State officials warned residents Wednesday to prepare their homes and vehicles for the coming freeze while trying to reassure on-edge Texans that the electric grid will stay online.
Temperatures are expected to plummet Thursday into single digits — with even lower wind chills. Leaders urged residents to check their car tires and batteries to be sure no one gets stranded on the road, to burn wood or gas inside only if there’s proper ventilation, and to insulate pipes.
“This is a dangerous storm coming our way,” said Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management. “The temperatures will be extremely cold and the winds will be high, which will generate some very dangerous wind chills.”
Forecasters predicted life-threatening minus-10-degree wind chills in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and wind chills as low as minus 30 degrees in the Panhandle, Kidd said. Aside from light precipitation in the Panhandle, the state was expected to stay dry.
The lack of concerns over icy roads and infrastructure makes this a different threat than the 2021 Winter Storm Uri, which overwhelmed the state’s main electric grid and killed hundreds of people. Officials are promising that, this time, the power will stay on.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the grid that powers most of Texas, and the Public Utility Council made improvements after Uri, such as ensuring natural gas-fired plants have additional sources of fuel on site and improving communications among electricity regulators, oil and gas regulators, and the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
“The grid is ready and reliable,” said Peter Lake, chair of the Public Utility Commission, which regulates grid operators, on Wednesday. “We expect to have sufficient generation to meet demand throughout this entire winter weather event.”
ERCOT officials expected power demand to be highest from Thursday night through Saturday morning. The peak — near 70,000 megawatts — was predicted Friday morning, when grid operators expected to have nearly 85,000 megawatts of supply if all goes as planned.
“We do expect to have sufficient generation supply to meet the forecasted demands,” said Pablo Vegas, ERCOT’s president and CEO.
Of course, in an extreme scenario, the grid could still face rolling blackouts or tight conditions, and ERCOT could still issue a conservation notice. There may also be local power outages that have nothing to do with the viability of the power grid, caused by things such as wind knocking trees onto power lines.
Gov. Greg Abbott said he knew that state leaders needed to earn back the public trust after 2021’s deadly outages. He said he believed they started to do that by meeting surging demand over the summer.
“I think trust will be earned over the next few days,” he said Wednesday.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/12/21/texas-wind-chill-power-grid/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.
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