Serving the High Plains

Xcel declares 'energy alert' because of temperatures

Xcel Energy declared an Energy Alert on Monday morning because of unusually frigid temperatures and warned of rolling blackouts if power consumption didn’t fall.

The strain on the power grid was expected to persist through Wednesday. Other electric utilities in the region issued similar pleas for electricity conservation.

The storm system that brought a half-foot of snow and extremely cold temperatures over the weekend prompted the cancellation of church services Sunday and schools Monday.

Xcel’s Energy Alert came after the Southwest Power Pool declared an Energy Emergency Alert Level 2 on Monday morning.

The Southwest Power Pool is a regional transmission organization mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure reliable supplies of power, adequate transmission infrastructure and competitive wholesale electricity prices on behalf of its members.

The pool’s alert Monday is the second of three levels. A level-three alert would be triggered if the pool has to use operating reserves below the required minimum or ask members to implement controlled service interruptions.

“We are making a public appeal to our customers to turn off lights and appliances unless it would harm their health,” said David Hudson, president of Xcel Energy in New Mexico and Texas.

Xcel stated on its website Monday morning if customers do not reduce their use, electricity demand may exceed the amount the company would be able to supply.

“Failure to reduce electricity demand could result in rotating controlled electric service interruptions within the region,” the company stated.

Xcel stated if controlled outages become necessary, it expects them to last between 35 and 45 minutes.

Xcel urged these household strategies to lower power usage:

• Set thermostats to 68 degrees or lower;

• Suspend use of electrical appliances (dishwashers, washing machines, clothes dryers, vacuum cleaners, etc.);

• Delay tasks at work, if possible, that would demand electricity (power tools, maintenance equipment, etc.);

• Turn off televisions and electronic equipment unless they are necessary to conduct business or to ensure health and safety;

• Turn off unnecessary lights, leaving on only enough to move about safely indoors.

Xcel stated it would remain in a rolling blackout risk until midnight Wednesday.

“Operating conditions may continue to tighten over the next several days because of this widespread and extreme cold winter weather event, as well as an inadequate supply of natural gas required to power some gas-powered electric generation units,” Farmers Electric Cooperative stated in a news release Monday morning.

New Mexico Gas Co. said the cold snap had not affected its service.

According to data from Tucumcari Municipal Airport, the temperature twice dropped to minus-8 degrees early Monday.

That was well short of Tucumcari’s recorded record of nearly minus-19 on Feb. 3, 2011.

Wind chills plummeted to minus-20 early Monday.

The heavy snow that fell Sunday never led to the closing of Interstate 40 in Tucumcari, but the highway was closed in several spots near Santa Rosa, Clines Corners and Albuquerque because of blizzard conditions there.

At one point Sunday afternoon, driving conditions in Quay County were listed as “difficult” in the New Mexico Department of Transportation’s road conditions map. Conditions were listed as “severe” west of Tucumcari.

I-40 driving conditions had improved markedly in Quay County by Monday morning, with no restrictions. U.S. 54 conditions northeast of Logan still were listed as “difficult” on Monday morning.

All Quay County public schools announced Sunday that in-person classes Monday would be canceled and that instruction instead would be hold remotely instead, except in Logan.

Governmental offices and services already were closed Monday because of Presidents Day.

Temperatures are forecast to return to the 50s and 60s by this weekend.

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