In an alarming escalation of extreme weather, a massive winter storm swept across the eastern half of the United States on Tuesday, signalling a severe freeze over the coming weekend. The winter storm’s impact was immediate and widespread, leading to power outages affecting over 302,000 homes and businesses in nine states.
The brunt of this winter onslaught was felt acutely in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. Georgia experienced over 65,000 power outages, Florida faced more than 62,000, and Alabama reported over 58,000, as detailed by PowerOutage.us. The key power providers managing this crisis include Southern Co in Georgia and Alabama and NextEra Energy in Florida.
This catastrophic weather event echoes the disastrous February 2021 freeze, which notoriously left millions in Texas and other central U.S. states in a dire situation without power, water, and heat for days. Furthermore, a December 2022 storm, referred to as Elliott within the energy industry, almost led to the collapse of power and natural gas systems in the eastern U.S.
According to reports from AccuWeather.com, the current storm’s reach is vast, covering a region from Minnesota to Alabama and Kansas to North Carolina. Its trajectory is set to continue towards the East Coast and the Northeast.
In a concerning development, LSEG financial firm data indicates that natural gas demand in the U.S. is expected to hit a record high of 169.2 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd)on Monday, Jan. 15. This projection outstrips the current daily record of 162.5 bcfd set on Dec. 23, 2022, as per S&P Global Commodities Insights. The demand spike is forecasted despite the closure of numerous businesses and government offices due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.
Interestingly, despite the severe weather and its impact, spot power and gas prices have shown only a modest response to the storm. However, gas futures have significantly increased by about 23% over the past six days, reaching a seven-week high of around $3.11 per million British thermal units.
As the country braces for the severe winter storm conditions, the focus remains on emergency response and recovery efforts. The storm is a stark reminder of extreme weather events’ increasing frequency and intensity, underscoring the need for robust infrastructure and preparedness to withstand such challenges.