AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott received a briefing and, on Tuesday, held a press conference ahead of winter weather expected to impact Texas later this week.
The governor was joined by representatives from the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC), the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and other State organizations.
Watch the full press conference here:
The current forecast for Central Texas calls for an Arctic front moving into the area starting Wednesday. A Winter Storm Watch will be in effect on Thursday, Feb. 3, from 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. for Blanco, Burnet, Gillespie, Hays, Llano, Travis and Williamson counties.
Precipitation could switch over to sleet and freezing rain overnight into Thursday morning, especially across the Hill Country. As of Tuesday morning, the highest likelihood of travel impacts looks to be across the Hill Country, but even for the Austin area and points southeast, icing will be possible.
Temperatures through Thursday may not get above the freezing mark and could even drop into the 20s by the afternoon. Friday morning will bring a widespread hard freeze with air temperatures in the teens and low 20s and wind chills that could make it feel even colder. Morning temperatures will likely stay well below freezing through Monday morning.
"Obviously, we have a very substantial winter storm coming into Texas over the next few days that will be in the state of Texas for the remainder of the week," Abbott said. "We want to make sure that our fellow Texans know exactly what is coming, what to expect. We want them to know what Texas has been doing for basically an entire year now to be prepared for the storm, in addition to steps that have been taken over the past week or two, as well as what we will be doing over the course of the remainder of the week."
Abbott said that Texas will be using every applicable State agency to make sure the state can "robustly respond" to the upcoming storm.
"It includes the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Texas A&M Forest Service, the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service and Texas A&M Texas Task Force One. That includes Texas A&M AgriLife, the Public Utilities Commission, Railroad Commission, Energy Reliability Council of Texas, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Military Department, Texas National Guard, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of State Health Services," the governor said.
Abbott added that the PUC has been holding meetings on winter storm preparations and was inspecting power generators across the state. He said 99%, if not more, of those generators have passed inspections. He also added that the PUC will provide staff 24/7 for the state operations center and will provide updates about utility and electric outages across Texas.
"They are already bringing more generation online sooner than what happened last year," the governor said. "They have additional crews already deployed."
Abbott explained that there is a probability that some Texans could lose power during the upcoming storm because of reasons that do not have to do with the electric grid, such as ice accumulation on power lines or falling trees.
"That doesn't mean that there are challenges with the power grid in the state of Texas. It means that for a short period of time, a particular neighborhood may be without power, but know that your local power company that you have contracted with is working to make sure that that power will be restored quickly, even though there may not be a problem with the Texas power grid itself," Abbott said.
ERCOT on Friday issued an operation condition notice for this storm starting Wednesday
"If the need arises ... ERCOT is using a conservative approach to grid management and forecast to make sure that they are prepared," the governor said. "It's our understanding, as we discussed just moments before coming out here, that the time during the course of this winter storm when we are expecting the highest demand for power from the power grid is going to be on Friday morning. Today, right now, the prognostication is that ERCOT will have an excess of 15,000 megawatts of power available, even at the time of highest demand. So ERCOT is well prepared for conditions as they currently stand, but remains flexible in order to be able to be responsive to power demand needs."
He added that the Texas Railroad Commission has also conducted operational calls with local gas distribution companies, major gas producers and pipeline operators throughout the state on Monday.
"All are prepared for any potential inclement weather and do not anticipate any significant operational challenges," Abbott said. "The railroad commissioners inspected intrastate underground natural gas storage facilities, and they also are anticipating no weather-related limitations."
The governor also explained that TxDOT is already preparing for the upcoming weather, deploying 4,000 personnel to assist in operations such as pretreating roads. To check road conditions during the storm, visit DriveTexas.org.
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