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January 7, 2014

Texas chill eases, power restored in area

Cooke County — Temperatures are expected to climb in north Texas after a recent blast of arctic air sparked power outages similar to the ones experienced during the bone-chilling winter of 2011.

At least three local power outages may be linked to low temperatures, ONCOR area manager Sabrina Easley said Tuesday.

“Last night we had some outages in Cooke County but I can’t say for a fact they were weather-related,” Easley said.

She said approximately 1,500 Cooke County customers were without power for about an hour while workers repaired damaged equipment.

“Extreme temperatures — either hot or cold — do effect equipment,” she said.

The outages included loss of electricity near FM 3092 — also known as Radio Hill Road — and in the neighborhoods along Lynnwood and Garnett Streets in Gainesville.

Easley said the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) recently urged consumers to cut down on their use of electricity.

“Yesterday morning ERCOT— due to extreme cold — issued a conserve request,” she said. “Luckily today we’re going to warm up and get through this weather event without the rolling brown outs we’ve experienced (in previous winters.)”

Conservation efforts include lowering thermostats a couple of degrees and not using appliances such as washers and dryers until the conservation request has been lifted, Easley said.

“Of course, residents are not asked to turn their heaters completely off,” she said. “But just turning them down a little bit will make a big difference.”

John Walterscheid, member services manager with Cooke County Electric Cooperative in Muenster, said approximately 91 co-op members were without electricity after an outage Sunday night.

“The outage was not due to the cold weather,” Walterscheid said. “It was due to high wind Sunday evening.”

Power remained out for about three hours while workers completed the repair, he said.

Cooke County Electric Cooperative serves 9,579 members in parts of Cooke, Montague, Grayson, Wise and Denton Counties.

Demand for electricity reached a new winter record Tuesday morning, according to an ERCOT news release.

Electric use peaked at 57,277 megawatts (MW) in the hour ending at 8 a.m. Tuesday, the release stated.

Sufficient generation available Monday evening and Tuesday morning served the needs and maintained the desired level of operating reserves, even with demand exceeding Monday’s 54,487 MW morning peak and 56,031 MW evening peak.

Peak demand in winter weather typically occurs between 6 and 9 a.m. and 4-8 p.m.

ERCOT has discontinued a conservation alert which began Monday, when high demand and sudden electric generation outages in the early morning hours caused operating reserves — the electricity available on the system in excess of what is currently being used — to drop below the 2,300 MW trigger for an Energy Emergency Alert.

 “We appreciate the consumer response to our conservation request yesterday, as well as the steps generation and transmission companies in the ERCOT region have taken to prepare for today’s power needs,” Dan Woodfin, director of System Operations, said in the news release.

ERCOT’s previous winter demand record of 57,265 MW was set on Feb. 10, 2011. The all-time record overall was set on Aug. 3, 2011, when demand peaked at 68,305 MW.

Power lines aren’t the only utility implements effected by cold temperatures.

Gainesville City Services Director Ron Sellman said he and his crews were still cleaning up from last month’s ice storm when freezing temperatures caused additional problems for maintenance workers.

Especially hard hit was the city’s water delivery system.

“The number of water main breaks, I would say, have almost doubled since the ice storm,” Sellman said.

Sellman links water main breaks to several factors including shifting ground and power outages.

Arctic air and icy weather conditions also contribute to pot holes, Sellman said, adding, “We continually work on pot holes.”

While extreme cold and temperature fluctuations aren’t unusual in winter, last week’s frigid weather was the result of a circulation known as a polar vortex in the upper levels of the atmosphere.

“(Cold air systems) normally sit up in Canada and the far, far northern regions this time of year,” said Mark Wiley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Southern Regional Headquarters. “This area of cold air has sunk a little bit further south than it normally does and is now retreating up into Canada.”

Wiley said the worst of this cold weather event is over with temperatures expected to climb into the 60s in the coming days.

“Next week looks really, really nice,” he said.

 

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