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Rolling blackouts make for some inconvenience in Victoria

Sonny Long

By Sonny Long
Feb. 2, 2011 at 7 p.m.
Updated Feb. 1, 2011 at 8:02 p.m.

Morning temperatures in the 20s, rarely experienced in Victoria, created some interesting ice sculptures from flowing water fountains. The fountain at the Hiller House, which was encased in ice,  caught the eye of many people driving on Vine street, prompting them to get out and take snapshots.

From one end of the Crossroads to the other, rolling blackouts Wednesday had residents bundling up indoors and law enforcement officers working intersections with non-working traffic signals.

Temperatures ranged from 22 degrees to 34 degrees, and wind chills are expected to be even worse in the coming days, according to a forecaster at the National Weather Service.

Citizens Medical Center and DeTar Hospital Navarro lost their power shortly after 9 a.m.

Both hospitals went to back-up generators, both hospital spokespersons said.

"The people who are critical were taken care of," said Shannon Spree, spokesperson for Citizens. "We're always prepared for those situations."

The city of Victoria, too, was prepared with back-up power.

"Many city facilities, including the 911 center and 700 Main, have back-up generators, so there were minimal effects to most city operations and none to emergency services," said spokesman O.C. Garza. "We are urging our departments to conserve electricity as much as possible during this severe cold front."

The rolling blackouts were ordered by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in an attempt to compensate for a generation shortage because of the extreme cold weather.

The rotating outages began around dawn across the state. They were lifted about 1 p.m.

Elgin Janssen, spokesman for AEP Texas, said that although the rolling blackouts through his company were only supposed to last 15 minutes, he got reports of outages of more than an hour and some homes and businesses being hit more than once.

"That's very surprising," Janssen said. "I am sure we will take a look at that and see why it happened."

On Wednesday afternoon, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announced that water pipes burst at two plants, Oak Grove and Sand Hill, and forced them to cut electricity production.

Natural gas power plants that should have provided back up had difficulty starting because of low pressure in the supply lines, also caused by the cold weather, according to the Associated Press.

By early Thursday afternoon, the Crossroads area can expect a wintry mix, including some brief periods of light freezing rain, according to the National Weather Service.

The ice is expected to change into snow by the evening, and residents could wake up to a couple of inches on the ground Friday morning.

The Weather Service said that with the cold ground and a north wind providing a wind chill that could dip into the single digits, the accumulation could stick around and re-freeze Friday night.



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