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Several states encountering ‘unprecedented’ rolling power blackouts amid winter blast

Winter Weather Missouri
Posted at 2:01 PM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 17:01:06-05

As a significant winter storm sweeps through the United States on Monday, several states have implemented rolling blackouts.

According to the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), utility companies in 14 Central and Southern US states have been told to implement “controlled interruptions” for customers.

In addition to a crippling snow and ice storm hitting areas all the way from the US/Texas border through Maine, record cold has infiltrated regions. In Dallas, the low temperature was 7 on Monday, which shattered the previous record low. Parts of the Midwest are under seeing below zero temperatures.

"In our history as a grid operator, this is an unprecedented event and marks the first time SPP has ever had to call for controlled interruptions of service," said SPP's executive vice president and chief operating officer Lanny Nickell. "It's a last resort that we understand puts a burden on our member utilities and the customers they serve, but it's a step we're consciously taking to prevent circumstances from getting worse, which could result in uncontrolled outages of even greater magnitude."

In the meantime, the Southern Power Pool is encouraging areas seeing record cold to reduce electricity use, both at home and work.

Several power companies have said that power outages for some may last mere minutes, but could last longer in other areas. Power companies also are avoiding cutting power to emergency facilities, such as hospitals.

“We are using all designated power lines for controlled outages so that hospitals and other critical infrastructure remains intact and system stability is preserved,” according to power supplier Oncor. “This means that customers near critical facilities, or those in limited areas where rolling outages won’t take place in order to maintain grid stability, may not experience outages, while those farther from these facilities or areas may be out multiple times or for longer instances.”

What to do when power goes out

The National Weather Service has tips for those who lose power amid record cold.

- Close blinds or curtains to keep in some heat
- Close off rooms to avoid wasting heat
- Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing
- Eat and drink. Food provides energy to warm the body. Avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors

The federal government also has tips to help prepare for power outages here.