Texans from Lubbock to Longview shivered under single-digit temperatures as their week began, with snow and ice creating dangerous road conditions throughout the state.
Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for all 254 Texas counties and urged residents to stay alert to changing weather conditions. The Texas Division of Emergency Management deployed resources from various state agencies to prepare roadways, assist motorists, remove downed trees and perform search-and-rescue operations if necessary.
State officials with both the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and the Public Utility Commission asked residents to conserve as much power as possible due to the record demand for electricity caused by the record low temperatures.
“The lowest temperatures Texas has seen in decades necessitate a shared response across the state, from house holds to factories,” said PUC 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.”
The harsh weather, which in much of the state could continue until the weekend, means more Texans are relying on space heaters. “But be cautious,” said Orlando Hernandez, the state fire marshal. “In the past few years, several fatal Texas fires were started by space heaters.”
Hernandez offered four tips for space heater safety:
• Inspect a heater before you use it. Make sure there are no cracked or broken plugs or loose connections.
• Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet.
• Keep your space heater at least three feet from anything that can burn.
• Turn off your space heaters before you leave the room or go to bed. Look for models that shut off automatically when tipped over.
About 80% of home heating fire fatalities nationally involve space heaters, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Gary Borders is a veteran awardwinning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span.