Record-breaking heat scorches Texas, challenges power grid

Record-breaking heat scorches Texas, challenges power grid
·5 min read

Residents of the Lone Star State are used to blazing temperatures, but even the hardiest Texans found themselves sweating during the latest record-breaking heat wave to impact the United States, which has been challenging the state's power grid and setting numerous records.

Most of Texas has had above-normal heat since the start of June, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Houk, but the worst of the heat thus far has been reserved for the past few days.

"There have been periods where a dome of high pressure that has been a mostly permanent fixture across the South Central states strengthens near Texas causing a few days of record-challenging heat in a row across the state," Houk said, adding the high pressure was at its strongest over the last several days.

Paramedics in Fort Worth, Texas, responded to a dramatic surge in heat-related 911 calls as the heat intensified, with people suffering from homelessness, elderly, young children, and outdoor workers at the highest risk for illnesses caused by the searing heat.

"We're experiencing about double the heat-related call volume that we did last year," MedStar operations supervisor John Hamilton told AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell.

As the heat continues, so does the enhanced risk of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Forecasters say residents in the affected areas should continue to take care to remain well-hydrated and limit time spent outdoors during the hottest part of the day if possible.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is hardly the only part of Texas experiencing extreme heat, though. In Abilene, which is located 180 miles west of Dallas, temperatures climbed above the century mark for 17 straight days, a streak that finally came to an end on June 26. However, Abilene started a new streak of triple-digit heat on July 4.

According to the National Weather Service, Austin and San Antonio are experiencing their hottest meteorological summers on record. From June 1 to July 8, the average temperature in both Austin and San Antonio was 88 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking the former records of 87.3 and 87.1 respectively, both of which were set during the summer of 2011. And it's been especially hot in both of those places in recent days.

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On July 11, the mercury hit 107 F in San Antonio, smashing the old daily temperature record by 3 degrees and tying the record for the warmest July day ever in the city. The only other day this month with a high of 107 was July 13, 2020. Tuesday, despite dropping two degrees, San Antonio's high of 105 F still broke a daily record of 103 set in 1998.

On Monday in Austin, the temperature rose to 106 F for the third day in a row. Austin has been above 100 F every day since July 6.

In College Station, about 180 miles to the south of Dallas, the temperature climbed to 111 on Sunday, which was the hottest July temperature ever recorded in the city. Only on a couple of days in Sept. 2000, did the temperature reach or top the 111-degree mark. On Tuesday, College Station's high of 109 challenged Monday's 111, and tied a daily record set in 1954.

Wednesday was yet another record-breaking day in College Station, with a high of 105 breaking a record of 103 set in 2013. Another daily record was broken Wednesday in Tyler (106, smashing 2011's 104 reading)

Near the Mexican border in Laredo, the temperature rose to 110 degrees on Monday, while Galveston set or tied a new daily record high minimum temperature for the ninth day in a row, meaning that temperatures are remaining dangerously hot even during the overnight hours.

A man dives into the cool waters of the Comal River, Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in New Braunfels, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The intense and prolonged heat is challenging Texas's state-run power grid, ERCOT. As temperatures rose to record levels across the state on Monday, leading people to turn up their air conditioning, the agency sent a push alert to Texans' phones urging them to conserve electricity.

"The heat wave that has settled on Texas and much of the central United States is driving increased electric use," ERCOT said in a press release. "While solar power is generally reaching near-full generation capacity, wind generation is currently generating significantly less than what it historically generated in this time period."

After a new July peak was set Monday, another record-breaking power demand day for ERCOT took place Tuesday. ERCOT told AccuWeather's Bill Waddell that no conservation alerts were sent out Tuesday, due in part to "much better" wind power generation.

According to Reuters, ERCOT has thus far been able to avoid much-feared blackouts by asking both residents and businesses to curb their power usage, something that grid operators have been forced to do more and more as summers continue to warm. On Tuesday evening, 23,000 customers were without power in the state, including almost 1,000 outages in the central state Concho County.

Texas has also had an abnormally dry summer so far, with over 97% of the state experiencing abnormal dryness, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. More than 66% of the state is in the midst of worsening severe drought, with no significant rainfall in sight.

"The heat we are seeing across the state is tied into the drought that is also affecting most of the state. Dry ground allows more of the energy from the sun to heat the air," Houk explained, adding that Dallas has not received any rain in 40 days.

Experts at Climate Central say that summers in Texas are becoming warmer and drier. In the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area alone, summers have trended significantly warmer in the last 50 years. Compared to a typical summer in 1970, a summer today in the twin cities will bring seven more days above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Additional reporting by Bill Wadell.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated when Abilene's streak of 17 consecutive 100-degree days ended. The streak was snapped on June 26, not on July 11.

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