What’s the Chance for Winter Storm Power Outages in Texas?

a single flame from a candle used during a power outage

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Unlike the rest of the nation, Texas is a state that maintains its power grid, separate from all other states. That has some advantages as well as disadvantages. This is something that Texas residents discovered during a massive winter storm that occurred in February of 2021. Winter storm power outages do occur all over the country. When they do, it’s common for an increase in demand for electricity to warm households. This usually adds to the problem, because it reduces available electricity for other homes.

Let’s discuss the power outage experienced in Texas during the winter of 2021. Plus, explain why those outages occurred. We’ll provide an update on what Texas has done to ensure this won’t happen again. Finally, steps you can take as a homeowner to prepare for the possibility of an outage.

What Causes Power Outages During a Winter Storm?

Several things can happen that contribute strongly to winter storm power outages felt in localized areas of the country. Many winter storms are accompanied by strong winds, freezing rain, and heavy snowfall. All these elements can easily combine to knock out power stations, and that limits the production of usable energy.

When these conditions combine to make travel difficult, it can be very hard for repair crews to be effective. Sometimes, it hits hard-to-reach areas and that limits the effectiveness of any repair efforts. An extended loss of power quickly becomes dangerous for residents. Specifically, senior residents that live alone. When relocation options are limited, there might be nothing a senior can do but stay put.

During the winter storm of 2021, hundreds of Texans died when half the state was left without power for days. When a household cannot be heated and the temperature stays below freezing, homes simply cannot be kept warm. In addition, it’s very common for unheated pipes to freeze, leaving residents without water. Power surges can damage home appliances and render them unusable.

a wind turbine, a form of renewable energy in front of mountain on the coast

What Caused Power Outages During the Texas Winter Storm of Feb 2021?

The winter storm of February 2021 in Texas resulted in one of the winter storm power outages for the ages. A frigid Arctic air mass descended upon the state at that time and wrought havoc all across the state. At the peak of the storm, more than 4.5 million Texas homes were without electricity. Most of those homes didn’t have any heat. Nearby states Louisiana and Mississippi were affected to a lesser degree as the storm swept through. 

The storm struck on a Sunday evening, with the first effects being felt as a sudden plummeting of temperatures. The quick intake brought temperatures down to below freezing. That triggered an immediate response from area homeowners who tried to heat their homes by turning up the thermostat. Just as this increased demand for electricity occurred, there was a significant outage in power generation. Some of the power stations across Texas were knocked offline by the icy cold conditions. At the same time, several wind turbines were put out of commission by strong winds that disabled them.

Many parts of southern Texas dropped more than 40 degrees below the average temperature for that time of year. Naturally, this causes a huge spike in demand for more power. This additional strain triggered a further reduction of capacity. Many homes in the area lost power for 30 or 40 hours, and some lost power for days. Snowfall and icy road conditions made it very difficult for repair crews to reach damaged areas and equipment. That contributed to the delay in bringing power stations back online. Plus, it caused residents some very uncomfortable days in the meantime.

The storm’s outages showed that Texas thermal plants and natural gas plants are unable to manage the extreme cold. Temperatures did not get above the freezing mark until Thursday of that week. By then, the number of households without power had been reduced to less than 500,000. But the damage was already done.

Have Those Problems Been Fixed?

Since the disaster of winter 2021, Texas state officials have worked diligently to correct some of the problems that led to the extreme winter storm power outages. First, many power plants have been winterized to protect against future Arctic blasts. There’s also better communication between some of the various agencies in the state. Those organizations involved with energy production now have established protocols for communicating more frequently when situations call for it.

Another step that has been taken since the legendary storm of 2021 is that more energy reserves have been set aside. This has provided energy producers with extra power that can be distributed when demand spikes, as it did dramatically during the winter storm. Of course, that does not mean that something like what happened back then could never occur again.

State officials acknowledge that if some factors were to combine all at once, it could cause a power outage again. For that to happen, there would have to be greatly increased demand, a shortage of any reserves, and several plants would have to go offline. This would be possible, of course, during any kind of massive superstorm like the one that hit in 2021. But the state’s power authorities are confident that the grid can withstand almost anything Mother Nature can dish out.

Best Ways to Prepare Your Household for a Winter Storm/potential Outage

The best way to prepare your home for a winter power outage is to begin taking steps in the fall, well before the possible onset of storms. Make a list of any tasks that need to be performed before winter arrives, and then start knocking out those tasks one at a time. Here are some specific areas you need to consider to protect your home and your family.

Winterizing Your Home

In the event of a power outage, you’ll want to be capable of retaining warm air while keeping cold air on the outside. The best way to accomplish this is to ensure proper insulation throughout your home. For instance, you may need additional insulation in the attic or basement. Or, your windows and doors might need weather stripping. Last, you might need shingles replaced on your roof. Homes equipped with a fireplace should make sure the fireplace is clean and functioning properly, so it can be put to use during a power outage.

Food Reserves

When you lose power for hours or days, you may be locked in at your home until conditions improve. That makes it essential to have enough food and water on hand for a supply of several days. The American Red Cross recommends having a 2-week supply of non-perishable food on hand, as well as a gallon of water per person per day. You’re better off over-stocking rather than under-stocking.

Protect the Pipes

If you live in an area that gets frigid routinely during wintertime, the possibility of bursting pipes increases. Power outages adds to this risk. You can protect your home by insulating all external pipes and weatherizing openings that lead to the outside. It’s also a good idea to let your faucet drip overnight to prevent freezing pipes.

Two lit candles sit on a corner table beside a clock in a dark home.

Emergency Lighting

Make sure to stock up on flashlights and batteries. You never know, this could become necessary! If possible, get a supply of hands-free lights capable of illuminating an entire room. A LuminAid lantern has this capability and can be used to brighten up large spaces. As a last result, have some candles on hand for lighting.

Install a Generator

Having a generator in your home is a great idea! This is because it can be a great power source if you have an outage for any length of time. Make sure to educate yourself about the safety issues with using a generator. This includes potential fire hazards, electrocution, carbon monoxide poisoning, and more. Don’t use your generator in an enclosed area. Additionally, follow all guidelines and recommendations issued by the manufacturer.

Contact ONIT Home For Your Home Needs

If you take simple steps like these, you’ll be as prepared as possible for winter storms! The horrors of what could happen, like the infamous Texas winter storm, should motivate you to prepare your household for disaster. At ONIT Home, we specialize in simplifying and demystifying all the home services you need daily, and we can install or repair these systems as needed. We offer solar power systems, water filtration systems, concierge services, security systems, insurance, and more! Contact us today for help with winterizing or preparing your home for a potential storm during the wintertime. Give us a call now at 1-833-433-0331 to get started.