SAN ANTONIO – Preparedness for Texas’ devastating winter storm started with a 40-second mention of the impending frigid weather from ERCOT and energy conservation and safety tips from CPS Energy.
Days later, the storm that dropped snow and ice in the Lone Star State nearly paralyzed the electric grid, causing power and water outages for millions of Texans over a period of days.
A timeline of events in the deadly, extreme weather event shows how the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the council that regulates the state’s electric grid, and CPS Energy raced to keep up with the plunging temperatures — and the demand and fury that followed.
From the deadly pile-up crash in Fort Worth to a winter wonderland of snow to rolling outages to concerns of sky-high CPS Energy bills, here’s how the frigid storm cold-stunned San Antonio and Texas.
Officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the Texas council that regulates the state’s electric grid, acknowledged during a board meeting that “pretty frigid temperatures” were headed to Texas — but the conversation about the storm only lasted 40 seconds, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders. ERCOT President & CEO Bill Magness then moved on to his report.
In a news release, CPS Energy said it was preparing for severe weather and the possibility of outages. “While it’s too early to say what kind of impact the wintry precipitation will have on CPS Energy’s equipment or the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid, CPS Energy is monitoring the weather and temperature, and crews are preparing to respond to customers in need and any reports of power outages,” the release said.
The KSAT Weather Authority Team warned that temperatures were expected to stay below freezing for several days in a row, including low temperatures in the teens, the following week.
A massive crash involving more than 130 vehicles on an icy Interstate 35 in Fort Worth Texas left six people dead and at least 65 people hospitalized.
WATCH: Dozens of 18-wheelers, trucks cars involved in fatal highway crash in Fort Worth
In Austin, the winter storm caused a 26-vehicle pileup on North State Highway 45. Five people were taken to a hospital, emergency officials said.
San Antonio-area school districts began announcing campus closures for Friday, but those were later extended and additional districts joined in for the following week.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration in all 254 counties.
As freezing mist and drizzle occurred north of Highway 90 in Bexar County, traffic Interstate 10 in Kerr and Kimble Counties stood at a halt due to a frozen-over roadway. As a result, several drivers were left stranded in freezing temperatures Thursday night into Friday morning.
KSAT anchor/reporter Samuel King recommended to viewers and readers that it was time to start preparing vehicles and gathering emergency supplies ahead of the storm.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Wolff issued a joint declaration, urging residents to take “proper precautions,” limit travel and conserve energy. The joint declaration also activated the City of San Antonio and Bexar County emergency management plans.
ERCOT urged consumers and businesses to limit their electricity use as much as possible, as the low temperatures resulted in a “record-breaking demand on the power grid.” ERCOT officials also warned that it could impose rolling outages during the next two days.
The San Antonio – Bexar County Office of Emergency Management announced all major San Antonio highways and other roads closed.