Record Heat Causes Power Outages Across North Texas


Woman pressing thermostat. | Image by Shutterstock

Record heat struck Texas this weekend, causing a strain on electricity lines and equipment that left thousands without power Sunday night. Most of those outages occurred here in North Texas.

The official high at DFW Airport on Saturday was 103, tying a 111-year-old record and marking the first triple-digit day of the year.

The average first 100-degree day for DFW is July 1, but mother nature kicked it up a little earlier this year, which had several North Texas residents scrambling for comfort.

Oncor is the largest transmission and distribution electric utility in Texas. Its primary responsibility is the maintenance and upkeep of the transformers and lines across the state.

The company told The Dallas Express that the record-setting heat increased demand and had a detrimental effect on equipment, including electrical boxes like those seen in front yards.

The combination overwhelmed the system, leading to widespread outages across the state.

In Plano, Matthew Browning and his mother were without power for more than 24 hours. Browning told NBC 5 that the messages from Oncor kept coming but with no resolution.

“Oncor gave us an estimate of 7:30, which became 9:30 and then 12:30,” Browning said.

As temperatures reached the century mark, the house became unbearable, he told reporters.

“It’s been stifling all day,” he said. “Our thermostat actually recorded a temperature of about 85-86, and I don’t know how accurate that is because it feels warmer in here.”

Around 8:40 p.m. Sunday, Oncor reported over 140 outages across the state, affecting over 3,100 people. Two-thirds of those were in DFW. As of noon Monday, about 1,100 customers were still affected.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which oversees electricity generation and maintains the reliability of power stations across the state, reported record-breaking electricity usage on Sunday.

Usage peaked at 74,917 Megawatts, breaking the previous usage record of 74,820, set on August 22, 2019, ERCOT told The Dallas Express.

An Oncor representative spoke with The Dallas Express about the company’s response, confirming that it had crews spread out throughout the weekend, working to “restore each outage as quickly and safely as possible.”

While outages occurred across the network, Oncor did confirm some extended outages in the Plano area where some equipment needed to be replaced.

Oncor also told The Dallas Express that while the heat caused most of the outages, some were due to external factors like car accidents and wildlife. Regardless of the cause, Oncor said it strives to take care of each outage quickly and efficiently.

Browning said he is concerned for neighbors who may not have alternatives as the summer heat ramps up.

“There may not be as many people who have access to getting to a hotel or getting to a relative or friend’s house,” he said. “And when we’re eventually getting into those triple digits consistently, it’s concerning.”

Browning’s fears are not without merit. National Weather Service meteorologists indicate a 60-70% chance that temperatures will stay above average through the Summer months.

While Oncor and ERCOT could not provide details on the rest of the summer, both organizations spoke briefly about expectations for the coming week.

Current forecasts call for more potential record-breaking heat this week, but ERCOT expects generation to meet demand, according to its statement to The Dallas Express. Should anything change, the company said, ERCOT is committed to keeping its customers informed.

Preparation for extreme weather is a “year-round” project at Oncor, according to a release on its website.

Starting in January, Oncor employees work with their partners in the field to forecast areas that may see the highest “load” or electricity requirements.

This forecast helps them determine which areas may need new transformers or transmission lines.

“When it comes to summer prep, the significance with a large reconductoring project would be the added capacity,” Senior Field Construction Coordinator Michael Ortez said. “These extreme hot summers definitely demand more ability, more load that’s put on the lines.”

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