JONESBORO — As more winter weather hit Northeast Arkansas on Wednesday, some Craighead County residents had to face not only hazardous road conditions, but a loss of electricity.
Monty Williams, vice president of marketing and communications for Craighead Electric Cooperative, said the demand for electricity was at an all time high late Tuesday night.
“We were at 171 megawatts Tuesday night,” he said. “The last time we were anywhere near that amount was Jan. 2018, and we were at 152 megawatts.”
Williams said representatives with Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas contacted Craighead Electric to implement a rolling blackouts strategy.
“By the time we got it typed up and sent out, Trumann (substation) was out,” he said.
Two other substations were affected by the blackout; Earl and South Jonesboro substations.
Williams said Tuesday night’s rolling blackouts lasted an hour in most locations.
“We are hoping this is just a one time deal,” he said, noting the situation is still critical.
Williams said Wednesday morning, there was about 141 megawatts being utilized. “Usage dropped considerably,” he added.
Rob Roedel, director of Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, said Tuesday night’s directive was a first.
“In my career, never have I issued curtailments in the winter time,” he said. “This is a historic event, although not a popular historic event.”
There are two main factors affecting the power grids, he said.
“The first being the extreme near-record cold temperatures not only in Arkansas but in other states,” he said. “The other is an inadequate fuel supply for natural gas-based generator power plants.”
Although the state has contracted with alternative sources of power that feed energy into the grid, Roedel said those are being affected as well.
“We have five different agreements with wind farms, and 16 solar projects,” he said. “Right now those solar panels are not getting much sunlight so they are not generating much power. The turbines to the windmills are also freezing up and not able to turn.”
Craighead Electric Cooperative was not the only local utility company that received notification to decrease pressure on the powers grids.
Kevan Inboden, special projects administrator for City Water and Light, received a directive by Entergy, the company’s local balancing authority, to drop some of the load on the grid temporarily.
“The area we chose was in eastern Jonesboro, which were mostly industrial loads,” Inboden said.
Inboden said turning off power is never an easy decision.
“We tried to keep residential customers on that use electric to heat their houses,” he said. “Some gas wells have frozen over so they are unable to produce natural gas.”
The CWL representative wanted to assure residents there is no problem with the system.
“This was an issue outside of the system of Jonesboro, but it was somewhere on the grid,” Inboden said.
As utility companies have tried to decrease the overloaded power grids, the City of Jonesboro has faced its own issues this week.
Bill Campbell, director of communications, said street crews have continued the same work they have all week.
“We are clearing primary arterials, and then doing it over again,” he said. “We have eight trucks in action.”
Campbell said with it still snowing, there is not much else to be done.
“If we put down sand, it will just be shoveled off,” he added.
Campbell said residents are also facing trash pile up, because city officials have shut down the sanitation department until the hazardous road conditions are not a factor.
The city released a statement on its Facebook page urging residents to be patient.
“Sanitation relies on two things,” the release stated, “reliable street conditions, and Legacy Landfill being open.”
Campbell said Wednesday that neither of those conditions exist.
“Our plan is to resume (sanitation routes) on Friday,” he said. “On Saturday we will run Thursday’s routes.”