By Stephen Strobbe
A series of rotating power outages swept across Central Texas Wednesday after the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) called for utility companies to begin temporary power outages. Electricity usage soared across the state as temperatures remained below freezing, leaving utility companies unable to meet the demand. The main Baylor campus remained largely unaffected from the electrical outages.
“ERCOT is in a power emergency right now. We have rotating outages in progress,” Dottie Roark, media relations contact for ERCOT, said. “As of right now we have more than 7,000 megawatts of capacity out of service due to the extreme winter storm and we right now don’t know how long the rotating outages will continue. It depends on the amount of time it takes to restore some of the generation that has been lost.”
Rotating outages are controlled interruptions of electric service in an effort to reduce the loads across the electric grid. Rotating outages usually last only 10-45 minutes per neighborhood, with priority given to hospitals and nursing homes. Some power outages could last for longer periods of time if the power surges cause equipment failure during the restoration process.
Even with the threat of rotating outages ongoing across Central Texas, Baylor’s main campus should remain immune to a loss of power.
“We have our own high-voltage transformers and high-voltage customers are not affected by the blackouts, so our main campus should not be affected by the rolling blackouts,” Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, said.
However, many apartment complexes outside the range of Baylor’s high-voltage transformers were at risk of undergoing outages.
“I got up around 8 a.m. and it was about 60 degrees in my apartment,” Longview sophomore Abby Forbes said. “I looked on Facebook and everyone’s status said that the electricity was out. I left as soon as I could, found someone to go onto campus with me and I haven’t been back since this morning. From what I hear my roommate said it was still off. I called my mom and if it doesn’t get back on then I’m going to get a hotel room for the night.”
Students in the on-campus facilities did not face the same problems.
“I live in the dorms so we had power and a nice toasty atmosphere,” The Woodlands freshman Lauren Brubaker said. “But in my classes this morning we heard there were a lot of people off campus that didn’t have any power. It’s miserable. I’m from the Houston area. We don’t do this weather.”
A pipe on the fourth floor of Carroll Science Building burst, likely the result of the inclement weather. Water leaked from the fourth floor down the main staircase, and two classrooms were affected.
A note was posted on the entrances to Carroll Science Building informing students that classes being held in the building Wednesday were canceled. The pipe bursting early in the day meant the university was able to get contractors in almost immediately, and as of press time the university expected classes to resume today. Students should check the English department’s Blackboard page for more information.
“The contractors are used to responding to these kind of burst pipes and they can return a building to regular use pretty quickly,” Fogleman said.
Despite all of the difficulties that flowed in along with the cold front, Fogleman said Baylor would continue functioning as normal throughout the freezing temperatures and the winter storm.
“We continue to be open and operational here at Baylor. Unless you hear otherwise through our notifications then it is safe to assume we are operational and classes will be held as scheduled. It is always a good idea to check our website for additional information about any disruption to university operations.”