Month: February 2021

Wicked Winter Weather Leads to Power Outages for Millions Across Nation

Millions of Americans were without power Tuesday as brutal winter weather spiked demand for electricity, causing widespread outages and forcing Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and other states to institute rolling blackouts to conserve energy.

Texas was by far the hardest-hit, with more than 4 million customers without power as of Tuesday afternoon. Oregon, Kentucky, Louisiana and West Virginia also had more than 100,000 outages, according to

Electric cooperatives and other utilities struggled to meet consumer demand that exceeded power supply as temperatures plunged and ice and snowstorms wreaked havoc. More storms are expected later this week.

“Due to continued frigid weather across Texas, the regional electric grid is operating under emergency conditions,” Pedernales Electric Cooperative said in a statement on its website. “Utilities statewide, including Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC), have been directed to reduce demand. As a result, service interruptions will occur throughout the PEC service territory.”

PEC said the service interruptions will continue “as long as the regional grid operator experiences peak demand.”

Neighboring Louisiana reported nearly 156,000 outages throughout the state early Tuesday, according to

“Due to the increase in power usage caused by the colder than normal temperatures and strain on the electrical infrastructure, our grid and transmission operators are no longer able to meet the demand of the network of transmission lines, and as a result load-shedding measures have become necessary until further notice,” said the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives in a statement Tuesday. “At this time, Louisiana electric cooperatives have not been given an estimated time on how long these load-shedding outages will last.”

Kentucky co-ops were reeling from back-to-back ice storms.

“With the help of daylight, co-ops are assessing the extensive damage to their systems from back-to-back ice storms with crippling accumulations,” Kentucky Electric Cooperatives said in a tweet Tuesday morning. “About 100,000 consumer-members are without power in what looks to be a prolonged restoration effort.”

Missouri, Oklahoma and Virginia each reported outages in the range of 50,000 to 100,000. Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina and Ohio reported 10,000 to 50,000 outages.

Some co-ops urged their consumer-members to reduce their use of electricity during the weather emergency so that everyone could get at least some power.

“The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas ask members to immediately limit the use of electric service through the next 24 hours to ensure that members will continue to receive at least a minimum of electric service,” the statewide association said in a statement Tuesday. “Additional appeals may be necessary.”

Andrew Lachowsky, vice president of planning and market operations for the Arkansas association, said that rolling outages are possible unless electric consumption is reduced immediately. Because of the extremely cold weather, demand is exceeding supply for utility customers in the western part of the state, he said.

“This is an unprecedented time, and we urge electric cooperative members to immediately reduce the use of electrical requirements by turning off or not using non-essential lights and electric appliances, especially electric water heaters, clothes dryers and dishwashers and to turn heating thermostats to lower settings,” Lachowsky said.

Co-ops rushed to assist their neighboring co-ops whenever possible, but many were unable to divert crews from their own territories as more storms headed their way.

Crews from Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative in Virginia were helping restore power Tuesday to consumer-members of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative in the aftermath of a weekend ice storm.

“Here’s a look at what our crews are facing,” SVEC said in a tweet that showed photos of downed trees hitting power lines. “Your continued thoughts and prayers are welcome through the restoration process!”

Erin Kelly is a staff writer at NRECA.

Stay clear of downed power lines

Kentucky weather can be unpredictable. Many think the danger is over after the storm passes, but the most dangerous time can be during the storm recovery period.  

Keep your distance from downed power lines and know what to do if you see one. 

If you see a downed power line, which could be making contact with tree limbs, vehicles and puddles, always stay clear at least 40 feet as the ground around the line may be energized up to 35 feet. Avoid walking in water after a storm.

Assume that all downed lines are live power lines and never attempt to move a line or anything else touching it. There is no way of knowing whether or not the power line is still live. Large overhead power lines can carry more than 700,000 volts of electricity. Fatalities can occur when someone comes in contact with a live wire of only a couple hundred volts.

If a power line has made contact

If someone has made contact with a power line, do not try to rescue the person. You can’t help if you become a victim. Immediately call 911 for assistance, and contact your local electric utility to turn off the power.  

If your vehicle comes in contact with a downed power line, stay inside. Call 911 or honk your horn for help, but tell everyone to stay away from the vehicle. 

If you must exit the vehicle for safety reasons, jump clear of the vehicle. Do not let any part of your body or clothing touch the vehicle and ground at the same time. Land with your feet together and shuffle away (in small steps or a bunny hop, making sure to keep your feet together) to avoid electric shock. Keep moving away until you are at least 40 feet from the vehicle. 

Downed lines on your property 

If you have a downed power line on your property, do not go near it; assume it is energized and dangerous. Contact your local electric cooperative with specific information on the location of the downed line. Wait until after the co-op crew or emergency officials have confirmed it is safe to clear the debris. 

For power restoration, make sure the co-op has your current contact information on file. 

We know firsthand how dangerous electricity is because Kentucky’s electric cooperatives work with it all day, every day. It is no accident that safety is our top priority.

NRECA urges broadband funding review

NRECA is urging the Biden administration to review the winners of $9.2 billion in federal funds for rural broadband to ensure they can truly meet their bid obligations.

“We stand up for the 42 million people we serve,” NRECA CEO Jim Matheson said. “When it comes to the unserved, it’s disproportionally rural communities. Broadband may be provided by electric cooperatives or someone else, but we must make sure the technology and the level of service are accurately reflected in the bids.”

Matheson on Feb. 1 sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission accompanied by a white paper from NRECA and NRTC describing concerns about certain winning bids in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I and offering remedies if an FCC review finds winners unable to meet their commitments.

“Our focus is on making sure that every unserved American has access to reliable and robust broadband that will meet not just their needs today but also into the future,” Matheson wrote. “NRECA and our member cooperatives stand ready to work with the FCC and other stakeholders to make sure RDOF Phase I is a success and to move forward with planning for phase II.”