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Winter storm knocks out power for thousands and threatens roadways across state

 Snow blankets I-30 West near Hurricane Harbor in Arlington, Feb. 3, 2022.
Kailey Broussard
Snow blankets I-30 West near Hurricane Harbor in Arlington on Thursday.

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Tens of thousands of utility customers in Texas lost power Thursday as a winter storm pelted major metro areas with freezing rain, sleet or snow. High winds have also affected some parts of the state and forecasters don’t expect the situation to improve until Friday.

Abbott issued two proclamations Thursday to assist in the repair of downed power lines and provide resources to 17 counties most impacted by the storm. The proclamation providing support for local governments and will be updated to add additional counties, if necessary, he said.

Despite the losses of power, Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas energy officials say the power grid is holding up, attributing outages to ice weighing down power lines or high winds knocking them down, Houston Public Media reported.

“Very importantly, even though at this time we have an extraordinary amount of excess supply of power, at this time, there are about 70,000 customers in Texas without power,” Abbott said at a Thursday press conference.

The governor, who called the storm one of state’s most significant icing events in decades, added that more than 10,000 line workers were assisting local power providers across Texas to get electricity back up and running, with almost 2,000 more heading in from outside the state.

A look around Texas

State and local officials continue urging Texans to stay off roadways during the hazardous conditions. A Texas Department of Transportation map of current conditions on Texas highways shows ice or snow on numerous roads. As of midday-Thursday, those included highways from the Texas-Oklahoma border south to the San Antonio area and throughout Austin and the Central Texas Hill County.

In West Texas, road conditions are hazardous from the El Paso-Hudspeth county line through the Big Bend region and into the Lubbock and Midland/Odessa areas, according to the midday update.

In North Texas, more than 40 accidents have been reported, including one involving a fatality, KERA reported.

Dallas Fire-Rescue Assistant Chief Justin Ball said the department had received at least 24 calls about downed power. While that’s more than usual, Bell said the situation was manageable.

The Dallas area is under a winter storm warning until 6 p.m. but is not expected to climb out of the 20s until Friday afternoon.

In Austin, Capitol Metro canceled all routes with the exception of its emergency services, KUT reported. The area is under a weather warning until 9 p.m. Thursday as ice and sleet accumulations are still possible, according to the early-afternoon forecast. Like in other parts of the state, many Austin-area schools will be closed Friday.

The San Antonio area saw scattered power outages on the city’s north side as ice accumulations have affected power lines in that area, Texas Public Radio reported. On Thursday morning CPS Energy Interim President and CEO Rudy Garza reported 161 outages, which were impacting 32,000 customers. Most of these outages are wind-related, Garza said.

In Houston temperatures are expected to drop below freezing late Thursday and into Friday morning, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a weather advisory from 2 p.m. Thursday to 12 p.m. Friday that includes the Trinity, Walker, San Jacinto, Polk, Montgomery, Inland Harris, Wharton, Fort Bend, Inland Jackson and Inland Matagorda Counties.

Wind chills could drop the temperature into the teens and ice accumulations of up to one-tenth of an inch are possible, according to the forecast. The low temperatures in Harris County and surrounding areas could put more strain on the state’s power grid Friday morning and afternoon.

Paul DeBenedetto from Houston Public Media contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Texas Newsroom

Julián Aguilar
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