30K went without power as first Evergy blackouts rolled through Kansas

Local News

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Customers have electricity back after Evergy started controlled blackouts Monday, due to the extreme cold weather that won’t let up in Kansas.

“Beginning on February 15 at 12:15 p.m., Evergy will begin to turn off electricity to blocks of customers for approximately 30 – 60 minutes. Once the period has concluded, power will be restored to the impacted area. The emergency outages will then rotate to another portion of Evergy’s service area. Power will cycle off and on periodically until the reduction is no longer required by the SPP. With these extreme cold temperatures, equipment may not operate as intended. As a result, outages could last longer than 30 – 60 minutes.”

Evergy

At the outages’ peak at 1:10, the electric company reported 1,187 power outages affecting 30,178 customers. As of 1:30, the number has dropped to 6,614 without power. The circles on the map represent clusters of power outages, and clicking on them will show how many customers are without power in that area. View the Evergy Outage Map below to check for blackouts around Northeast Kansas:

The Southwest Power Pool, which provides electrical grid coverage for the region with Evergy, declared an Energy Emergency Alert Level 3 Monday morning. This means the grid’s operating electric reserves are below their required minimum, which can cause uncontrolled blackouts. Evergy resorted to controlled blackouts when the SPP told it to cut power usage to prevent further and uncontrolled power outages.

“In our history as a grid operator, this is an unprecedented event and marks the first time Southwest Power Pool has ever had to call for controlled interruptions of service,” said SPP’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Lanny Nickell. “Controlled service interruptions are a last resort, and a step we take only when necessary to safeguard continued reliability of the regional grid.”

With electricity providers facing generating issues from the cold, supply couldn’t keep up with demand from energy customers. Evergy said it determined how best to reduce energy usage based on its own emergency procedures. In some cities like Manhattan, this came in the form of traffic signals going offline.

While the power company cut electricity for some areas, it also took measures to ensure Kansans with vital equipment like oxygen machines kept running, according to Evergy spokeswoman Gina Penzig.

“As controlled outages are needed, they will be spread over the area we serve and not concentrated to just one area,” Penzig said. “We have a team that was proactively calling customers who are part of the life support program. Customers who have medical equipment that requires electricity are encouraged to have power back up or another plan in place in case of outages.”

That effort also included hospitals.

“We have notes in the system of where hospitals and other emergency facilities are located,” Penzig said. “It helps us prioritize work when we have large storms.”

The Energy Emergency Alert Level 3 came after two previous warnings of future electrical grid issues from SPP.

“SPP declared a period of conservative operations for our entire balancing authority area at
midnight central time on Feb. 9. Then, on Feb. 14, we declared an EEA Level 1 effective at 5:00
am central time on Monday, Feb. 15, and subsequently an EEA Level 2 at 7:22 am on Monday,
February 15.”

Southwest Power Pool

Multiple schools including Kansas State University, Washburn University and Topeka Public Schools also canceled in-person and remote classes due to the power outages. With more outages pending Monday night and Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service also shared advice for staying warm even while the power is out.

(Courtesy Photo/National Weather Service Kansas City)

View KSNT News’ Weather section for updates on the extreme winter conditions.

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