Miami County residents, and others throughout the 14-state balancing authority region whose power supply is coordinated by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), may find themselves without power for a short time as planned outages are being used as a tool to avoid a larger crisis.
The SPP declared an Energy Emergency Alert Level 3 at 10:08 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 15, when it was forced to begin relying on required reserve energy due to the high demand amid bitter cold temperatures. After the reserve energy was exhausted, the SPP directed its member utilities, including Evergy, to implement controlled interruptions of service to prevent further, more widespread and uncontrolled outages, according to a news release.
“In our history as a grid operator, this is an unprecedented event and marks the first time SPP has ever had to call for controlled interruptions of service,” said SPP’s executive vice president and chief operating officer Lanny Nickell. “It’s a last resort that we understand puts a burden on our member utilities and the customers they serve, but it’s a step we’re consciously taking to prevent circumstances from getting worse, which could result in uncontrolled outages of even greater magnitude.”
News of potential outages sent customers scrambling to Evergy’s website, which posted Monday afternoon that it is temporarily unavailable due to the high traffic.
Current outages can be tracked at outagemap.evergy.com.
“Beginning on February 15 at 12:15 p.m., Evergy will begin to turn off electricity to blocks of customers for approximately 30-60 minutes,” Evergy announced in a news release. “Once the period has concluded, power will be restored to the impacted area. The emergency outages will then rotate to another portion of Evergy’s service area. Power will cycle off and on periodically until the reduction is no longer required by the SPP. With these extreme cold temperatures, equipment may not operate as intended. As a result, outages could last longer than 30-60 minutes.”
Evergy issued a news release Sunday, Feb. 14, asking customers to conserve electricity as much as possible through Wednesday, Feb. 17, because the SPP is reporting that the region’s coldest weather in decades is creating high demand for electricity.
“At the same time, the extreme weather is driving high demand for natural gas used to heat homes and businesses, straining the gas supply available to generate electricity, and icy conditions have made availability of wind generation uncertain,” according to the release.
Temperatures are not likely to climb above freezing until Friday, Feb. 19, according to Accuweather.
City of Spring Hill
Rolling power outages will appear across Spring Hill, according to Evergy. Outages are expected to last 30-60 minutes at a time as requested by the SPP due to high demand. Right now, this will be on a rotation basis until no longer needed, according to the city of Spring Hill.
The cities of Osawatomie and Louisburg have issued statements asking their residents to reduce electric and natural gas usage.
City of Osawatomie
“The City of Osawatomie continues to produce electricity through our generation capacities but we have reached a critical point,” according to a city news release issued about 1 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15. “Our power pool is out of electricity and is having to purchase from others. Because of this, the City of Osawatomie was entered into Emergency Energy Alert Level 2 (EEA2) this morning. If we do not immediately reduce our energy consumption, we could trigger into EEA3, which would mean rolling blackouts or widespread outages for the next several days.”
City officials urged Osawatomie residents to look for ways to reduce their household’s electric and natural gas usage. The city urged residents to keep warm, but not hot.
“Do not run your appliances (dishwashers, laundry machines, garage fridges, etc.),” according to the city release. “If it’s safe to do so, please turn off space heaters, or turn down other heating elements. Unplug kitchen appliances that are not in use, turn off lights when the room is vacant, and keep doors closed in your home to reduce the strain on your furnace. Use blankets, towels, sheets, plastic or other material to cover drafty windows and doors if you cannot obtain weather stripping or caulk.”
The city said it is grateful to the O-Zone for agreeing to close Monday, Feb. 15, and Tuesday, Feb. 16, to help lighten the load, and would encourage other businesses who are able to close to do the same.
“If you own a business but are not able to close, please also be looking for ways to reduce your energy consumption while maintaining operations,” city officials said in the release. “We have not seen weather this severe for this many consecutive days since 1989.”
Osawatomie’s Municipal Auditorium is still a designated warming center for those that need it.but city officials said it will be difficult to maintain that operation should the city be forced into rolling blackouts.
“The Osawatomie Fire Department and Osawatomie Police Department are available 24/7 should you or anyone you know need assistance during this time,” according to the release.
City of Louisburg
The city of Louisburg said it is joining area utility companies including Evergy, the city’s electric provider, in asking residents to conserve energy during this unprecedented cold spell, according to a news release.
“Evergy is asking customers to conserve electricity use as much as possible through Wednesday, Feb. 17, citing the strain the cold weather is putting on the demand for electricity and natural gas to heat homes and businesses,” the city said.
The Kansas Municipal Energy Agency, the organization that the city of Louisburg contracts with to purchase natural gas, said in a statement to its users that the unprecedented, prolonged period of extreme cold has made extensive increases in natural gas demand across the Midwest and other parts of the country and the nation’s natural gas supply is being tested. Spot natural gas prices were reaching over 200 times the normal pricing the end of last week, according to the release.
“KMGA asks each member city to strongly encourage all residents to reduce gas usage in your communities, including reaching out to your large users such as schools and businesses, and limiting natural gas uses wherever possible for the next several days,” KMGA said in an email to its members, including the city of Louisburg.
The city of Louisburg provides natural gas to about 1,500 residential and commercial customers. City officials asked residents to help out and, despite the frigid weather, to conserve energy if possible.
City of Paola
The Paola Fire Department announced Sunday it is opening the Firehouse Gym Sunday and Monday, Feb. 15, on an interim basis to give folks a clean warm place to go.
“As many of you know we have recently had issues with vandalism in the bathrooms. Please treat the facility respectfully so we can continue to offer this benefit to the public,” Chief Andy Martin said in a Facebook post. “Also, please keep an eye out and if you see something say something.Please wear masks to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
A statewide disaster emergency declaration was issued late Sunday. The governor’s office issued this statement:
“Because of the sub-zero temperatures which causes an increased energy demand and natural gas supply constraints, utilities are currently experiencing wholesale natural gas prices anywhere from 10 to 100 times higher than normal. Those costs will eventually flow through to consumers, and increase monthly natural gas and electric bills.”
Miami County offices
Miami County nonpublic safety functions closed Tuesday but were set to reopen Wednesday.
The Miami County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday, Feb. 14, it will be available to community members to warm up as needed as temperatures continued to hover in the single digits and a fresh layer of snow covered the ground.
“The number one priority of our agency is citizens’ safety. Safety doesn’t just mean being safe from crime, but at times it’s about being safe from the elements,” Capt. Matt Kelly said. “We want to make sure the citizens have a warm place to go in the event there is that need. We will work to make short/long-term accommodations for them even if it’s not in our building, ultimately keeping them safe.”
Kelly said the sheriff’s office knows in extreme cold situations residents might not have a warm place to eat, sleep or relax. Residents who need a place to warm up can contact an on-duty patrol officer or jail sergeant to make accommodations.
The city of Osawatomie has designated City Auditorium as a warming center. Contact the Osawatomie Police Department at (913) 755-2102 for arrangements, according to a sheriff’s office news release.
Tips for conserving energy
Evergy encouraged all customers to implement the following tips:
- 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.
- Change or clean filters on furnaces.
- Turn off unnecessary lights and appliances in your home.
- When possible, use large appliances (clothes washers, dryers and dishwashers) between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
- Reduce air leaks that let cold air in by sealing around doors and windows with weather stripping or caulk and inserting foam gaskets on electrical switches and outlets.
- Businesses should reduce the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible.
- Large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential processes.
Evergy is a member of the Southwest Power Pool, which coordinates the regional transmission grid and wholesale energy markets for the central United States, including Kansas and Missouri. The SPP monitors power flow through its footprint and coordinates regional response in emergency situations, according to the release.