Tuesday, June 25, 2024 Jun 25, 2024
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For Many in North Texas, It’s Still Lights Out (Possibly Until Saturday)

Oncor says more than half of the area's 650,000 customers who lost power Tuesday morning now have electricity. The rest of us may need to pack our patience.
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The Dallas Zoo reopened (albeit later in the morning) Wednesday after teams worked to clear downed trees and limbs. Zoo officials said that some areas, like the Gorilla Trail, are still impacted by Tuesday morning’s storms. Courtesy Dallas Zoo

This was last updated at 3:20 p.m.

The good news is that more than half of the 650,000 customers without power after Tuesday morning’s hurricane-force winds now have electricity. The bad news is obvious: hundreds of thousands of people still do not. The number of affected Oncor customers is now 253,000 in total, and “more than 100,000” in the city of Dallas, the utility said Wednesday afternoon.

That would include the Erickson household, where things are getting a little surly. We’re trying to maintain perspective by remembering all we’ll have to do is throw away dodgy perishables and sweat. Many more are coordinating with insurance adjusters, hiring tree trimmers, and tarping roofs.

Wednesday morning Oncor said that teams are working 16-hour shifts to restore power. By the afternoon, spokesperson Grant Cruise said that 7,500 workers had been brought in and more are coming. The electricity provider says that it expects that most people will have power by Friday evening, but some may not get relief before Saturday.

“The damage is very widespread,” Cruise said. “There’s not one specific area that we can point to and say, ‘These folks will be up on Friday or Saturday.'”

On social media, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said there are 25 feeders that “must be repaired before they can be powered from the substation.” Twenty of those are in Dallas County, which likely explains the disparity with neighboring counties. A feeder is a high-voltage power line (or conductor) that distributes electricity from a substation to an area of hundreds or thousands of homes and businesses. They can be hung on shorter poles or can be buried underground and are different from the taller, latticed steel towers. Oncor has roughly 5,500 feeders across its 55,000-square-mile service area, a spokesperson said Wednesday.

Flooding yesterday, combined with fallen trees and other debris, has slowed progress. “In heavily damaged areas, wide swaths of power lines and distribution equipment are not only being repaired but must also be reconstructed,” Oncor said in a statement Wednesday morning. “In these areas, Oncor teams are facing complex repairs like removing uprooted trees and debris and replacing damaged utility poles and transformers before we can install new power lines.”

Cruise said Wednesday that each step in a massive repair like Tuesday’s storms is choreographed and simultaneous.

“First we focus on our transmission infrastructure, because that is the equipment that is responsible for moving power to hundreds of thousands of people,” he said. From there, the more critical facilities are brought back online: 911 centers, fire stations, police stations, water treatment, and the like. Then crews begin working on areas where they can get the most customers back up at once.

“It’s important to remember that a lot of that is happening at the same time,” he said.

City of Dallas officials offered a quick update last night and and again this afternoon. The city has opened respite centers where residents can seek shelter and air conditioning. Downed limbs or trees in the roadway can be reported via 311, either online, through the app, or by phone. Downed power lines should be reported through 911. 

In an email to the City Council Wednesday, Dallas Office of Emergency Management Director Travis Houston said that Dallas has ordered a debris removal team to clear roads ahead of Oncor’s trucks. Those crews are dispatched by 311 operators.

“The debris collection team includes 34 so-called ‘saw crews’ and crews from Streets and Sanitation,” Houston said. “Using mapping tools, data from those 311 calls are identifying where crews should focus efforts.”

By Wednesday afternoon, Houston said that the city had received about 1,600 service requests related to debris and blocked roads. So far, 433 of those requests have been closed, and 983 remain. Forty-two crews are working around the clock.

Garbage and recycling collection will be delayed by one day. The city has also suspended the rules on setting out bulk trash early, and all residents will be able to put out up to 20-cubic yards of debris for the next 15 days. The normal limit is 10-cubic yards.

Dallas Sanitation Director Clifton Gillespie said that removing the debris from the storm and getting the city back on a regular bulk trash schedule may take “a couple of months.”

“We’ve scaled up massively the number of crews we have,” he said.

Houston also said there are 141 traffic signals out and 120 are flashing. Temporary stop signs will be placed at some intersections. “Some of them may have been damaged as a result of the storm, so they may take a little longer and more technical repairs to get them back online,” he said Wednesday afternoon.

Dallas Fire-Rescue said that it responded to 322 traffic accidents Tuesday, but could not say for sure how many could be attributed to inoperable traffic signals.

When signal lights are flashing or are out, the rules for an all-way stop apply: the vehicle that arrives first has the right-of-way, and each vehicle then takes its turn through the intersection by order of arrival. If it’s unclear who came first, the driver (or drivers) on the left should yield to the driver on the right. The car furthest to the right has the right of way. If one car intends to turn and another intends to go straight, the driver going straight goes first. If one plans on turning left and the other plans on turning right, the vehicle on the right has the right-of-way.

There are also a few city facilities that received some damage, mostly from the wind, Houston said. That would include the controversial 7800 Stemmons building, where the city’s permitting and development services departments were briefly housed. Houston said that glass panels at the building’s entrance were damaged by wind, but crews were cleaning it up.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.
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