Thousands Without Power Across Oklahoma As Utilities Resume Intentional Outages During Bitter Cold

Feb 16, 2021

At the direction of the Southwest Power Pool, the regional transmission organization that manages the power grid for parts of 14 states including all of Oklahoma, electric companies statewide on Tuesday morning resumed intentional, "controlled" service outages for thousands of customers.

As of 8:45 a.m., more than 51,000 Public Service of Oklahoma customers were without power, according to the utility's outage map. At that time, the National Weather Service was reporting a temperature of -10 degrees Fahrenheit in Tulsa.

"We would expect that to last into tomorrow, this type of situation, at least, maybe into Thursday, just depends on when the power and fuel supplies kind of ease up and allow all the generating units within the SPP footprint to get back online as much as possible and to be providing power to the grid," said PSO spokesperson Stan Whiteford at a Zoom press briefing Tuesday morning, during which Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum announced he lost power at his home during the remarks.

"These planned outages will reduce the risk of lengthy, widespread outages and will continue until the SPP authorizes a return to normal operations," PSO said in a statement. "PSO will attempt to notify all customers affected by the controlled outage although the immediacy of the SPP request may prevent advance notice."

"We’ll be working with our member utilities to implement controlled interruptions of electric service throughout our region. This is done as a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole," the SPP said in a Tuesday morning statement.

Officials including Gov. Kevin Stitt, recently back from a New Mexico ski vacation this past weekend, asked Oklahomans Monday night to conserve energy as best they can to help lower the burden on the grid.

"We still need to conserve energy because we aren't out of the woods yet," said Stitt, who declared a state of emergency for all 77 counties Friday. "Please consider turning your thermostat down to 68 or cooler and avoid using large appliances like washers and dryers or your dishwasher."

Oklahoma Natural Gas director of customer communications Alex Schott said Tuesday morning the company is anticipating a shortage of fuel this week.

"Given the historic nature of this prolonged extreme weather, it really is going to take all of us to avoid a large outage situation," Schott said.

"Since early this morning, we've had no significant outages given the deteriorating weather conditions. However, with below freezing temperatures forecast through the end of the week, we are planning for shortages and putting measures in place to keep gas service to all our customers and critical facilities."

"Conservation is truly the name of the game," Schott said.

A winter storm warning was issued by the National Weather Service to begin Tuesday afternoon, bringing strong winds and potentially 3 to 8 inches of new snow. Temperatures were not forecast to reach above freezing until Friday, according to the NWS, when the thermometer may hit 34 degrees.