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Rolling blackouts make for some inconvenience in Victoria

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.

WHAT IS ERCOT?

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas manages the flow of electric power to 22 million Texas customers - representing 85 percent of the state's electric load and 75 percent of the Texas land area. ERCOT's members include consumers, cooperatives, independent generators, independent power marketers, retail electric providers, investor-owned electric utilities (transmission and distribution providers), and municipal-owned electric utilities.

SOURCE: www.ercot.com

BY J.R. ORTEGAJRORTEGA@VICAD.COM

No city or county offices are expected to be closed on Thursday or Friday despite the severe cold weather the Crossroads is expected to experience.

Jeb Lacey, the emergency management coordinator, advises Victorians to drive safely.

"Don't make any unnecessary trips," he said.

The police department will be out in full force, Lacey said.

City leaders will be playing by ear any city and county office closures, Lacey said.

"City leadership is going to be closely monitoring the weather out there," he said.

Tips for power outagesIn case additional rolling blackouts occur or the city experiences additional power outages because of other weather sources, the Victoria Police Department asks residents to follow these tips:

Do not call 911 or the non-emergency number to report the outages. The police are aware of them and where they are and will be doing its best to patrol those areas without power. The police want to ensure that people who have an emergency are able to get through on the 911 phone lines.

Have flashlights, candles and phones available at all times.

If driving on the roadway, pay careful attention to the roadways, and come to a complete stop at all intersections that do not have power to the traffic signals.

Businesses are advised to set up safety plans to ensure the safety of their employees, customers and merchandise should their business experience a power outage.

Source: Lt. Jason Cross, Victoria Police Department

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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