Impacts of February Arctic Blast

Published by Bob Hance on Thursday, April 1, 2021 in Community

Last February we were beginning to read headlines about this thing called the coronavirus. Little did we know then that what became known as COVID-19 would pretty much shut down much of the world as we know it over the subsequent months.

Fast forward to February 2021. Most COVID-19 headlines were temporarily replaced by a polar vortex that gripped much of the country, causing particular devastation in Texas, where the grid simply wasn’t prepared for the frigid temperatures. Millions of people in the country’s second-most-populous state were left without power for days as parts of the state recorded temperatures colder than Alaska.

While we avoided the massive power outages that devastated much of Texas, our own well-weatherized systems also were at risk. The widespread deep freeze taxed our regional transmission system, which covers much of the mid-section of the country, to the point that our power supplier implemented mitigation efforts in an effort to prevent significant impact on our customers. I believe we were a few degrees away from a much more catastrophic event.

Michiganders were not entirely unscathed, however. The extreme cold, combined with people spending more time at home due to continued restrictions from the pandemic, created an unusually high demand for home heating fuel. This prompted our governor to declare a state of energy emergency for a week in late February, lifting some of the restrictions for propane and heating oil deliveries.

Not surprising to me, our propane team rose to the occasion, battling the brutal cold to make sure our customers were safe and warm. A few other providers, unfortunately, created some nasty headlines for themselves as they were unresponsive to customer calls for fills, leaving them without a heat source in the brutal cold. We happily stepped in where we could, switching out competitor tanks upon request as we kept our own customer tanks filled.

On Tuesday, Feb. 16, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport recorded a record low temperature of -2 degrees; one week later it was about 80 degrees warmer. As we settle back into more typical temperatures and weather patterns, we’re now left facing the unknown long-term impact of the unusual winter of 2021.

Texas is the capital of the U.S. energy industry and home to some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies. Refinery closures due to the weather, combined with already scaled-back production resulting from the pandemic, will translate to higher utility bills and gas prices around the country. We’re already seeing it at the gas pumps, and our team is seeing it as we monitor propane prices to hedge supply for our 2021-22 and 2022-23 heating seasons.

While we may see a bump in our propane prices, we won’t be alone. And you can take comfort in the way we handled the 2021 crisis, both for our existing family and of customers, and those who joined the family when their providers couldn’t, or wouldn’t, rise to the occasion. We’re your home team and will continue to do everything we can to keep you safe and warm, no matter what Mother Nature throws our way.

About The Author

Bob Hance

Bob Hance is the President/CEO of Midwest Energy & Communications, and a 45-year veteran of the electric cooperative industry. Within the industry he has earned a reputation as a leader and a trailblazer, and has been nationally recognized for his efforts to bridge the digital divide as a tir

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