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ERCOT asks Texans to conserve energy as freeze continues

Highland Lakes freeze

Frost and even light snowfall covered the Highland Lakes on Jan. 15. The National Weather Service issued a hard freeze warning until Jan. 17. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is asking people to reduce their electricity use from 6-9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16. Curbing power use during peak hours will reduce stress on the state’s power grid and help prevent potential outages, according to a statewide message from ERCOT, which operates the grid. 

Emergency operations were avoided on Monday due to residents’ conservation efforts, according to an ERCOT report.

“Tomorrow’s conservation appeal does not indicate ERCOT is experiencing emergency conditions at this time,” the statement clarified. “ERCOT will remain vigilant and communicate further if conditions change because of continued freezing temperatures and very high demand in the morning hours.”

Monday was a record for winter electricity demand, hitting 75,559 megawatts from 9-10 a.m. compared to the previous record of 74,525 megawatts that was set on Dec. 23, 2022.

Temperatures aren’t expected to get much higher than freezing until Wednesday. Light snow and ice covered Llano and Burnet counties overnight Sunday into Monday morning, and multiple hazardous weather advisories were issued by the National Weather Service.

Burnet and Llano counties are under hard freeze warnings from the NWS until 10 a.m. Wednesday. 

“Frost and freeze conditions will kill crops and other sensitive vegetation, and possibly damage unprotected outdoor plumbing,” reads the warning. “Lowest temperatures are expected Monday night through Tuesday morning and Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.”

Current NWS forecasts show the high for Monday to be about 33 degrees at around 3 p.m. Temperatures should drop back into the teens or lower at night.

The Highland Lakes is also under an NWS wind chill advisory until Wednesday. The advisory could be upgraded to a “warning” if the wind chill factor drops the apparent temperature below zero degrees.

“Lowest wind chills are expected Tuesday morning,” reads the advisory. “Plan on slippery road conditions, especially bridges and overpasses. The hazardous conditions will likely impact the morning commute. (Also plan on) bitterly cold wind chills creating dangerous conditions on exposed skin.”

The possibility of rapid frostbite occurs when the wind chill brings the apparent temperature to minus-25 degrees, according to the NWS, which is unlikely under current conditions.

The Texas Department of Transportation Drive Texas digital map shows all major roadways in Burnet and Llano counties were minimally impacted by ice as of 10 a.m. Monday, but this could change if more precipitation falls.

Current NWS forecasts do not show significant amounts of snow or rain in the coming days.

The Pedernales Electric Cooperative and Central Texas Electric Cooperative are reporting little to no outages in Burnet and Llano counties as of Monday morning.

dakota@thepicayune.com