Texas to Overheated Locals: Cut Back on Power to Save Grid

Other parts of South also suffering from sweltering temps, post-storm power outages
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 21, 2023 9:07 AM CDT
Texas to Overheated Locals: Cut Back on Power to Save Grid
Damaged vehicles sit parked Tuesday near a collapsed section of the a parking garage wall that fell during Saturday night's storm in Tulsa, Oklahoma.   (Daniel Shular/Tulsa World via AP)

Texas' power grid operator asked residents Tuesday to voluntarily cut back on electricity due to anticipated record demand on the system, as a heat wave kept large swaths of the state and southern US in triple-digit temperatures. On the last day of spring, the sweltering heat felt more like the middle of summer across the South, where patience was growing thin over outages that have persisted since weekend storms and tornadoes caused widespread damage, per the AP. In the Mississippi capital of Jackson, some residents said Tuesday that they'd been without power and air conditioning for almost 100 hours, which is longer than the outages caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Entergy Mississippi, the state's largest electric utility, said its crews had worked 16-hour shifts since Friday, but some officials expressed doubts about its preparedness. "The delay in restoring power has caused significant hardship for their customers and it is unacceptable," said Brent Bailey, a member on the Mississippi Public Service Commission, the state's energy regulator. The request by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which serves most of that state's nearly 30 million residents, was its first of the year to cut energy consumption. High temperatures in Houston were expected to reach about 100 degrees on Wednesday.

ERCOT said it was "not experiencing emergency conditions," but it noted that the state set an unofficial June record on Monday for energy demand. In the oil patch of West Texas, temperatures in San Angelo soared to an all-time high of 114 degrees on Tuesday, per the National Weather Service. Many Texans have been skeptical of the state's grid since a deadly 2021 ice storm knocked out power to millions of customers for days. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has said improvements since then have made the grid more stable, but those improvement efforts continue to draw scrutiny.

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In neighboring Oklahoma, more than 100,000 customers were eagerly awaiting the restoration of power and AC following weekend storms that downed trees and snapped hundreds of utility poles. Officials say at least one person in Oklahoma has died due to the prolonged outages, which could last into the weekend for some residents. Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday declared a state of emergency because of the weekend's storms, citing damage from the weather and "numerous" downed power lines. In Louisiana, more than 51,000 electricity customers were still without power Tuesday because of the storms that damaged more than 800 structures around Shreveport alone, according to Mayor Tom Arceneaux.

(More heat wave stories.)

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