AUSTIN, Texas — As a winter storm barrels through the state of Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott stressed the importance of staying off the roads and conserving power so the state can meet a surge in demand that will stress the energy supply.
Abbott received a briefing on the winter storm from Texas leaders before giving an update to the media and public from the Alternate State Operations Center in Austin on Saturday, Feb. 13.
"The severity of the cold weather that is about to be experienced here in the coming days is unprecedented in Texas history, and we need people across the state to get ready for these extremely harsh conditions that are coming," said Abbott.
The governor said more than 1,000 roadway segments already have snow or ice on them ahead of the expected sub-freezing temperatures.
"It will mean that there will be many roads across the entire state that will be extremely dangerous and treacherous to drive on ... There are no experts when it comes to driving on ice," said Abbott.
Texans are asked to stay off the roads in the coming days to avoid another dangerous pileup accident. In Fort Worth on Tuesday, a pileup of at least 133 vehicles on the Interstate 35 southbound toll road left at least six people dead.
The Department of Public Safety has already worked on more than 1,000 crashes since Thursday. It has deployed 3,000 troopers that will be working 24/7, assisted by the National Guard to help with potential stranded travelers. The National Guard will also be conducting welfare checks in remote areas of the state.
Texas Parks and Wildlife has deployed more than 400 vehicles to respond to needs such as accidents or stranded drivers, while search and rescue teams are on standby ahead of the winter storm. The Texas A&M Forest Service will deploy chainsaw crews across the state to assist with clearing roads.
Demand for power
Abbott said the demand for power as temperatures drop over the coming days could mean demand exceeds supply during parts of Monday and Tuesday.
"At this point, we really have no additional generation that we can add to the system to address the issues," said chair of the Public Utility Commission of Texas DeAnn Walker. "So therefore it comes from conservation and demand management."
In the coming days, Texans are asked to start conserving energy by turning their thermostats to 68 degrees, closing shades and blinds and unplugging nonessential appliances that still draw power, such as toasters. Residents should avoid using large appliances like washers and dryers during peak hours, like the morning and evening.
State officials also reminded Texans not to burn gas appliances inside, as it could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Residents are urged to call 311 for downed power lines, which could still be live and dangerous.
The press briefing came the day after the governor issued a disaster declaration for all 254 counties in the state ahead of the forecasted winter storm.
Abbott said he is also requesting a federal emergency declaration that will assist with the response to the winter storm as well as post-storm road repair.
A Winter Storm Warning has been issued in Austin and Central Texas through the weekend and until noon on Monday. The weekend began with a chance for more icing Saturday evening. A stronger winter storm will then move in during the second half of the day Sunday and will continue through Monday morning.
Since the wintry weather moved through Thursday, icy road conditions have snarled traffic in Central Texas and beyond. At least six were killed in a 133-vehicle pileup crash on I-35W in Fort Worth. In Austin, at least two pileup crashes were reported. The Texas Department of Transporation is urging drivers to stay home through the winter storm.
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