Officials at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which maintains about 90% of the state's power grid, said that they are no longer mandating controlled power outages and are instructing utility companies to restore power. This process will take time. Some energy customers may still be without power as those companies work to bring circuits back online or because of damage caused by ice, fallen trees and downed power lines.
The reason ERCOT is now able to allow utility companies to restore power is because a number of generators have been restored since going offline earlier in the week. Additionally, with so many large customers, such as factories, shut down to the emergency, demand for power was lower than anticipated, which also helped speed up the restoration process, Senior Director of System Operations Dan Woodfin said during a press conference Thursday morning.
However, ERCOT officials did warn the public that additional power outages could be forthcoming if demand for electricity outpaces the available supply. This scenario is what triggered the controlled outages—which were intended to be rolling but, in the Austin area, have lasted for days—in the first place.
Had ERCOT not directed utilities to cut power to customers, there was a possibility that the entire grid would have collapsed, leaving the state without power for weeks—or even longer. "It was seconds and minutes," CEO Bill Magness said of the prospect of a total grid blackout early Monday morning, when hundreds of thousands of Austin energy customers—and millions of other Texans across the state—lost power.
Now that ERCOT is no longer mandating outages, Austin Energy is in the process of restoring power to its customers, prioritizing those who have gone without the longest, Chief of Staff Stuart Reilly said during a Facebook live hosted by Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison. As of 11:16 p.m., 56,788 Austin Energy customers—or about 11%—were still without power. This is a significant improvement from Wednesday evening, when about 27% of customers were still impacted.
(Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison/Facebook)
The restoration process takes time, however. Austin Energy is restoring power in sections to avoid overloading the system. As power is restored, utility companies run the risk of cold load pickup, which occurs when a circuit is restored only to be quickly overloaded by lights, appliances and thermostats left on prior to the outage. To avoid this, Reilly asked customers still without power to turn off everything except one light. Those who have power at this point should continue conservation measures.
The power crisis resulted in a water crisis in Austin and many other regions across the state. Austin Water issued a boil water notice Wednesday evening due to a power outage at its largest water treatment plant and dropping pressure across the system caused by a surge in demand precipitated by dripping faucets and burst pipes. Although power has since been restored at the treatment plant, the utility is still facing a water shortage and the boil water notice remains in effect.
"We do not yet have a timeline for when water may be restored," Chief of Support Services Anna Bryan-Borja said during the Facebook live.
Although Austin Water previously recommended customers drip their faucets in an effort to avoid frozen or burst pipes, the water shortage issue has prompted them to change their advice. Now, the utility is recommending that customers take conservation measures or turn off their water to prevent pipe problems.
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If you are a committed, grunge-wearing resident of the Pacific Northwest, it is easy–almost automatic–to look at Texas as an extraordinarily dry, hot and culturally oppressive place that is better to avoid, especially in the summer. Our two granddaughters live with their parents in Portland.
Recently we decided to take the older girl, who is 15, to Dallas. Setting aside the summer heat, a Portlander can adjust to the vibes of Austin without effort. So let’s take Texas with all of its excesses straight up. Dallas, here we come.
Our 15-year-old granddaughter and her sister, 12, have spent summer weeks with us, usually separately so that we could better get to know each individually. In visits focused on Austin and Port Aransas, the girls seemed to be developing an affection for Texas.
Houston and Dallas are two great American cities, the 4th and 9th largest, each loaded with cultural treasures, each standing in glittering and starchy contrast to Austin’s more louche, T-shirts and shorts ways.
Three hours up I-35, Dallas loomed before us as a set of gray skyscrapers in a filmy haze, accessed only through a concrete mixmaster of freeways, ramps and exits. I drove with false confidence. Be calm, I said to myself, it will all end in 10 minutes under the hotel entrance canopy. And it did.
The pool at the Crescent Court Hotel in Dallas. (Crescent Court Hotel)
We stayed three nights at the Crescent Court Hotel ($622 a night for two queens), a high-end hotel in Uptown, patronized by women in white blazers, business people in suits, and tall, lean professional athletes, their shiny Escalades and Corvettes darting in and out, and other celebrities like Bill Barr, the former attorney general who shoe-horned his ample self into a Toyota.
