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It’s a dry cold: Texas temperatures remain below freezing

Julia Reihs / KUT

Much of Texas remained below freezing Friday morning, after a night of temperatures as low as 10 degrees, with windchills near zero in parts of the state. The cold will continue today and tonight, with warmer weather beginning on Christmas Eve.

Though current temperatures approached those felt during Winter Storm Uri in 2021, both the power grid and Texas roadways are in better shape today. This week’s cold weather did not come with precipitation, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas says there’s plenty of power available at the moment.

Eric Berger, editor of Space City Weather in Houston, shared an update on the state’s big chill. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: I know you’ve been up many hours this morning, and it’s been very cold across the state. How did Texas and the Houston area fare overnight?

Eric Berger: Most of the state is in a range of 0 to 20 degrees this morning. It’s extremely cold outside. And if you factor in wind chills, you get down the northern half of the state, it’s ranging in from -5 to -10 degrees.

How does this cold front, this freeze out, compare to what folks have experienced in Texas historically?

It’s not quite as deep a cold as we had in February of 2021, less than two years ago. But that freeze really had been a historic freeze in terms of the last 20 or 25 years. So what we’re seeing now is almost as deep as that. So it’s something you only see in Texas, I’d say on average, about every decade. It’s very cold.

We have to address the thing that I think most Texans across the state are concerned about, and that is the power grid. What are you hearing on that front?

Well, they survived the cold night, and they still have about 5,000 megawatts left this morning, which is good. That keeps them going for a while, I think. And then, they’ve got solar coming online. What really helped last night was the winds. People in Texas probably felt their front flowing through, and that was spinning the turbines all night; some of that’s going to come offline today or slacken because the winds are going to die down a little bit. So there’s some concern, but it does look like the grid is going to hold throughout the day and night.

You’re talking about those wind-generated turbines, especially in West Texas, that provide an extra degree of comfort, at least a cushion for power generation, right?

Yeah, that’s correct.

Would that be peak demand overnight or are we looking at another peak today? I know that there are a lot of people who, regardless of the cold, are still planning on going out shopping today.

I think today the power generation situation looks fine. The concern, I think, from the ERCOT standpoint will be this evening. So from 6 p.m. to midnight, it’s going to get close. But again, it looks like they’ve got 5,000 to 7,000 megawatts of spare capacity out there. So it does seem like they’re going to be all right.

» MORE: How the state’s cold snap will affect unhoused populations, and how you can help

Since the predictions were even colder and more severe than forecast, have there been warnings about Texans trying to conserve power?

I haven’t seen anything. And there have been no real warnings of rolling blackouts. So as of now, the only thing we’ve seen is their projections have been a little optimistic in terms of demand. The demand has been a little higher than forecast. But so far, they’ve had the capacity to meet it again. I think tonight will be the big task because it’s going to be almost as cold tonight across much of Texas as it was yesterday. And as I said, those winds are going to be coming down, so they’ll have less generating capacity. But the forecast right now suggests that things will be okay.

What about risks to people today as they try to get out and about on this Friday?

It’s really a situation. Just dress warmly. The concern, again, is cold air and winds. Fortunately, we didn’t get the snow and the ice with this front that we did in a lot of the state back in 2021. So roads are dry, but it’s not going to be above freezing. So we’re very cold. So make sure you’re protected from the wind.

Any concern at all about precipitation as we move into the weekend or any lake effect of precipitation?

We’re in good shape in the state. The front came through, and people have probably noticed it’s super dry. And because of that dry air, it’s very hard to make precipitation. So now through the holiday weekend, it should remain dry across much of the state. The problem, of course, is if you’re traveling out of state and you’re trying to fly to places like the Midwest – Chicago, Milwaukee – those areas are kind of snowed in; be prepared for delays if you’re flying that direction.

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