Deep freeze leads Boswell to declare disaster; Residents brace for more power outages

HARLINGEN — Like other state governments heads, Mayor Chris Boswell on Tuesday declared a local state of disaster as Texas braced for more power outages.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, is requesting electric companies such as AEP Texas to cut more power as customers continued to struggle days after a series of Arctic cold fronts pushed in near-record low temperatures.

“It’s turned out to be a real disaster,” Boswell said after signing the city’s disaster declaration following President Joe Biden’s and Gov. Greg Abbott’s disaster declarations.

“We want to make sure our critical infrastructure such as our water treatment plant, hospitals, dialysis centers and facilities critical to health and well-being are prioritized,” Boswell said.

Boswell said ERCOT’s requests were leading to rolling blackouts across the state.

“We’ve been talking to AEP yesterday and today about the situation,” he said. “It seems AEP is doing all it can given the limited supply of power at the time.”

Disaster declaration

Boswell’s declaration aims “to help prevent the imminent threat of widespread or severe damage, injury or loss of life or property resulting from ongoing freezing weather conditions and the associated rolling blackouts dictated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas,” a city press release states, referring to the agency managing the state’s power grid.

The federal declaration authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency “to provide emergency protective measures for mass care and sheltering,” the press release states.

Meanwhile, Boswell’s declaration opens the way for federal reimbursements of local costs resulting from emergencies stemming from the historic cold wave.

More power outages

At AEP offices, officials did not know the extent of ERCOT’s request for more controlled power outages.

“They’re requesting more controlled outages,” said Eladio Jaimez, an AEP spokesman.

“One of their jobs is to request outages of the electricity companies like AEP Texas to relieve some of the load and to avoid long-term outages and damage to the grid,” Jaimez said.

“At this moment, we continue to work with ERCOT as they continue to request that we remove additional electric load from the electric grid,” he said. “In other words, they’re requesting more controlled outages.”

Officials don’t know when the company will restore power in the Rio Grande Valley, where 137,000 of AEP’s 337,000 regional customers went without power Tuesday.

“AEP Texas is working with ERCOT to give us permission to begin service restoration to customers,” Jaimez said. “There is no date as to when this might happen.”

fdelvalle@valleystar.com