Each morning as I walked to Whole Foods for a cappuccino, a fellow identified by a bellman as Billy the Oilman arrived in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Where does he park? “Wherever he wants to. He likes the Starbucks here.”
We garaged our more modest set of wheels for the visit. We were chauffeured for tips by Matt Cooney and Alfonza “The Rev” Scott in the hotel’s black Audi sedan. They drove us to museums, restaurants and past the enclaves of the rich and famous. In Highland Park, The Rev pointed out the homes of the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman along with the family compound of the Hunts, oil and gas tycoons.
The Dallas Museum of Art’s “Cartier and Islam” exhibit (until Sept. 18) attracted an older crowd; the nearby Perot Museum of Nature and Science was a powerful whirlpool of kids’ groups ricocheting from the Tyrannosaurus Rex to the oil fracking exhibit. Watch your shins.
A Geogia O'Keeffe oil painting called "Ranchos Church, New Mexico" at the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art. (Rich Oppel)
For us, the best museum was the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, a 50-minute, madcap drive away via a 75 mph toll lane along I-30. Don’t try it during rush hour. The Carter has an exquisite collection of Remington paintings and sculptures and an excellent array of 19th and 20th-century paintings as well. Pick one museum? The Amon Carter. Peaceful, beautiful, uncrowded, free admission and small enough to manage in two hours.
The Fort Worth Stockyards, a place of history (with a dab of schmaltz), fun and good shopping, filled one of our mornings. The 98 acres brand the city as Cowboy Town, with a rodeo and a twice-daily (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) cattle drive. We shopped for boots, drank coffee and watched the “herd” of 18 longhorns. So languid was their progress that if this were a real market drive the beef would have been very tough and leathery before it hit the steakhouse dinner plate.
The cattle drive at the Fort Worth Stockyards. (Rich Oppel)
But we could identify: the temperature was 97. “I saw a dog chasing a cat today,” said the emcee, deploying a very old joke. “It was so hot that both were walking.”
With limited time, we chose three very different restaurants:
- Nobu, in the Crescent Court Hotel; Jia, a modern Chinese restaurant in Highland Park; and Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth. Nobu’s exotic Japanese menu set us back $480, with tip, for four (we had a guest), but it was worth it.
- Jia was an ordinary suburban strip mall restaurant, but with good food and a reasonable tab of $110 for four.
- Joe T.’s is an 85-year-old Fort Worth institution (think Matt’s El Rancho but larger), a fine Mexican restaurant where a meal with two drinks was $115.
Sushi at high-end restaurant Nobu. (Crescent Hotel)
It was all a splurge for a grandchild’s visit. Now we will get back to our ordinary road trips of Hampton Inns, where a room rate is closer to the Crescent Court’s overnight parking rate of $52. And to corner cafes in small towns.
Did Dallas change our 15-year-old’s view of Texas? “Yes. I think it’s a lot cooler than I did. The fashion, the food.” So, not only Austin is cool. Take Texas as a whole. It’s a big, complex, diverse and wonderful state.
Giga Texas, the massive Tesla factory in southeast Travis County is getting even bigger.
The company filed with the city of Austin this week to expand its headquarters with a new 500,000-square-foot building. The permit application notes “GA 2 and 3 expansion,” which indicates the company will make two general assembly lines in the building.
More details about the plans for the building are unclear. The gigafactory has been focused on Model Y production since it opened in April, but the company is also aiming for Cybertruck production to kick off in mid-2023.
While there is room for expansion on the 3.3 square miles of land Tesla has, this move comes after CEO Elon Musk’s recent comments about the state of the economy and its impact on Tesla.
In a May interview with Tesla Owners Silicon Valley, Musk said the gigafactories in Berlin and Austin are “gigantic money furnaces” and said Giga Texas had manufactured only a small number of cars.
And in June, Musk sent a company wide email saying Tesla will be reducing salaried headcount by 10%, then later tweeted salaried headcount should be fairly flat.
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