Rolling blackouts: Controlled power outages affect Shawnee, surrounding area

Tina Bridenstine
The Shawnee News-Star

Some customers in the Shawnee area and beyond were temporarily without power Monday and again Tuesday as the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), the power grid operator for a region that covers 14 states in the central U.S., declared an Energy Emergency Alert Level 3.

As a result of the upgraded alert, member utilities including OG&E were directed to initiate temporary, controlled interruptions of service, or “rolling blackouts.” SPP downgraded the alert level to 2 by Monday afternoon, but by Tuesday morning it was upgraded once more, initiating another round of rolling blackouts.

“SPP has directed us to implement temporary interruptions of service,” said Brian Alford, OG&E spokesperson. “These will be short-term, controlled interruptions and may continue through mid-week.”

“Controlled service interruptions are a last resort, and a step we take only when necessary to safeguard continued reliability of the regional grid,” said SPP’s executive vice president and chief operating officer Lanny Nickell.

Social media was filled with comments from area residents who were affected by the rolling blackouts, including many who were also experiencing frozen pipes.

"Lost power, and cold water seems frozen in the bathroom," local resident Tara Turner commented on a News-Star Facebook post. "I let everything drip/run like usual. I was wondering if it was a City of Shawnee issue, as I usually get low water pressure from them. The shower is quite literally only a trickle. Hot water only."

"Lost power due to Rolling Blackout, about an hour. Hot water tank frozen up, no hot water," Paula Koontz commented.

SPP said the service interruptions are in response to extreme cold weather and other factors, including high electricity use across the system, limited wind power, and limited natural gas availability.

Early Tuesday morning, Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative, Inc., also posted on Facebook about another round of rolling blackouts, saying, "We have seen some members impacted this morning on the edges of our territory. We will get little to no warning when or where outages occur in this nature. This is not something that CVEC or WFEC has any control over."

The post went on to ask customers experiencing outages to wait 45 minutes to an hour to report it, or to use the SmartHub App, since phone lines are already being pushed to capacity.

By mid-morning Tuesday, they posted an update that there might be an end to the service interruptions.

"At this time we are being informed that all power will be restored with no immediate plans to take any more offline," a Canadian Valley Facebook post said. "We continue to ask all of our members to conserve energy and be prepared as best possible to be without power for an estimate of 1-2 hours at a time for the next 24 hours. We certainly understand your concerns and reiterate that this is above and beyond our control as the SPP mandates load control measures."

The post also included maps of locations that might be impacted if another round of outages becomes necessary.

"They include substations and circuits known as: Garden Grove South, Hazel Dell East, Meeker West, Meeker South, Shawnee West, Shawnee North, and Wetumka East," the post said.

Some of the steps suggested to help conserve electricity include:

• Setting thermostats 1 to 2 degrees lower than usual;

• Postponing the use of major electrical appliances (such as stoves, dishwasher, washing machines, and dryers) until mid-day or after 9 p.m.;

• Turn off lights and appliances that are not being used;

• Unplug devices that are not being used;

• Businesses should minimize the use of electric lighting and other electricity-consuming equipment where possible;

• Large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential production processes.

Watch for updates, and follow Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative, Inc. and OG&E on social media for further updates.

The Southwest Power Pool is calling for customers to conserve energy during extreme low temperatures.