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Power shortages persist in sweltering Texas

/ Source: The Associated Press

Faced with the prospect of another day of record heat, the state’s power suppliers Tuesday urged Texans to cut down on their electricity use in the hopes of avoiding more rolling blackouts.

Power companies throughout the state imposed the blackouts Monday because of an electricity shortage during unseasonably hot weather. Thousands of people were caught without electricity for short periods of time as highs reached into the low 100s, and police rushed to direct traffic during the afternoon rush hour.

Highs were expected to reach into the upper 90s on Tuesday before returning to a more normal range in the 70s and 80s on Wednesday.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which runs the Texas electricity grid, said Tuesday it expected to be able to meet the day’s demand for electricity but urged people to cut back their power use.

“We are asking everybody to pitch in and do the best they can by minimizing electric consumption between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., the peak hours,” council spokesman Paul Wattles said.

As much as 15 percent of the state’s power supply was already off line for seasonal maintenance to brace for the summer’s energy usage peaks, but four power generating plants also shut down unexpectedly, Wattles said. Officials were pushing to get power flowing again from the generators that had been idled.

ERCOT said operations were back to normal by Monday evening.

The typical usage for Texas in April is about 40,000 megawatts a day, but the state pushed 52,000 megawatts on Monday, Wattles said. The rollouts were limited to the ERCOT grid, which provides electricity to about 80 percent of the state.

A recorded high of 101 degrees at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport broke the previous high of 94, set in 1913 and matched in 1925, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures reached 107 degrees in Laredo.

The rolling blackouts, which lasted for a little more than two hours, were the first in the ERCOT region since Dec. 22, 1989, during a winter ice storm.