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Triple-digit heat wave temperatures test the Texas electrical grid

An excessive heat warning in Texas is prompting health officials to take action, saying residents should keep cool and stay out of the sun.
Triple-digit heat wave temperatures test the Texas electrical grid
Posted at 6:00 PM, Jun 16, 2023

Sweltering heat is something most Texans are prepared for as the sweaty summer months get underway. 

Still, as the first heat wave of the year hits the Lone Star State, concerns about the extreme weather are mounting. Chief among them are worries about the state's power grid and whether the infrastructure will be able to handle record power usage as temperatures soar.

"I'm very worried about the grid because they haven't done anything, so let's see what happens this year," said Aida Pita of Katy, Texas.

ERCOT, or the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, says the heat wave will cause surges in power demand as people turn the dials on air conditioning. The state's grid operator even expects to set new records in electricity demand, beating last year's July heat wave.

Peak use is expected to reach more than 81,000 megawatts next week, but ERCOT believes it has enough capacity in the grid to meet the demands.

But what's still fresh in Texans' minds is February of 2021, when the opposite end of the extreme weather spectrum left millions without electricity, water and heat for days on end as a deadly winter storm whipped across the state.

SEE MORE: Growing efforts to name, categorize heat waves point to their danger

"The reality is that people who live in these marginal, vulnerable communities ... they find themselves in a constant state of need and recovery facing these shocks and these stresses," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

But it's not just vulnerable people who are at risk for serious illness as a result of these extremely hot conditions.

Experts say millions of Texas residents will struggle through the scorching heat in the coming days, and staying cool means staying safe.

Porfirio Villarreal, public information officer at the Houston Health Department, said the department keeps tabs on the heat's effect on the population. 

"Usually, we see anywhere from six to eight people a year that suffer heat stroke and die," said Villarreal.

Those who have to be in the sun are trying to take precautions.

"It's important because we could drop dead any second, we could get a heat stroke. It's hot here, especially in Texas," said Felix Dominguez, an employee at Olympian Landscaping.

The state is already burning up, and it's not even technically summer yet.

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