Cherokee County and Tahlequah city officials were bracing for additional snowfall Wednesday night and rolling blackouts through Thursday.
The Grand River Dam Authority had been directed by the Southwest Power Pool to begin the blackout in a 17-state region. GRDA received notification that SPP declared an Emergency Alert Level 3 early Tuesday morning. However, GRDA announced that SPP declared a return to an EEA Level 1, which indicates a return to relatively normal operations on the electric system.
“We do not have any interruptions of service on the GRDA system, and we do not anticipate we will see additional interruptions of service during the day today,” GRDA stated. “However, the possibility of returning to more elevated levels does remain for later this evening and again tomorrow morning.”
TPWA General Manager Mike Doublehead said he anticipates more blackouts and stressed that city residents should be prepared for at least two hours of a blackout, should another one occur.
“We’ve got men and women out there working in minus 9-degree temperatures to make sure the services we provide stay on,” Doublehead said. “Water is going to be an issue over the next few days in terms of waterline breakage when things start to thaw out.”
The rolling blackouts are being used to protect the integrity of the entire electric grid.
“It could prolong the outage, and these temperatures are creating an extreme amount of pressure on the electric grid regionwide,” said Doublehead.
Doublehead said no schedules are available locally for blackouts, as GRDA doesn't provide them to TPWA. But TPWA officials are urging resident to sign up CivicReady with the city of Tahlequah.
Lake Region Electric Cooperative said its capacity had reached a critical level Tuesday morning, and that its power supplier could “shed some load” to keep the system operational.
“While the situation continues to be extremely tight, Associated Electric Cooperative, which generates LREC’s power, hasn’t had to ask G&Ts to shed load,” LREC stated on its website. “Plans have been coordinated with the G&Ts, as the situation could still necessitate that action.”
District 3 Cherokee County Commissioner Clif Hall said the courthouse will be closed until Friday, Feb. 19.
“If you must get out, it would be best to contact each individual office to see if they are open before traveling to the courthouse,” said Hall.
Hall and his crew are equipped with five graders, two sand trucks, and a snowplow.
District 2 Commissioner Chris Jenkins is working with six graders and three spreader trucks since many roadways became impassible.
City Street Department Superintendent William “Buddy” Harris said his crews are working two 12-hour shifts. He said they only have the manpower to clear the main roadways. He said they are preparing for the additional incoming snow on Tuesday night into Wednesday.
Tahlequah Police Chief Nate King warned of the distinct possibility of a power outage during the brutal cold and snowy weather.
“Conserve parts of your home, turn off lights when you’re in rooms, turn the heat down a few degrees because our power grid is under strain right now,” said King. “With the weather temperatures and whatnot, some of our alternate sources of power — solar and wind both — have not been producing lately.”
King said in the event Tahlequah and Cherokee County experience a blackout, TPD has a generator that will allow for heating, lights, and hot water.
“If anybody needs anything, you can come to the police department as a warming station. You don’t have to stay or spending the night but you can come just [to] congregate and be warm,” said King. "We can probably hold about 100-150 people total.”
King said four people have stayed at the jail and there’s plenty of room for more, if needed.
Monthly city meetings have either been canceled or postponed due to inclement weather.
Mayor Sue Catron said the Tahlequah City Council meeting has been postponed until 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 18. Officials said the Governmental Building Authority and the Tahlequah Regional Development Authority meetings have been pushed back to a later date.
According to the National Weather Service, a winter storm warning was issued for all of eastern Oklahoma. The warning is in effect from 4 p.m., Tuesday until 6 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 18.
“Widespread 4-8 inches of snow are expected with locally higher amounts, especially across southeast Oklahoma,” NWS said.
Editor's note: In the Tuesday, Feb. 16 edition, it was reported that Jenkins had two graders. Jenkins has six graders and three spreader trucks.