Icy cold grips island
An Arctic cold front arrived early Tuesday morning, Feb. 1, dropping temperatures into the 40s, then, starting about 10 p.m., plunging into the upper 20s.
The sub-freezing temperatures experienced overnight Tuesday were just the beginning.
A low of 26 degrees was forecast for Wednesday night with winds between 17 and 20 mph.
It gets worse.
John Metz, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Corpus Christi, said, “Conditions will deteriorate rapidly Thursday with a mix of freezing rain and sleet.”
“It looks like freezing rain and sleet will begin along the coast around noon, which is a little sooner than we originally thought,” he said.
The conditions will spread northward and affect most of the Coastal Bend by 3 p.m.
Accumulations of ice will make traveling hazardous. The low is expected to be about 28 degrees overnight, with a high near 33 degrees, and the wind is expected to continue at 17 mph.
“Total accumulations of around 1 inch of sleet and snow are possible. There is still some uncertainty on accumulations. We are concerned about the potential for ice accumulations if the freezing rain develops as forecast, before changing over to light sleet and snow late Thursday night,” Metz said.
“Sleet will change over to snow by Friday morning, ending at noon,” Metz said.
The chance for snow is 50 percent, he said, with a high near 41.
“Travel is discouraged Thursday night and Friday morning as a significant ice storm and winter storm is possible,” Metz said.
The winds drop to 6 to 10 mph and the low temperature will rise to 39 Friday night, paving the way for a sunny, 55- degree day on Saturday. Sunday should be mostly sunny.
Conditions could prove hazardous for commuters today and Friday, since bridges are susceptible to icing over before sub-freezing temperatures settle in.
Access from Port Aransas to Corpus Christi either over the JFK Causeway or the Harbor Bridge could be compromised because of icing over.
The extended cold temperatures resulted in an “order to shed load” Wednesday morning, Feb. 2, by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
Ken Griffin, manager of external affairs for AEP, an electric provider for much of South Texas and the rest of the state, said AEP began rotating outages to comply with the order with the intent of keeping outages to 30 minutes at most.
“But there may be other problems that extend an outage,” Griffin said.
According to a news release issued by ERCOT, “Rotating outages are controlled, temporary interruptions of electric service, typically lasting 10-45 minutes per neighborhood. The locations and durations are determined by the local utilities. Critical needs customers such as hospitals and nursing homes are generally not included.”
How long the order would be in effect was unknown, according to ERCOT.
According to a spokesman at the water district in Port Aransas, only one report of frozen pipes was received as of Wednesday morning.
A resident on Bralley Street had no water, so his assumption was that his pipes froze.
The weather service’s Metz said the temperature dipped to 26 degrees at Horace Caldwell Pier Wednesday morning, and 30 degrees at a few other sites around Port Aransas.
Winds peaked at 37 mph when the front moved through Tuesday, and remained strong overnight at 25 mph with gusts to 30 mph, he said.
Port Aransas Police Chief Scott Burroughs advised homeowners, business and critical infrastructure to insure that exposed pipes are well insulated. Special consideration should be given to buildings with pier and beam construction and buildings with unheated attic space, he said. Slow dripping of water systems is encouraged during the night. Water breaks in unoccupied buildings or city infrastructure should be reported to the Port Aransas Police Department immediately, Burrough said. The department’s number is (361) 749-6241.
Residents are being urged to conserve electricity during this cold period by the following methods:
• Limit electricity usage to only that consumption which is absolutely necessary. Turn off all unnecessary lights, appliances, and electronic equipment.
• Businesses should minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible.
• Large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing nonessential production processes.