Copperas Cove family describes experience of eight days without power
By BRITTANY FHOLER
By Saturday evening, the large majority of Copperas Cove residents had finally had their power restored, but some families are still upset at how long they went without power.
The Patrick family, who live on Stockdale Road in the Heartwood Park subdivision off Courtney Lane, were without consistent power for eight days. Their power first went out Saturday morning and wasn’t initially restored until 1:22 a.m. on Sunday. The power stayed on for a few hours before going out again. The power came on again on Wednesday, for two to three hours, before going back out a final time.
The Patricks decided to take their family and their pets to a hotel Sunday, after the temperature inside their house continued to drop. Like many others experienced, finding an open restaurant or other source of food was a challenge.
“It’s hard when you have a kid and pets and trying to find a hotel room that allows all that stuff,” Timothy Patrick said. “I mean, we basically had to eat out every day. We really don’t have too many places to go cook or anything like that, but going to the grocery store, trying to find food and places that are open. For several days, no places were open. You couldn’t go to a restaurant, get a hot meal and then all you could do is go to the store in hopes that you could find some meat or bread or something so that you could have sandwiches or something like that just to be able to have food.”
Patrick said that the power outages in his neighborhood started before any of the rolling blackouts that had been ordered by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to reduce the strain on the state’s power grid.
The Patricks are from Missouri and had never experienced a power outage lasting longer than 24 hours, so eight days without power was a shock.
“The temperature had gotten a little bit colder but everybody else in the whole neighborhood around us has power, but it was Stockdale, Ross and Hobby- we lost power, and it’s been that same way,” Patrick said. “Stockdale’s been constantly out of power except for those few times we had power for a few hours. We talked to [Oncor], but they would never give us clear answers. We’ve recently talked to the mayor, but she said she still had no specific information for our area.”
Patrick said that there had been an Oncor truck in the neighborhood Saturday afternoon and that had been the first time they had seen someone from Oncor since last Wednesday, a worker switched on the breakers for the neighborhood and the power came on but then went back out again.
The rolling blackouts had stopped by Friday, but several thousand Texans across the state remained without power. Greg Abbott had issued a statement that if Texans still did not have power, remaining outages were due to damaged power lines instead.
In talking to the Oncor worker on Saturday, Patrick said he was told that there might be something wrong with the transformer, while other neighbors said they were told it might be a break in the line, they can’t find it.
“It seems like the story’s changed, and they truly don’t know what the answer is,” Patrick said. “We just want specific answers. We’ve been out the longest and they’ve basically abandoned us, outward and we just want to know a timeframe because we’re staying in hotels, we’re trying to figure out what we have to do, if we’re going to have enough money to stay in a hotel. We’re trying to plan our life around no information, and it’s hard for us to do anything.”
The Patrick family is also in the middle of the process of packing and moving, but the lack of power hindered this process.
“We’re in the process of moving,” Amanda Patrick said. “We were supposed to be packing up the truck to leave on Tuesday.”
The Patrick family celebrated Timothy’s birthday in the dark by candlelight when the power first went out Saturday. Their first and only night in their powerless house, the family huddled together in one room under several blankets.
Amanda shared that their next-door neighbors made the tough decision to leave the state and go back to Oklahoma with their three kids and two dogs rather than stay in their home without power. The wife had schoolwork she needed to complete, and hotels in the area either overbooked or wouldn’t take their dogs. The family ended up staying in their car for a couple nights while waiting for the husband to obtain leave from his job before they drove up to Oklahoma, Amanda said.
Although power was restored by Saturday evening, the concern remains due to not knowing what led to the power outage in the first place.
The Patricks said one of the biggest frustrations came from reporting the outage to Oncor online, which placed them in a queue. After a period of time, the website showed that power had been restored to their home and the report was marked as complete, despite there being no actual power.
“One day, we resubmitted three times because they cleared us out three times saying there’s no known outages in our area, so they cleared us out three times, but we still had no power,” Patrick said.
Patrick said he was a cable dog in the Army and knows how hard the linemen are working to restore power in the cold weather, but he wanted answers. He added that he had put in a request for an investigation with the Public Utilities Commission of Texas on why they had been cleared from the Oncor queue repeatedly, but that request can take up to 21 days for a response.
In a press release issued on Saturday, Oncor revealed that there were only 4,000 remaining outages statewide as of Saturday evening.
The press release also mentioned that restoration efforts have been hindered by two main factors including hazardous road conditions that greatly slow the time it takes for Oncor trucks and personnel to reach areas of repair, and pick up and deliver equipment to work sites, and identifying damaged equipment as a result of transformers having to quickly power back up massive amounts of energy after the controlled outages concluded.
“This damage is somewhat comparable to blowing a fuse when you plug too many devices into one outlet in your home,” reads the press release. “While this damage may temporarily prevent the equipment from powering up every connected customer in the area, personnel will aim to restore as many as possible to provide relief before replacement equipment can be installed.”
Patrick said he was told when power was restored that the reason for the outage was that the homes were using too much power and that the system was not made for 5-degree weather. He said he thought the problem arose from not having a second feeder line to provide enough power to the neighborhood, leading to the fuse tripping each time.
The Leader-Press reached out to Oncor prior to the power being restored on Saturday for information on why the power had remained off but as of press time had not heard back.