A massive winter storm moving across the eastern half of the U.S. on Tuesday ahead of a forecast brutal freeze this weekend knocked out power to over 302,000 homes and businesses in nine states.
The hardest hit states so far were Georgia with over 65,000 power outages, Florida with over 62,000 outages and Alabama with over 58,000 outages, according to data from PowerOutage.us.
Southern Co operates the biggest power companies in Georgia and Alabama, while NextEra Energy is the biggest power provider in Florida.
Extreme weather is a reminder of the February freeze in 2021 that left millions in Texas and other U.S. Central states without power, water and heat for days, and a winter storm in December 2022 – known as Elliott in the energy industry – which almost caused power and natural gas systems to collapse in parts of the eastern half of the country.
The current storm is blanketing an area from Minnesota in the north to Alabama in the south and from Kansas in the west to North Carolina in the east, according to AccuWeather.com. It is moving toward the U.S. East Coast and the Northeast.
The storm is coming ahead of what will likely be the most frigid weather in over a year since the December 2022 storm blanketed much of the eastern half of the country, according to data from financial firm LSEG.
LSEG projected that natural gas demand, used to heat about half the homes in the country, would reach a daily record of 169.2 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) on Monday, Jan. 15.
That is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the record gas use, which includes exports, is expected even though many businesses and government offices will be closed for a long U.S. holiday this weekend.
If correct, Monday’s gas demand would top the current daily record of 162.5 bcfd set on Dec. 23, 2022, according to federal energy data from S&P Global Commodities Insights.
One billion cubic feet is enough gas to fuel about 5 million U.S. homes for a day.
Despite the coming cold, spot power and gas prices have not reacted much to the current storm, but gas futures have soared about 23% over the past six days and were trading at a seven-week high of around $3.11 per million British thermal units.
DECEMBER 2022 STORM
The December 2022 storm caused some energy companies, including the Tennessee Valley Authority and Duke Energy, to impose rotating outages to maintain power reliability after dozens of power plants failed to operate.
Gas flows into pipelines were also reduced during that storm, as output declined due in part to the freezing of gas wells, pipes and other equipment. At the same time, demand for the fuel for heating and power generation soared, dramatically lowering line pressures.
In New York City, Consolidated Edison was forced to declare an emergency because it faced a system collapse that would have taken “many months” to restore service in the middle of the winter.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; editing by Jonathan Oatis)