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Texans brace themselves for a major winter storm — and the threat of another blackout

TAMARA KEITH, HOST:

Millions are bracing for another winter storm that will stretch across much of the country later this week. It's expected to bring major snow to the Midwest and dangerous cold as far south as Texas. In that state, many are hoping it won't mean another deadly, mass blackout like a year ago. Kristen Cabrera of member station KUT in Austin reports.

KRISTEN CABRERA, BYLINE: Last February, Quay Garrett Emmons found herself 10 months pregnant and without power for days. She is taking no chances this winter, especially now that her son Asher is born. One thing she's learned...

QUAY GARRETT EMMONS: Keep all of your power banks and rechargeable batteries and things like that charged up always.

CABRERA: The reliability of the Texas electrical grid is top of mind for Emmons. And her winter preparedness has taken a political turn because of it.

EMMONS: I do not trust the Texas electrical grid. Honestly, like, this is probably not the answer you're looking for, but the biggest thing I've done to prepare is donate money to Beto O'Rourke's campaign.

CABRERA: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott today reassured people that the grid is ready for the winter storm. The Texas grid operator has inspected more than 300 power plants. New regulations since last year's blackout required these plants to winterize. Doug Lewin, president of Stoic Energy, says he's not expecting another massive blackout.

DOUG LEWIN: But in the event there were outages, they would not be days-long. Again, unless the forecast shifts and we get a repeat of last year, you know, they might last for, you know, a few minutes or hours, but not days, just because, again, this storm is just not nearly as deep.

CABRERA: The grid operator projects that high energy demand will peak on Friday. But a main cause for last year's blackout was a disruption in the state's natural gas supply, and there have been no new regulations enacted yet to protect that from a winter freeze. So state regulators and nervous residents will be watching to see how the Texas grid weathers this storm - the first test since the state's devastating blackout one year ago.

For NPR News, I'm Kristen Cabrera in Austin.

(SOUNDBITE OF HAMMOCK'S "SCATTERING LIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.