6,300 county residents left in the cold

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Power grid unable to handle demand

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  • Electric and telephone workers assess damage on Friday, Feb. 12. Crews continue to work on restoring power for thousands of county residents on Tuesday, Feb. 16. — Standard-Radio Post/Samuel Sutton
    Electric and telephone workers assess damage on Friday, Feb. 12. Crews continue to work on restoring power for thousands of county residents on Tuesday, Feb. 16. — Standard-Radio Post/Samuel Sutton
  • Power lines have been damaged by broken tree limbs since Thursday, leaving thousands without power in Gillespie County.
    Power lines have been damaged by broken tree limbs since Thursday, leaving thousands without power in Gillespie County.
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The arctic blast that has plummeted much of Texas into a deep freeze and knocked out power to more than 2 million people across the state left 6,300 in Gillespie County without power as temperatures dipped into single digits again Monday night.

Emergency Management Coordinator Justin Calhoun said 49 people utilized shelters Monday night, 24 of them at Fredericksburg Elementary School.

“We have a shelter at the elementary school and there are multiple shelters at volunteer fire departments across the county,” he said.

He said residents can expect to have problems with power throughout the day and probably the next few days.

“The line crews are working on it constantly,” he said, noting that emergency crews have been called in to assist.

In addition to downed powerlines, the state’s electrical grid has been straining with high demand for power.

“The rolling brownouts that ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) has implemented will continue throughout the day,” he said. “People can expect two to three hours per brownout.”

The City of Fredericksburg reported that rolling power outages for parts of the town will take place every two hours. Power will resume for two hours, then be off for two hours, in an effort to conserve electricity as ERCOT is unable to meet current demand.

Calhoun said there are no formal road closures in the county, but noted roads are iced over and he advises people to stay off of them as much as possible.

A total of 2.5 inches of snow was reported four miles west of Fredericksburg on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Daniel Rech in Harper reported up to five inches at his residence. Stonewall resident Jamey Vogel said the highest snow accumulated at his property was 3.5 inches.

Temperatures in the area got down to about 5 degrees Monday night. The forecast high for Fredericksburg for Tuesday is 27 degrees, followed by a low of 19 overnight and a high near 40 on Wednesday.

 

Emergency declarations

Gillespie County Judge Mark Stroeher declared a local state of disaster for Gillespie County on Sunday, Feb. 14. The declaration will remain in effect for a period of no more than seven days unless renewed by the Commissioners Court of Gillespie County.

Gov. Greg Abbott declared a statewide emergency and, at Abbott’s request, President Joe Biden declared a federal emergency across the state.

The City of Fredericksburg/Gillespie County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was activated on Saturday.

 

Closures

Due to continued dangerous weather conditions, the City of Fredericksburg and Gillespie County Offices remain closed on Tuesday. Officials will continue to monitor weather conditions to determine if offices can reopen Wednesday. City services and facilities, including garbage collection and the Recycling Center and Sanitary Landfill, remain suspended through Tuesday. Weather and road conditions will continue to be evaluated to determine if services and facilities can resume on Wednesday.

Community COVID-19 testing events through Thursday, Feb. 18, have been canceled due to the weather.

Area schools remain closed Tuesday. Fredericksburg ISD will be closed Wednesday, as well as Harper ISD, Heritage School and Ambleside School.

H-E-B has announced it is curtailing its hours due to weather conditions and high demand. Tuesday's Central Texas H-E-B's store hours will be noon - 5 p.m. Store managers will evaluate weather conditions and decide later today when they will open on Wednesday.

Texas Oncology clinics in San Antonio, Kerrville, Fredericksburg and New Braunfels will be closed Tuesday, opening at noon on Wednesday.

 

Conserve power

Fredericksburg’s primary provider of electric power, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), has advised the city that this area of the state may be experiencing brief power outages through Tuesday. The city is contacting all major power users within its service territory about the need to conserve energy. All local electric customers are urged to conserve their power use by following the guidelines established by ERCOT:

• Turn down thermostats to 68-degrees.

• Close shades and blinds to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows.

• Turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances.

• Avoid using large appliances (i.e., ovens, washing machines, etc.).

• Businesses should minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible.

• Large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential production processes.

“We are experiencing record-breaking electric demand due to the extreme cold temperatures that have gripped Texas,” said ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness. “At the same time, we are dealing with higher than-normal generation outages due to frozen wind turbines and limited natural gas supplies available to generating units.”

 

Power gridlock

While crews work through frozen conditions to restore powerlines, that remains only part of the problem providing electricity to homes and businesses across the state. The bigger issue is an electrical grid system not designed to handle the sudden high demand.

According to The Texas Tribune, the state’s electricity grid was designed for high demand during the summer, when air conditioning is used the most. Some of the energy sources that power the grid during the summer are offline during the winter. When people stayed home during the storm over the weekend and demanded record amounts of electricity, the state’s energy system could not keep up.

Additionally, some of the energy sources powering the grid were knocked out by the inclement weather, most of which were facilities run by gas, coal or nuclear energy.

“Most of the plants that went offline during evening and morning today were fueled by one of those sources,” Dan Woodfin, senior director of system operations at ERCOT, told the Tribune on Monday.

Many wind turbines were iced over and also out of commission.

Woodfin said there simply is not enough supply to meet the demand for electricity, which is resulting in rolling blackout and brownouts.

“We have to maintain the balance of supply and demand on the system to maintain the reliability of the system as a whole,” he said. “If we don’t have more supply, the only thing we can do is start to reduce demand.”

ERCOT announced Sunday that it set a winter record demand for power, reaching 69,150 megawatts between 6 and 7 p.m. ERCOT said Monday morning that 30,000 megawatts of power generation had been forced off the system.