Monett area may be spared blackouts

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Energy production rebounds Tuesday, canceling blackouts

Much of southwest Missouri, including Joplin and Springfield, experienced rolling blackouts – planned power outages – resulting from a region-wide power shortage caused by high energy consumption during record low temperatures Sunday and Monday.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Monett was spared from outages, but many communities were warned that loss of power was a real possibility and advised to prepare for up to one hour without lights or electric heat.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, as temperatures began to crawl out of negative digits. Liberty Utilities, which services the Monett area, issued a statement to customers notifying residents that the Southwest Power Pool, the wholesale power provider that supplies electricity to Liberty, was halting rolling blackouts.

While the utilities are confident that there is enough power being generated to meet current needs, Liberty did say that the situation can change.

“This is a rapidly evolving emergency,” Liberty Utilities Program Manager Jillian Curtis said in the statement. “As a reminder, if the SPP requires additional service interruptions, we will interrupt service in blocks throughout our electric system.”

Monett Utilities Director Skip Schaller said Tuesday that the city had been spared from the blackouts, but he also stressed that the situation can change.

“Right now, we are hoping that we get spared,” Schaller said. “It looks like right now Liberty is stopping the blackouts, because the demand is where they can handle it, but the caveat is that that could change.”

Schaller said the issue with the electric supply is the result of increased demand and decreased supply, both caused by the freezing temperatures experienced throughout the region over the past several days.

“The coal plants are struggling,” Schaller said. “Their coal piles are freezing and that just adds more stress to the system. It’s not just natural gas.”

While much of the Monett area seems to have gotten through the storm with little or no interruption to electrical services, much of the midwest has been impacted.

“These required service interruptions, impacting utilities across the midwest, are an effort to avoid longer uncontrolled service interruptions,” Curtis said. “We will work to keep the duration of these interruptions down to approximately one hour per block. We will do all we can to minimize the impact.”

Curtis also said Liberty is not able to individually notify customers of impending outages “because of the rapidly changing nature of this emergency.”

Liberty is continuing to urge residents to conserve energy however and whenever possible to alleviate as much strain on the power grid as possible.

The Lawrence County Office of Emergency Services is also recommending that residents be prepared for periodic outages in case the rolling blackouts return.

Residents should have alternate heating sources, charged cell phones, alternative lighting and spare batteries on hand in case of a power outage.

Despite the cold temperatures, Lawrence County did not implement warming shelters over the frigid weekend because communities were able to keep the power on.

“We have not had to set up any shelters, but we have spoken with the Red Cross to assist if the need arises,” Monett Office of Emergency Management Director Bonnie Witt-Schulte said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: