RUNNELS COUNTY — For the second time this year, Runnels County was hit with a snowstorm. The bone-chilling cold started on Thursday, Feb. 11, not releasing its icy grip until Tuesday, Feb. 16. The New Year was ushered in on the heels of 5 inches of snow that fell between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.
Prior to the arctic front descending into Texas, the National Weather Service issued daily and even hourly blizzard and white-out warnings. The NWS said that this was only the second time that a blizzard and white-out warning were issued in Runnels County.
The temperatures didn't rise above the freezing mark until Tuesday. Schools were already scheduled to be canceled Friday and Monday, and numerous businesses shuttered their locations due to the expected treacherous conditions. The area was expected to receive 6 inches of snow with a below-freezing wind chill.
The forecast proved to be accurate. Temps plummeted on Thursday night as stores were packed with shoppers looking to shore up their pantries before the weather struck. On Friday, locations such as Tractor Supply and Ballinger Feed sold every heat lamp, heat bulb and trough warmer in the store. Heat lamps were used for more than just livestock, they were also put in well houses to keep the wells from freezing up.
The temperatures continued their downward spiral Saturday, with icy precipitation moving in. Many areas experienced sub-zero temperatures for the first time in recent history. In 2020, the coldest day of the year was in February, when temps dipped to 21 degrees. This year, 2021 said, "Hold my beer."
On Sunday, Feb. 14, Valentine's Day was the perfect day to stay inside and snuggle up. The historic winter invasion peaked with winds up to 25 mph, bringing temperatures to -10 degrees and below. Snow fell over the area for more than 14 hours. The wind gusts blew snow and ice over every roadway, creating a significant hazard for drivers braving the blacktop.
There was no relief as the wind and snow ceased their assault. Temperatures continued to plummet throughout Sunday night, with some places recording -15 degrees. At 5 a.m. Monday morning, the temperature held steady at -8 degrees until the sun started peeking over the horizon.
The blizzard and freezing conditions resulted in every electric cooperative across the state taking part in mandatory rolling blackouts ordered by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). Many customers had their power shut off anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes, with some going much longer. The time that the power was out exceeded three hours in some places in Runnels County.
Many of the rolling blackouts took place overnight, while customers were asleep. Some people simply awoke to a frigid house as they tried to figure out what was going on. Confusion enveloped people like a blanket of snow when customers didn't know if their power was out due to the rolling blackout, or if it was out due to a downed power line. A phone call to any of the various electric cooperatives was met with either a busy signal, or a prerecorded message, without the ability to speak to an operator and either report your power outage or get an estimated time that the blackout was going to end.
Snow totals hadn't been finalized at press time. It is apparent, however, that this blizzard far exceeded the 5 inches of snow many areas received on Jan. 1.