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Major Winter Storm All But Shuts Down Texas


Of all the states hit by brutal winter weather this week, Texas is hit especially hard. Subzero wind chills have reached as far south as the Gulf Coast. KERA's Bret Jaspers reports.

BRET JASPERS, BYLINE: A few souls braved the slick Dallas roads. But others, like Jonathan Williamson, said there was no way they would try driving.

JONATHAN WILLIAMSON: My boss is in California, and he was like, you need to go into work today. And I was like, absolutely not. You could fire me, but I am not going into work.

JASPERS: The state of Texas almost completely shut down a task made slightly simpler due to Monday's federal holiday. The big story, however, was the large number of people without power. Dallas denizens Vince Guzman and Sonia Isaguirre ventured out for brunch on Monday, figuring they might as well find a warmer place than their powerless home.

VINCE GUZMAN: And they said it was going to come back on in about maybe 15 or 45 minutes. But now they've said - they sent another email, so now it's going to be about four to six hours. So...

SONIA ISAGUIRRE: It's been out since 4:30 this morning.

GUZMAN: Yeah. So we're outside, just trying to stay warmer than inside, we feel.


GUZMAN: So might as well get used to the cold and go indoors and, you know, snuggle up.

JASPERS: Could be a long snuggle. The nonprofit that manages the state's main power grid expected controlled outages into Tuesday, maybe all day Tuesday. Dan Woodfin is senior director of system operations at the firm called the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT.

DAN WOODFIN: This event was well beyond kind of the design parameters for a typical or even an extreme Texas winter.

JASPERS: Demand for power is spiking, but supply was even lower than expected. That's because some coal, gas, wind and nuclear generation went offline, according to ERCOT. So people who experienced an outage often got a much longer one than the 45 minutes regulators originally planned.

WOODFIN: They can't rotate through them and still reduce the demand by the amount that we need to maintain reliability.

JASPERS: The prolonged power outages prompted cities like Fort Worth to send robocalls of advice to their residents


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Until the power is restored, to stay warm inside your home, we ask that you wear multiple layers, stuff towels or blankets under the cracks of the doors and windows, close your blinds and close off rooms to avoid wasting heat.

JASPERS: Officials are asking residents with power to conserve. Texas's governor, Greg Abbott, said the National Guard would do welfare checks and that over 130 warming centers were going up across the state. And the cold week has just begun. More snow is on the way. Dallas resident Susan Boyer made a contingency plan to go to her stepdaughter's place in case the power stayed out.

SUSAN BOYER: They had one short brownout early this morning, so I will definitely give the roads a try at some point and go stay with them if needed.

JASPERS: Hundreds have stayed at Dallas's Convention Center in recent days, and although Vince Guzman and Sonia Isaguirre didn't have power, they did have cell service to access the Internet.

GUZMAN: I'm good on Internet, so I'm going to go back and, you know, do some Netflix.


ISAGUIRRE: And chill?

GUZMAN: And chill. And stay real close.

JASPERS: Hey, any way to stay warm. Forecasters don't expect normal temperatures until the weekend.

For NPR News, I'm Bret Jaspers in Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bret Jaspers