October 01, 2012

The Southwest Cold Snap: Extreme Weather at the Gas/Electric Interface

Jennifer E. Gardner

During the first week of February 2011, the southwest region of the United States experienced unusually cold and windy winter weather conditions. Low temperatures during this period plunged into the teens for five consecutive mornings, with many hours of below-freezing temperatures experienced overnight. Albuquerque, New Mexico, for example, experienced temperatures ranging from 7 to –7° Fahrenheit (F), compared to average temperatures in the 26 to 51° F range. The impacts from this extreme cold weather event—the “Southwest cold snap”—were far reaching and severe, with the natural gas and electric sectors being hit particularly hard. By the time the region had recovered, 4.4 million electricity customers and 50,000 gas customers in various portions of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona had lost service.

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