WAVERLY – Parts of the country experiencing power outages after a deadly blast of winter have called upon some Midwest utilities for help.
Waverly Utilities self-generated electricity for 24 hours from Tuesday to Wednesday to aid southern states experiencing rolling blackouts caused by the extreme cold weather conditions.
“With our self-generating ability, as long as fuel is available, we can isolate the community from grid-reliability issues that we witnessed happen in the southern states,” said WU CEO Darrel Wenzel.
Waverly Utilities maintains 36 megawatts of dual fuel -- diesel and natural gas -- generators, enough electricity to power the city of Waverly.
Utilities from Minnesota to Texas, including some in Iowa, implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on strained power grids. Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities covering 14 states from the Dakotas to the Texas Panhandle, said rolling blackouts are no longer needed, but it asked customers to conserve energy until at least 10 p.m. Saturday.
Cedar Falls Utilities and MidAmerican Energy this week asked customers to limit energy consumption as much as possible through Friday at least.
Power has been restored to all but a half-million homes and businesses in Texas, down from about 3 million a day earlier. But utility officials warned limited rolling blackouts could still occur, and many are still without power safe drinking water after winter storms ravaged the state’s utilities and overwhelmed the electrical grid this week, leaving millions shivering in the cold.
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The storms also left more than 320,000 homes and businesses without power in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. About 70,000 power outages persisted after an ice storm in eastern Kentucky, while nearly 67,000 were without electricity in West Virginia.
Because frigid conditions are uncommon in the southern states, their infrastructure was not built to withstand below-freezing temperatures, causing natural gas wells to freeze. As electric production plunged, demand soared to heat homes and businesses. This shortage was exacerbated by lower-than-anticipated renewable electricity being produced due to similar failures caused by extreme cold, according to a release from WU.
As some parts of Texas began to slowly warm up, others dealt with another round of snowfall on Thursday.
Del Rio, located along the U.S.-Mexico border in the southwestern part of the state, had received nearly 10 inches of snow on Thursday, surpassing the city’s record for snowfall in one day, according to the National Weather Service. And snow was still falling.
Officials in Del Rio asked residents to conserve electricity or risk having the local system lose power.
About 150 miles east of Del Rio, residents in San Antonio also dealt with snowfall and frigid temperatures. Forecasters called for up to 3 inches of snow in the city.
Snow and ice moved into the Appalachians, northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania, and later the Northeast. Back-to-back storms left 15 inches of snow in Little Rock, Arkansas, tying a 1918 record, the National Weather Service said.
The extreme weather was blamed for the deaths of over three dozen people, some while trying to keep warm. In the Houston area, one family died from carbon monoxide as their car idled in their garage. A woman and her three grandchildren were killed in a fire that authorities said might have been caused by a fireplace they were using.