AUSTIN (KXAN) — Many in Central Texas are worried about the incoming freeze.

“My biggest concerns would definitely be just for like, the surrounding neighborhoods, especially the ones that lost like power and water last go around in February 2021,” said Cory Long, who lives downtown.

His condo shares an energy grid with local hospitals, and wasn’t part of rolling blackouts during the deadly February 2021 storm.

Sophia Berry is also apprehensive.

“A little apprehensive to hope for the best about what might happen considering how low the temperature is going to get on Friday,” she said. “Scared because I don’t know if we’ve done the necessary changes since the big freeze of 2021.”

Austin-area energy facilities are on notice ahead of this week’s arctic air.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) issued an Operating Condition Notice (OCN) to transmission and distribution owners, and generators, in the Austin/San Antonio area, as well as Dallas Fort-Worth, from Thursday through Monday.

“It’s basically a first warning that there are severe temperatures or low temperatures that are expected,” explained Matt Mitchell with Austin Energy. “There is not an emergency condition, yet, where ERCOT is asking Texans to conserve power, or requiring utility services like Austin Energy to shed load through controlled power outages.”

For providers like Austin Energy, he said the notice puts them “on a heightened state of awareness and readiness.”

That includes a massive mobilization this week; hundreds of people monitoring electrical systems daily, working at the control center, and waiting in the wings to address possible outages.

“Particularly because this is happening on the Christmas weekend, we have ensured that we have adequate staffing and all of our facilities, as well as sufficient field crews and contractors available with personnel on call to respond as well, if necessary,” Mitchell said.

He said other preparations started happening in the fall, to weatherize infrastructure for winter.

“Insulation, windbreaks, heat tracing and inventory checks to make sure that we have the necessary supplies for whenever that arctic air does arrive,” he said.

Mitchell said because ERCOT expects plenty of energy supply through the week, they don’t expect to have to shed load, or conduct controlled power outages, like they did in February 2021.

“We continue to expect adequate supply with reserves for the approaching cold weather conditions, and we will continue to monitor and update you as those conditions change,” ERCOT’s new leader told his board of directors on Tuesday.

There’s also no ice expected this time, which Mitchell said helps.

“Anytime you have an ice storm, you could lose limbs that fall into power lines, trees that could fall into roadways and obstruct our first responding crews. So it just adds that dimension that you just don’t ever want to see,” he said.

Mitchell said the biggest impact they expect to customers this week is from high winds.

“These types of winds always have the potential to downed power lines, trees,” he said. “And that is typically the biggest cause of outages absent winter precipitation, which again, thankfully does not appear to be in the forecast.”

How other Central Texas energy companies are preparing

Oncor said they’ve finished their winter preparations for this season, which includes inspecting thousands of electrical facilities and lines, upgrading or replacing equipment, increasing inventory, and finishing emergency preparedness training.

Spokesperson Kerri Dunn said they’ll have crews on standby ahead of this week’s cold weather and wind.

“We’re asking customers to take a look around their homes and tie down any outdoor furniture or Christmas decorations to prevent items from being picked up by the wind. Smaller items like lawn chairs, toys and grills can also be brought inside,” Dunn said.

You can read more about their winter preparations here.

Pedernales Electric Cooperative said they have extra crews on standby to respond to possible power disruptions.

They said crews in their operations control center are monitoring the arctic air system 24/7.

“PEC trucks are fueled and winter-ready, and our call center is also prepared to support member phone calls,” a spokesperson wrote to KXAN.

They also said the cooperative has regular drills to evaluate their winter response.

San Marcos Utilities said they have a 24/7 response crew and vehicles ready for the severe winter weather ahead.

“Although increased staffing is not critical at this moment, SMTXU is prepared to switch to 24/7 operations if the need arises,” spokesperson Madeline Baker said.

They also don’t expect any power generation shortfalls that could lead to rolling or prolonged outages.

“The SMTXU Public Services Center has emergency generators that are frequently tested, and the water and wastewater pump and lift stations have additional pipe heating and insulation in place to prevent freezing as well as additional protections and procedures,” Baker said

They also have a new real-time outage system here.

Georgetown Electric Utility said they will be staffing up for Friday and Saturday to respond to weather-related emergencies.

They also pointed to a list of steps they’ve taken to prepare their facilities for winter weather, including replacing heaters and adding insulation to field equipment, like water pumps.