Moorhead caught in rolling blackouts as historic cold hits central, southern U.S.

Blackouts started at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
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Electricity pylon

Rolling blackouts are happening in Moorhead, Minnesota, with the border city hit as energy providers respond to the historic cold snap in the central and southern U.S.

While the rest of Minnesota's utilities are coping with demand due to the recent freeze, Moorhead falls under the purview of the Southwest Power Pool, a regional transmission organization that stretches from North Dakota to Texas.

With states to the south suddenly seeing an unusual spike in energy demand due to the cold, rolling blackouts are being implemented among members across much of the Southwest Power Pool network.

Moorhead Public Service announced Monday that rolling blackouts in the city would start at 10 a.m. Tuesday, running every 30 minutes in parts of the city until further notice.

"Southwest Power Pool (SPP) has ordered rolling blackouts through an energy emergency and is taking steps to prevent circumstances from getting worse, which could result in uncontrolled outages of even greater magnitude," MPS noted.

"This is primarily because of the loss of generation throughout the nation due to the extreme winter storms."

There have been rolling blackouts and power cuts even in the energy-rich state of Texas, whose power grid suffered a "catastrophic failure" as natural gas supplies – which power a significant portion of the state's power stations – depleted due to more being used to heat properties, and because some gas wells have frozen. Some oil refineries have also been shut down due to plunging temperatures, while some of the state's wind turbines are out of action due to being frozen.

SPP called a "Level 3" emergency for the first time ever in response to the huge demand for energy as southern states – which more usually see a spike in the summer for air conditioning – saw temperatures plunge.

The temperature Tuesday mid-morning was 14 degrees in Dallas, Texas, and 6 degrees in Oklahoma City, but that's not to say the Fargo-Moorhead area hasn't dealt with its own cold snap, with the metro area just experiencing its longest period below zero since 1996.

KMBC News notes that the Southwest Power Pool acts effectively like an "air traffic control" for electric utilities across its 13-state network.

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