Power's out but not powerless: What you can do to stay safe, warm during an outage
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Austin Energy reports that rolling power outages are lasting longer than expected as the statewide grid managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas is being strained by greater demand during this unprecedented winter storm, coupled with diminished electricity generation.
“The situation continues to worsen across TX and here in Austin," Austin's electric utility tweeted Monday morning. " Austin Energy implemented required outages early Monday morning, doing our part to help stabilize the ERCOT grid. The required outages are more extensive than anyone expected and do not allow us to bring affected customers back online at this time. We will continue working with ERCOT and working through our contingency plans to get power back on to customers as soon as the grid allows.”
Check your breakers if you can do so safely
The outage may exist only in your home or business because of a blown fuse or a tripped circuit. If you have checked your breakers and are still without power, report the outage online at austinenergy.com/ae/outages/report-outages or by calling 512-322-9100.
Call 9-1-1 if you have a medical emergency or your life is at risk
Do not wait for your power to be turned back on.
The city of Austin offers a Registry for the Medically Vulnerable. If someone in your household has a long-term disease or critical illness, you may be eligible for the city’s registry of medically vulnerable customers and receive special support services. The registry does not affect the duration of a power outage or when power is restored.
Turn off all lights except for one. Unplug appliances
The power will come back on eventually. And when it does, everything that was turned on when the power went out will suddenly come to life. That can be bad.
It can overload a circuit when power is restored causing what utility officials call cold load pickup. That can cause a second outage, according to Austin Energy.
Leave one light turned on so you know when power has been restored.
Don't call; text instead
If you don't have a battery-powered radio or hand-cranked radio, a cellphone is likely going to be the source for weather updates.
Texting uses much less battery power than a phone call. Use a landline if you have one.
Make sure your fireplace and chimney are clean
Building a fire can keep you warm, but it can also be deadly without proper ventilation. To avoid carbon monoxide, poisoning make sure the chimney is clean and don't use any items like a gas powered generator or a barbecue indoors.
You're going to want to put on lots of clothes. The layers will help retain your body heat. And get under some blankets. And while you've got your blankets out, hang the darkest ones over windows. Darker blankets will draw more heat from sunlight. They can reduce the amount of heat that escapes through your windows. Towels can also be used to block drafts coming from windows and door cracks, according to AccuWeather.
Keep your food cold
As long as the refrigerators door stays closed, food inside will remain cold for several hours. If items in your freezer start to thaw, you can pack them in snow to refreeze.