Essentially, representatives say, there is power in numbers. Literally.
The worst winter storm in years started a week ago tonight. Many neighborhood dwellers awoke mid-Thursday night to the sounds of snapping tree branches or sparking power lines and rock-solid precipitation hammering windows and rooftops; by morning a slick, hard, white ice blanket covered our worlds.
Thursday’s winter storm shut down schools, government buildings and many local businesses. All told, the weekend yielded 270,000 outages, which included an influx of 50,000 new calls on Saturday and Sunday alone.
For some, the power returned later that morning. For others, many in the Lake Highlands area, the blackout — caused primarily by tree branches cracking under the weight of ice and falling onto power lines —lasted days.
Sam and Audrey Sequenzia, L Streets residents and parents of a small child, lost electricity during the night Thursday. Oncor told them it would be a while, so they holed up with relatives, waiting for an alert from Oncor when power was restored. They received said alert Monday morning, packed up the kid and the dog and drove home. To a dark, cold house with no electricity, Audrey says, noting that, yes, she went “ballistic. A few hours later, mid day Monday, the Sequenzia family finally had electricity.
So, during a region-wide power-killing storm (with which we in Dallas are all too familiar) why are some people and places up and running inside an hour while others spend days in darkness?
Oncor prioritizes its restorations by those with the biggest need, says spokeswoman Jeamy Molina.
“During all restorations of any kind, we make sure we can address the emergency facilities first — police, hospitals and other care centers. That’s our first priority.”
The next priority is set by density, and Oncor continues its work from there.
“We look at the maximum number of people we can restore at one time,” Molina says.
By now all winter storm-related power outages have been restored. Molina could not provide specific information about which Dallas neighborhoods received the brunt of the blackout as Oncor officials are still compiling the data.
The only severe weather event comparable to last weekend in recent years is the ice storm that hit during the 2011 Super Bowl, which closed the area’s schools for a full week.
Molina says Oncor prepared for this round of icy weather well in advance.
“We had been preparing for this storm all week long, watching the weather and meeting with Oncor officials,” she says.
At least 5,000 employees and contractors were on duty during the storm. Oncor officials also reached out to their mutual assistance partners (electricity providers outside Texas) bringing in helpers from eight different states.
“That helped us immensely,” she says.
Our August issue — published to coincide with our equally brutal summer months — featured an in-depth look at the electricity grid and other power-related pieces. With our heaters running full blast, it’s worth revisiting everything you ever wanted to know about the energy grid.
Emily Toman contributed to this report.