Cold may force temporary blackouts

The Southwest Power Pool, which coordinates energy grids across 17 states, including Kansas, has asked its electric utilities, including those that service Iola and Allen County, to implement controlled, emergency electricity reductions because of the extreme cold.

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February 15, 2021 - 2:16 PM

Iola city crews cleared routes through major streets, including South Washington Avenue following a weekend snowstorm. A prolonged spell of extreme cold may force temporary power outages, officials warn. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register

Due to extended extreme temperatures affecting supplies, many parts of Kansas will likely be subject to temporary power outages to help curb demand.

The Southwest Power Pool, which oversees the electrical grid over 17 states including Kansas and Missouri began contacting its member utilities about the issue earlier today.

Evergy, formerly Westar, was among the first utilities to react. The state’s largest power supplier began turning off electricity to blocks of customers for 30 to 60 minutes starting shortly after noon, although experts warn some outages could last longer if equipment does not operate as intended.

Chelsea Angleton, Allen County 911 manager, asked residents not to call 911 if their power goes out, unless the outage lasts for more than an hour, or if conditions become unsafe.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether or when Iola or Allen County will be subject to the blackouts.

Corey Schinstock, interim Iola City Administrator, said the city began firing up its diesel generators on Sunday to help meet high demands. The city’s natural gas-fired Wartsila generators cannot be used because they have been winterized. He was uncertain how much power the diesel generators would make for all of Iola.

The outages are necessary, SPP announced in a news release, in order to avoid larger, uncontrolled and extended power outages throughout the region.

Forecasts call for the extreme cold to persist through Tuesday, warming slightly Wednesday before dipping back down Thursday. The temperature may reach 30 by Friday, the first time temps will have reached the freezing mark since Feb. 6.

Utility officials such as Evergy have asked customers to continue to conserve energy to help reduce stress on the power grid, potentially reducing the ongoing need for emergency reductions.

• Turn thermostats a little cooler (65-68 degrees). Avoid the use of electric space heaters.

• Close blinds and shades to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows.

•Turn off unnecessary lights and appliances.

• When possible, delay non-essential uses of power such as washing or drying clothes, washing dishes and bathing to non-peak hours, between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

• Use low-temperature cooking methods and avoid opening the oven door if it’s on.

Evergy is also working with its large commercial and industrial customers to reduce energy usage this week.

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