Thousands of people were without power as the Arctic blast rushed into the south-central US state of Texas, bringing freezing temperatures expected to last through Christmas.
As of 11:00 p.m. Central Time on Thursday (0600 GMT Friday), more than 91,500 customers lost power, according to the power outage tracking site poweroutage.us.
Large parts of the northern Texas hub of Dallas were seen in the dark on Thursday night. A hard freeze warning went into effect in the evening, with temperatures dropping into the single digits Fahrenheit with winds gusting over 40 mph, Xinhua News Agnecy reported.
The AccuWeather forecast that pockets of even stronger winds are possible in northern Texas by the coming weekend, possibly up to 70 or 80 mph.
Several other major Texas cities, including Houston and the capital, Austin, also felt frigid conditions.
AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jon Porter noted that this week’s freeze would be the “biggest test” of the power grid since the deadly February 2021 winter storm.
“The extreme cold, even for a shorter time period, is expected to once again be a test of resiliency of the Texas electrical grid, given expected surges in energy demand as people heat their homes and businesses,” Porter said.
Earlier this week, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the organization responsible for the vast majority of the state’s electrical power supply, said that the state grid has enough capacity to keep up with the demand for power during the winter storm.
However, Texans are using more electricity than the council had forecast. The Thursday peak had been expected to be about 70,000 megawatts, but on Thursday night, Texans already used about 74,000 megawatts, data from the organization’s website showed.
Thousands of electrical facilities, including stations and main feeder lines, underwent thorough air and ground inspections to prepare for high demand and cold temperatures, Oncor Electric Delivery Company, the largest transmission and distribution electric utility in the state, said on its website, warning that people should stay away from downed power lines and call 911 when they see them.
The company suggested that residents have a storm safety kit ready with batteries, a flashlight, and a portable radio and ensure all electronics are fully charged to prepare for a possible power outage.
In Houston, the largest city in the state, five warming centres opened on Thursday, offering blankets, water, ready-to-eat meals, personal protective equipment and comfort kits to those in need.
The winter storm in 2021 killed more than 200 people across Texas and pushed the state grid to the brink of total failure. AccuWeather estimates that Texas suffered 130 billion U.S. dollars in economic damage due to the storm that led to widespread blackouts across the state.