A power plant outside of Houston.Photo: Brandon Bell (Getty Images)
Buckle up, Texas. Your Mother’s Day weekend could get sweaty — and you might want to prepare for your power to be on the fritz, too. The state is one of more than a dozen across the US set to see potentially record-breaking temperatures during an extensive heatwave this weekend.
“It is pretty rare to get a heat wave that is looking this extreme in early May. Usually, this is the kind of heat that we see in July or August, ”Stephen Harrison, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in San Angelo, Texas, told CNN.
And it could get very hot in Texas this weekend. In the Dallas / Fort Worth area, temperatures could hit 97 degrees Fahrenheit (36.1 degrees Celsius) both Saturday and Sunday — potentially breaking temperature records last set in 1918 and 1933 — with some areas set to see temperatures as high as the low 100s Fahrenheit (between 37.5 and 40 degrees Celsius). The normal temperature highs for the region at this time of year are around 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27.2 degrees Celsius).
In Lubbock, the National Weather Service warned that temperatures could reach between 94 and 96 degrees Fahrenheit (34.4 and 35.6 degrees Celsius) on Friday, well above the area’s normal temperature for May 6 of 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27.2 degrees Celsius), and sneaking towards its record high of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius). Parts of Texas are also under a fire watch thanks to the extreme temperatures; to the west, much of New Mexico is suffering through disastrous wildfires.
Because Texas is gonna Texas, those searing temperatures could also spell trouble for the state’s beleaguered grid. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said in a statement issued earlier this week that the heat could mean a “larger than normal demand for power,” and that it planned to “deploy all the tools available to us to manage the grid reliably.”
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“ERCOT has asked for power plants across the region to postpone planned outages and to return from outages already in progress in order to serve Texans this weekend,” the nonprofit said.
This heat wave comes just a little over a year after the deadly blackouts of February 2021, where more than 240 people died during a week of power outages in extremely cold temperatures. While Republican officials attempted to blame renewable energy for the blackouts, the outages were caused by a combination of complex factors — including years of underinvestment in the grid as well as failures in the natural gas supply. Last June, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a set of ERCOT reforms, declaring that “everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas;” but experts criticized the reforms as woefully inadequate to addressing real issues with the grid.
While the cold snap last year did incredible harm, heatwaves, which science shows are juiced up by climate change, are one of the most deadly forms of extreme weather. ERCOT had a couple close calls last summer during heatwaves — let’s hope it can keep hanging on through this one.