Ice on power lines causes outages in West Harris Co.

February 10, 2011 2:43:05 AM PST
Thousands of people were dealing with power outages last night. The problem wasn't rolling brownouts, but rather the cold and windy weather.

By 10pm last night, fewer than 800 customers remained without power. This morning at 4:30am, that number was down to 52. The wind was the biggest problem for CenterPoint Energy.

Rush hour was even slower than normal on the west side.

"Everybody has just going through all the stop lights, just trying to get home," resident Tyrin Stephen said.

Power outages left stop lights dark and traffic at a crawl. Business had to lock up, as many strip centers were without power. A few with generators could keep serving customers.

Some neighborhoods were also affected.

"Getting out of the house, getting into the car, 'cause we have to get something to eat, and we can't cook," resident Gabrielle Walker said.

And taking a ride in the car was the warmest option.

The outages affected 84,000 customers at the height of the issue on yesterday afternoon.

While small amounts of ice could be seen on branches, brushes and street signs, it's what's been happening a little higher up that is causing the outages to come and go.

CenterPoint Energy says galloping power lines was the problem. A combination of ice and wind cause them to gallop, and at times, that movement causes disruptions in service.

"We're dealing with some hard times right now, being 20-something degrees with the wind chill, we're just fighting right now," resident Kenny Schwinn said. "A lot of us have natural gas out here so we got fireplaces going and candles and whatnot."

The number of outages were as up and down as the lines as CenterPoint worked to correct the problem.

"It keeps going and coming back, right now. It's taken a while," resident Roberto Fernandez said.

And so some went on with dinner plans using whatever means they could.

"I'm going to start cooking because we don't have any lights or power," Fernandez said.

Restaurants that had power had a big surge in business, and there were long lines at drive-thrus. Some customers said they waited up to 30 minutes at a drive-thru.