The Thaw – and Reliable Electricity – Will Be Slow Coming

For many in Dallas, it’s been days since they’ve had a reliable source of power. A winter storm (two, actually) that was predicted to bring below-zero and single-digit temperatures this week brought everything to a crawl.

First, we’ll look at tomorrow’s closures. Dallas ISD announced that school would once again be closed entirely for Thursday and Friday. Highland Park will be closed for the remainder of the week as well.

The Texas Education Agency told school districts earlier this week that they would be able to apply for waivers for the days missed because of the winter weather.

Jesuit Preparatory has closed for the week, as has Ursuline, Hockaday, Parish Episcopal, Episcopal School of Dallas, and Greenhill have not yet announced a decision for Thursday.

Next, where you can go. Rather than replicate someone else’s incredible work, we’re going to direct you to the Instagram account of Dallasites101, where a robust and ever evolving list of places that are open, gas stations that have gas, etc. is being curated.

If you need a warm place to go so you can charge laptops and cell phones or even shower, Semones Family YMCA is open until 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The YMCA will remain available as a warming center until Friday. Keep an eye on our Twitter accounts for more information about Thursday warming centers. The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center is open around the clock, with tables, chairs, light snacks, drinks and Wi-Fi.

Our sister publication, D Magazine, is also curating a list of additional warming centers.

Now, if you’re sitting in a warm house, here are some ways you can help people that aren’t. D Magazine’s Emily Heft wrote a compendium on how to help some of the most vulnerable in the city during this deadly cold snap.

And finally, we wish we had good news to tell you about when we’ll all be sure we’ll have electricity reliably again.

The National Weather Service is warning drivers to be cautious – just because the snow and ice have stopped falling doesn’t mean the temperatures have risen enough to make driving less treacherous.

During a Wednesday briefing, ERCOT said that it was hopeful that as other areas in the state warm up, more generators will come online. But until then, outages will continue to happen.

Best case scenario, they said, would be that on Thursday providers can get back to rotating outages that last no more than 30 minutes. But it looks more likely that outages lasting hours will be the rule, not the exception.

At that same briefing, ERCOT representatives said that 46,000 megawatts of electrical generating capacity was offline at the time, compared to 45,000 on Tuesday and 34,000 on Wednesday. Of that capacity that is offline, 28,000 megawatts are natural gas, coal, or nuclear, and 18,000 is wind or solar.

Help in the way of federal aid is also coming. During the daily White House press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the Biden administration is coordinating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and states impacted by the weather.

“FEMA has supplied generators to Texas and is preparing to move diesel into the state to ensure the continued availability of backup power — which of course is a major issue on the ground — to key critical infrastructure, including communications, hospitals, and water,” Psaki said, adding that water and blankers would also be provided. 

It does look like the fallout from the dangerous outages will continue for some time, with Gov. Greg Abbott vowing to make it a legislative priority, as well as several state lawmakers.

“How is it that in a state with the 9th largest economy in the world, with such an enormous capacity for power generation, so many have been left in the cold?” asked State Sen. Nathan Johnson. “The answers won’t be simple. There won’t be a single culprit or regulation or subsidy or sector or thermometer reading that accounts for it all, nothing that offers an easy fix to our recurring problem of power demand exceeding power supply. But that’s why we get elected, after all – to figure it out.”

Turner

“As the scale of the power loss across Texas is becoming clearer, it has also become clearer to me that we as a state were not prepared for this,” said State Rep. John Turner. “We need to understand how this happened and make whatever changes are needed to ensure it does not happen again.”

State Rep. Morgan Meyer pointed out that Texas Speaker Dade Phelan has already set a date to begin discussing the matter.

“Based on the widespread and ongoing outages, it’s clear we need answers for what went wrong with ERCOT’s handling of a weather event of this magnitude,” said State Rep. Morgan Meyer. “Speaker Phelan already has scheduled a joint meeting on February 25 of the House State Affairs and Energy Resources Committees to review the series of events that left more than 2 million Texans without power.

Meyer

“This is unacceptable, and I look forward to working with my house colleagues and the Governor to address this issue immediately, and to make necessary reforms that protect Texans.”

“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” Abbott said on Tuesday. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable. Reviewing the preparations and decisions by ERCOT is an emergency item so we can get a full picture of what caused this problem and find long-term solutions. I thank my partners in the House and Senate for acting quickly on this challenge, and I will work with them to enhance Texas’ electric grid and ensure that our state never experiences power outages like this again.”

We’ll have more about the grid, why this happened, and what legislators are saying soon – when our electricity is just a little more reliable. In the meantime, we will be providing near-instant updates throughout the week on our Twitter and Facebook pages. Follow Preston Hollow PeopleFacebook and Twitter and Park Cities PeopleTwitter and Facebook.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, deputy editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at [email protected].

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