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Thousands of Texans met with power and gas outages during cold snap, experts share possible reasons

The most recent outages aren't connected to a problem with the state's power supply but rather to what happens to power after it gets sent to utility companies.

AUSTIN, Texas — With the colder temperatures and strong wind gusts, it's no surprise people may lose power as power lines face the elements.

However, around 100,000 Texans faced outages Thursday night into Friday, with many saying they feel it comes down to their specific utility companies.

"It came back on and lasted like I said, three or four minutes, went off for, what, maybe 10 seconds? And it did that literally all night long," said Margie Reed of Walburg.

Margie and her husband Stephen are Oncor Electric customers.

They said as temperatures continually drop, communication with the company was unreliable, and they went 21 hours with no power before it came back on Friday evening.

Stephen said they had even been sent around 14 texts, each time saying the restoration period had been pushed back.

Energy consultant Doug Lewin said the most recent electricity outages have to do with weather, but the prolonged outages aren't connected to a problem with the state's power supply. Rather, it's what happens to power after it gets sent to utility companies.

"The distribution grid is part of the grid. It is not part of the transmission grid or the bulk grid," said Lewin, president of Stoic Energy Consulting. "What you're dealing with in a situation like what's going on in Williamson County, it's on the distribution grid. It's after that power has been stepped down."

He said a lot of these issues also have to do with Texas building standards. He said many homes aren't built with proper insulation and retrofitting is key when it comes to keeping heat inside the home.

With the lack of insulation, once power is restored, it causes the grid to have to work much harder as everyone is coming back on at once and using their utilities at full capacity.

He even points to alternative methods of energy like solar power as a good option for families in Texas wanting to avoid grid inconsistency.

The Reed family said they just want to see accountability from their provider. Since May of last year, they say they've dealt with 18 outages.


"Half the neighborhood has Bartlett Electric. And the other half, which is our side, is Oncor. And through this whole ordeal, the other side that has Bartlett Electric, they haven't skipped a beat," said Stephen.

Lewin said moving forward, it is best for customers to show up to public meetings and express the issues they're facing.

"Show up and say, 'Hey, guys, we got a problem out here. I don't know if you guys know.' And that's what I'd do if I were them," said Lewin.

There were also outages in gas distribution in areas like Cedar Park, just north of Austin. ATMOS, one of the main providers in the area, said service was experiencing disruptions.

The Railroad Commission of Texas, which regulates gas distribution, released this statement Friday afternoon in regard to the Atmos outages:

"The Railroad Commission is aware of some localized low-pressure issues due to extremely high demand in areas served by ATMOS Energy, Mid-Tex Division. ATMOS is working to increase pressure in the system and continues to work tickets for customers who experienced low-pressure issues. ATMOS' customer call center is open. Additional resources have been added to handle the call volumes and work customer tickets. ATMOS Mid-Tex reported there is no gas supply issues overall in the system at this time. The Commission remains in close communication with ATMOS and will provide updates as we get them."

Friday night the commission shared an update stating that gas pressure had improved in affected areas and that Atmos brought in CNG for its systems. 

"Update: Gas pressure has improved in affected areas. Atmos brought in CNG for its systems. The company is maintaining employees in the area overnight. We’re in constant contact with Atmos to ensure that affected residents stay safe and warm."

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