Lubbock officials discuss winter weather conditions plaguing community

City of Lubbock officials held a news conference to discuss the extreme weather conditions and what the city has done to keep the community safe.

Lubbock Fire Chief Shaun Fogerson said they began planning for an emergency operation activation around Feb. 8, and activated the emergency operations center on Feb. 12 at 5 p.m.

The Lubbock Police Department has responded to 114 accidents with one fatality since Friday, Fogerson said. Lubbock Fire and Rescue has responded to 150 downed alarms at businesses and homes and have rescued two canines.

They have now turned attention to managing power outages and natural gas supply, Fogerson said.

“The natural gas supply has held thus far, but it’s in a precarious situation,” Fogerson said.

Fogerson encouraged citizens to prevent their children from playing on the city’s playa lakes and to drive safely if they must go out.

Wood Franklin, director of Public Works, said their crews started treating the roads last Wednesday. They have utilized 15 salt and sand spreader trucks, five of these carry snow plows to help clear the roads when snow levels reach three inches or greater.

Parks and Recreation and Facilities Departments have been assisting in clearing roads and parking lots, which allows heavy equipment to stay on main roads, Franklin said.

“I would like to reiterate that we need to be safe on the roads and as the public’s travelling on the roadways please slow down, do not get out unless you have to,” Franklin said.

Additionally, Franklin said to be wary of overpasses and bridges, as these areas ice over easily and are the most dangerous.

Beginning Feb. 15, the Water Department began assisting in shedding electrical demand by switching those facilities over to generator power, Franklin said. Both water treatment plants, eight pumping water stations and one sewer plant to generator power, which helped remove three megawatts of demand from the electrical system.

“Our City of Lubbock water system is resilient, safe and is operating with no issues," Franklin said. “All of our water facilities are full, and we are prepared to continue providing safe water to the public throughout the future.”

David McCullough, director of electrical utilities for Lubbock Power and Light, said when temperatures of this magnitude occur there is a dramatic increase to the electrical load.

“When you have very high electrical demand and you have generation restrictions, something’s got to give,” McCullough said. “So, what has to happen in those circumstances is the electrical load has to be adjusted to match the available generation.”

LP&L was asked to reduce their load by 22 megawatts by Southwest Power Pool, McCullough said. During the controlled rotating outages, LP&L interrupted 27 feeders across their electrical system, which involved about 29,000 of their customers.

“We had this plan set up for no more than 30-minute outages and we were able to stick with that with two exceptions,” McCullough said. “We had problems getting feeders closed on two of the breakers that we operated, so we had some outages that were slightly longer.”

Local infrastructure has been solid throughout this event, McCullough said, and he is proud of linemen, substation and generation workers for working in these conditions.

Lubbock Mayor, Dan Pope, said providing for public safety has been the number one priority. This means ensuring residents have electricity, safe water supply and clear roads.

Over 1,500 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine were given on Feb. 16 through the Lubbock Public Health Department, Pope said.

Pope encouraged residents to go slow on roads and stay inside if they

“Better days are ahead,” Pope said. “We expect a warm weekend, the resilience and independence of West Texans always shines bright in situations like this.”

Though this weather is unique, there is an explanation for this storm system.

Brian Ancell, associate professor of atmospheric science at Texas Tech, said it is not often such a widespread weather event happens in Texas.

“It’s pretty rare, especially in Eastern and Southeastern Texas where it’s extremely cold for their standards,” Ancell said.

Though Lubbock is in a position that typically sees winter weather and experiences weather swings regularly, Southeastern Texas does not typically see this, Ancell said.

Colder air moved into the Lubbock area towards the end of last week, Ancell said, Sunday was the first really cold day.

“That happened because all of the cold air was already in place north of us,” Ancell said.

However, this cold snap is colder than normal and is rarer because it had a lot of cold air to tap into, Ancell said. As the jet stream bows there is typically cold air, but as ridges come in from the west it will improve the weather, flipping the wind from northerly to southerly, hence the warmer temperatures expected to hit Lubbock at the end of the week.

Though it looks as though things will start to look up later in the week, Lubbock is still facing extreme temperatures that have impacted the community’s energy levels.

Matt Rose, public affairs and government relations manager for Lubbock Power & Light, elaborated on the ongoing energy situation in Lubbock.

The U.S. is cut up into four larger electric grids, Rose said. In Lubbock, the grid LP&L manages is connected to the Southwest Power Pool, which is a multi-state grid that stretches all the way to Canada. To the east lies the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the power grid for Texas.

These two power grids manage the flow of electrons across the grid and the exchanges and they make the rules, Rose said.

“In hazardous conditions they dictate what entities, like ourselves, need to do to maintain the reliability of the entire grid,” Rose said.

Because of the cold weather, there has been an issue getting fuel supply to power plants, Rose said. This led SPP to notify LP&L they may reach a point where the demand exceeds the capacity of energy that is available to consumed.

Over the last few days Lubbock has been experiencing record low temperatures and record high energy demand, Rose said.

“We received a call from the Southwest Power Pool at 6:55 this morning instructing us that we needed to immediately begin controlled rolling outages around our service territory in order to shed electric consumption and draw down the demand of the system,” Rose said.

Controlled rotating outages are done to prevent cascading blackouts, which Rose said are caused by exceeding energy capacity.

After being aware of the situation, LP&L began the process of taking down one substation and bringing it back up as they took down a different substation to reduce the strain on the system, Rose said. Typically, the power will be out in the specific area for about 30 minutes.

There are issues that can occur when taking a down a substation and cold starting it back up in freezing temperatures, Rose said, equipment can fail and break. When this happens, it can take upwards of an hour to bring it back up.

Though rotating outages are painful for to those involved, Rose said it is necessary to make sure further damage is not done and residents are not out of power for an extended period.

“When you’ve got temperatures outside that are in the single digits or in the teens, having folks out of power for an extended period of time is not just an inconvenience it’s a public safety issue,” Rose said.

They began the process of controlled rotating outages at 7 a.m. and at approximately 10:30 a.m., Feb. 16, SPP notified them they could cease controlled rotating outages.

This is the first time LP&L has had to engage in rotating outages as instructed by SPP, despite being well versed in strong storm systems that typically occur in late spring early summer that knock out power lines or damage equipment, Rose said.

“This is a new endeavor for us where, as a preventative measure, we have to actively turn off customers and then turn them back on in a rotating fashion,” Rose said.

Central Texas is dealing with ice, Rose said.

“Ice is the biggest enemy of the electric industry,” Rose said. “It causes more destruction than almost any other natural force.”

It can be important for LP&L customers who have been affected by the rotating power outages to know that if the outage lasts longer than an hour to an hour and a half, to contact LP&L. Rose said the best way to do this is to email with the name and address of the customer attached.

LP&L is providing live updates on their Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as the homepage of their website, which can be found at Lubbock Power & Light | LP&L (

“If everybody does their part to conserve energy until we get through this moment of crisis,” Rose said, “it will help.

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