Residents of Nebraska woke up to some of the coldest temperatures in their lives on Tuesday — as low as minus 31 degrees — and to messages from their power operators saying the companies had no choice but to implement rolling blackouts.
“We are in the midst of an unprecedented spell of arctic cold weather called the polar vortex,” Tim Burke, president and chief executive officer of Omaha Public Power District, said in a video.
The utility told its 300,000 residential customers that planned outages would affect about 10,000 customers for an hour at a time on a rotating basis. “We know how inconvenient and unfortunate it is to be without power, and we would never intentionally interrupt customers if it wasn’t absolutely necessary,” Mr. Burke said.
He asked customers conserve energy by lowering their thermostats by a few degrees, turning off unused lights and unplugging any devices or appliances that are not currently being used.
The Southwest Power Pool, which manages the electric grid in Nebraska and 13 other states, said on Tuesday morning that it was also working with its member utilities on rolling blackouts “as a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole.”
The National Weather Service in Omaha warned of “painfully cold weather” and dangerous wind chills in the region on Tuesday. Highs were expected to be at minus three and four degrees, with morning wind chills to between -20 and -40 degrees.
In Lincoln, Neb., it was minus 31 degrees on Tuesday morning, “making it the coldest temp recorded there in 46 years,” the Weather Service said. Residents in Norfolk, Neb., were dealing with a reading of minus 31 degrees, breaking a record there from 1924. And Omaha was reporting its coldest day since 1996 at minus 23 degrees.