Fort Worth

January 5, 2014

Bone-chilling temperatures grip North Texas

Though no outages are expected, ERCOT is urging customers to conserve energy.

As the Arctic air settled in across North Texas Monday morning, temperatures plunged into the teens, wind chills dropped to the single digits and energy consumption soared across Texas.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the eletric grid in Texas, briefly issued an Energy Emergency Alert 2, the last step before rotating power outages would be implemented, early Monday morning. ERCOT canceled the warning about possible outages shortly after 9:30 a.m. Monday.

ERCOT said demand for electricity today reached 55,486 MW between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. Monday. As a result, ERCOT issued an Energy Emergency Alert and had some entities, which contract with ERCOT to reduce their electric use when needed, cut their usage.

“Cold weather will continue through tomorrow morning, and we will continue to monitor conditions closely,” said Dan Woodfin, ERCOT director of system operations. “Consumers are encouraged to use electricity wisely, and a conservation alert remains in effect throughout the ERCOT region.“

ERCOT was asking residents to set their thermostats no higher than 68 degrees and turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances. It was also advising individuals not to run large appliances such as washers, dryers and electric ovens during peak energy demand hours - between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.and 8 p.m. Businesses are also advised to minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible.

At DFW Airport, the low temperature hit 15 degrees, making it the coldest weather since the Super Bowl Ice Storm in February 2011. On Feb. 2, 2011, it dropped to 13 degrees and on Feb. 10, 2011, it dropped to 15. While it was not a record-breaker — that came in 1912 when it got down to 11 degrees — it hasn’t been this cold on this date since 1924 when it also reached 15.

But Alliance Airport dropped to 10 degrees shortly after 7 a.m. Monday and recorded a wind chill of minus 1. At DFW Airport, the coldest wind chill recorded was 1 degree above zero.

A wind chill advisory expired at 9 a.m. as temperatures started to climb. At DFW Airport, the official reporting station, Monday’s high is expected to reach 33 degrees.

The winter weather in the Midwest and Northeast was causing more than 3,000 flight cancellations nationwide. American Airlines , the largest carrier at DFW Airport, was advising customers they could change flights to affected areas in the the Midwest, Northeast and Canada.

Temperatures will be back in the teens Tuesday morning across North Texas and concerns about energy consumption will continue as some parts of the state, including Houston, are expected to see colder temperatures on Tuesday morning than they did on Monday morning.

The colder weather this winter across much of the United States can be attributed to a dip in the jet stream that has brought cold air south across the Midwest and down into Texas. But National Weather Service meteorologist Jesse Moore said it’s having implications beyond the U.S.

“The jet stream has basically dived southeast of the Rockies and it heads back north off of the East Coast,” Moore said. “They’ve been getting big storms in the United Kingdom. We’ve gotten the cold air here but the jet stream pushes back up north toward Europe, giving them warmer, windier weather.”

While temperatures will be in the teens again Monday night, the Artic air will give way to milder temperatures the rest of the week. Highs will be in the 40s on Tuesday, the 50s on Wednesday and back in the 60s on Friday. Forecasters are also predicting a chance of rain from Wednesday through Saturday after the freezing temperatures have left the area.

“We actually start warming up tomorrow, but it will be more noticeable on Wednesday,” Moore said.

Before the warmer weather arrives, residents are coping with the cold as best they can.

On Sunday, Joe Christian bundled up with layers of clothes, gloves and a hat, but he was still cold.

“When it gets this cold, you can’t have enough clothing to stay warm,” Christian said Sunday at the Union Gospel Mission as he prepared for the frigid temperatures in a shelter.

He wasn’t alone. Dozens of people headed for Tarrant County shelters Sunday as the Arctic front blanketed the area with ice-cold temperatures, gusty north winds and dangerous wind chills.

MedStar officials said Sunday that extra blankets were being placed on ambulances.

“We’ll be in close contact with the homeless shelters,” said MedStar spokesman Matt Zavadsky on Sunday.

With the polar temperatures, officials expected large crowds at the three main shelters in the homeless district — the Presbyterian Night Shelter, Union Gospel Mission and the Salvation Army.

“Anytime it gets under 40 degrees, we’ll see them come,” said Don Shisler, president of the Union Gospel Mission. “We have extra cots.”

Fort Worth city officials opened an emergency shelter Sunday evening for the homeless and others who needed a place to stay at the Bertha Collins Community Center, 1501 N. Martin Luther King Freeway.

“We used it during the ice storm last month and a couple of other times after that because of cold temperatures,” said Otis Thornton, Fort Worth’s homelessness program director.

The temperature Sunday reached 40 degrees, but Christian was preparing for the cold.

“I planned ahead — that’s why I came to the shelter early,” said Christian, who noted that he arrived Sunday afternoon and didn’t have to stand in the cold. “I heard it’s going to be this way for 48 hours so I plan to be here on Monday night.”

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