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Houston Braces for First Hard Freeze of 2024 as ERCOT Issues Weather Watch

Following a week of intermittent rainfall and gusty winds in Southeast Texas, the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is cautioning residents about an imminent cold front that is poised to bring the first hard freeze of 2024 to the Houston area.

ERCOT issued a Weather Watch spanning from January 15 to 17, citing forecasted extreme cold weather across the ERCOT region, anticipating higher electrical demand, and potential lower reserves. In a message posted on X, regulators urged residents to monitor grid conditions on http://ercot.com, emphasizing that conditions are expected to be normal during this period.

A Weather Watch, the least severe level of grid condition notices in the Texas Advisory and Notification System (TXANS), precedes more urgent notices like the Voluntary Conservation Notice and Conservation Appeal.

Wednesday’s Weather Watch precedes an arctic blast anticipated to sweep through the northern United States and the Great Plains, reaching the Gulf Coast over the weekend. This frigid weather system is predicted to bring sub-freezing temperatures and low wind chills as it descends upon Houston on Sunday, featuring prolonged periods of subfreezing temperatures.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS) forecasters, hard freezes (temperatures below 24°F) pose a threat to many parts of Southeast Texas from Sunday night through Tuesday night. The Houston metro may experience temperatures as low as 22 degrees on Monday morning, with daytime highs reaching around 37 degrees. The cold spell is expected to persist into Tuesday, keeping highs in the upper 30s and lows around 31 degrees, before warmer air returns on Wednesday.

While NWS models currently show no strong signal for frozen precipitation, residents are advised to prepare for the freeze by insulating outdoor pipes, bringing pets and vulnerable potted plants indoors, and checking on neighbors in need.

This impending cold snap will mark Houston’s first encounter with freezing temperatures in over a year. The city went the entirety of 2023 without a single day of freezing weather, making it 379 days since the temperature hit 32 degrees Fahrenheit in Houston, ranking as the fourth-longest streak in the city’s history.

ERCOT is taking preliminary measures to ready the state power grid for the approaching arctic blast. The state energy regulator issued an Operating Conditioning Notice (OCN) on Monday, signaling awareness of the extreme cold weather event expected for Texas. While this notice serves as an informational warning for energy providers, ERCOT officials had previously projected a 14.4-16.9 percent chance of the state power grid experiencing a cold snap requiring rolling blackouts based on the Winter Storm Elliott experience in 2022.

Que Onda Magazine will continue to monitor developments as this weather system approaches the state.