned the storm is unprecedented.

While the grid operator was already contending with frozen wind turbines and limited gas supplies to generating units on February 14, a significant number of additional generating units tripped offline when the weather worsened overnight.

"Controlled outages will continue through today and into early tomorrow, possibly all of tomorrow", Dan Woodfin, director of systems operations at ERCOT, said in a briefing on Monday.

An emergency notice issued by the regulator urged customers to limit power usage and prevent an uncontrolled systemwide outage.

Icicles hang on a watch for ice on bridge road sign Monday Feb. 15 2021 in Houston. A winter storm making its way from the southern Plains to the Northeast is affecting air travel
Icicles hung on a watch for ice on bridge road sign Monday Feb. 15 2021 in Houston

The National Weather Service has issued winter storm warnings and ice storm warnings for these areas.

On Sunday, Abbott sought and received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Energy that allows Texas power generators to increase production.

Of the 25 000-plus megawatts of wind-power capacity normally available in Texas, some 12 000 megawatts was out of service as of Sunday morning "due to the winter weather event we're experiencing in Texas", ERCOT spokesperson Leslie Sopko said. Wind is the source for almost a quarter of the state's electricity.

The storm has already brought snow and ice to Texas, where the Associated Press reports that officials are dealing with "rotating power outages" that are affecting more than two million homes and businesses. However, if an outage is longer than 15 minutes, it's likely part of a separate outage not related to the rolling blackouts, the utility said.

The NWS said the Arctic blast will not subside until later this week. "We're not getting a break".

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