2023 Winter Storm Mara FAQ
Answering the most common questions from the event
Below you will find a list of straightforward answers to questions we received during the winter storm event. We will continue to update these frequently asked questions, so please check back for the latest information along with our social media channels.
When will my power be restored?
PEC works on all outages as they are reported. We manage hardest-hit areas to get members back online as quickly and safely as possible. Staff work around the clock to restore members’ power during emergency events.
Members should stay away from downed power lines. To report a downed power line, call 911 or our emergency report line immediately at 888-883-3379. Never touch a power line or any items in contact with a power line.
If your property has experienced damage to electrical equipment, please call an electrician. Individual repairs must be made before PEC can reenergize power to your property.
I can’t tell if my outage is in your system. How can I confirm?
PEC members can stay up-to-date on outages at pec.coop/outage. You can also report and confirm outages through PEC SmartHub, by calling our outage line at 888-883-3379, or by texting “OUTAGE” to 25022 from the number associated with your PEC account (Message and data rates may apply.). If your outage is not reflected on the outage map, please call 888-554-4732 to confirm the report.
I’ve been out of power for hours and don’t know when it will be back on. What do I do?
First, report your outage by calling us at 888-883-3379, by texting “Outage” to 25022 from the number associated with your PEC account, or through SmartHub at pec.smarthub.coop. Our lineworkers and other PEC employees work diligently around the clock to safely make restorations as quickly as possible. Our ability to restore power was hampered by the extreme damage across the Hill Country involving difficult terrain and the rebuilding of lines.
Reminder: PEC workers and contract crews will be identifiable with badges and in PEC-marked vehicles. Members are asked to work with them on allowing access as needed.
Additionally, if you have a power outage, check your main breakers. Some power loss has been due to breakers tripping off. For instructions on how to safely check your breakers, see this page.
I received a text saying my power was restored, but it wasn’t. What can I do?
If you received a message saying your power has been restored, but it is still off, please report it. As power is being restored to larger areas, more local equipment issues may be discovered.
Additionally, if you have a power outage, check your main breakers. Some power loss has been due to breakers tripping off. For instructions on how to safely check your breakers, visit this page.
Why are there delays in restoration?
The accumulation of ice and downed tree lines damaged infrastructure. The prolonged outages were mostly those that were particularly difficult to access or repair. Some areas involve difficult terrain and the rebuilding of lines.
One day of ice and days of a power outage? Aren’t there other parts of the country that face worse weather and shorter restoration time or better reliability?
Especially in the Texas Hill Country, some outages may take longer to identify and restore than others. Sometimes damage to our electric distribution system is extensive (lines down, broken poles, etc.), or equipment locations are hard or impossible to get to depending on the conditions. Lineworkers may have to patrol lines and fix problems on foot, as roads or rights-of-ways may be impassable for service vehicles because of flooding, ice, downed trees, or other conditions.
After Winter Storm Uri in 2021, we implemented state-of-the-art vegetation management software so crews could see exactly how far away trees are from power lines. This helps PEC know exactly where to trim when it’s needed. We also tested our systems through simulated controlled outage events and tested our departments through emergency drills. Each storm comes with its own set of challenges. This storm was no different, as the significate ice accumulation caused intense pressure on limbs, causing them to break and fall on equipment. We will continue to refine our operations and outage communication efforts based on the conditions Winter Storm Mara presented.
My location’s outage was a quick fix on the property, but I was lumped in with a substation outage, why wouldn’t someone come check so I could have had power restored quickly?
Some of the smaller outages are due to a larger issue such as downed lines, broken poles, or substation equipment failure, etc. It takes several crews to identify and fix or reconstruct infrastructure.
My outage is on the map, but no crew has been assigned. Why not?
In many instances, multiple outages have been reported covering the same locations. Your outage may be part of a different or larger outage that has a crew assigned to it. Rest assured, if your outage has been reported, a crew will be there as soon as possible.
Why can’t you tell me how long it will take to restore my power?
The best source for an estimated power restoration time is the service crew. During an outage, crews are working to locate faults and restore power. They may not have the time or ability to provide our control center with simultaneous estimates or updates. As a result, restoration information may not be immediately available or may be hard to determine with precision.
Each outage is a result of different circumstances, and some outages may take longer to identify and restore than others. Sometimes damage to our electric distribution system is extensive (lines down, broken poles, etc.), or equipment locations are hard or impossible to get to depending on the conditions. Lineworkers may have to patrol lines and fix problems on foot, as roads or rights-of-ways may be impassable for service vehicles because of flooding, ice, downed trees, or other conditions.
This winter storm resulted in extensive damage due to ice on trees and electrical lines, and sections of the line throughout the service area had to be completely rebuilt.
What should we do during an outage?
Remember these safety tips during a power outage:
- Do not approach a lineworker while they’re on a job, as they are working around dangerous equipment and falling debris.
- Don’t use your stove or oven for heat. Gas stoves and ovens produce carbon monoxide, and electric ones pose a fire risk when not used as designed.
- Don’t run your car in the garage as a way of warming up. Only run the car outside, and before you start it, make sure that the exhaust pipe is clear of snow and debris. Taking these steps could save you and your family from carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Never run a generator closer than 20 feet from doors and windows to prevent fumes from entering the home.
At the height of the storm, how many members were out of power?
Over 81,000 members were without power during the height of this storm, which was midday Thursday, February 2. All PEC crews and 50 contract crews from around the state were working on restoration during Winter Storm Mara.
Why hasn’t communication been better?
PEC is committed to providing members with timely and up-to-date information. PEC employees have been working through a significant number of calls and messages related to outages, downed lines, and damaged infrastructure. We are doing our best to respond to every message and to answer your questions. In some cases, we cannot provide information specific to your outage. We are working each outage as quickly and safely as possible.
We will continue to provide up-to-date information on pec.coop, via text messages and emails to members with prolonged outages, and on social media. If you have a concern about damaged infrastructure, please call 888-554-4732.
Why isn’t the outage map working?
Extensive storm-related damage to infrastructure and the high demand of reported outages overwhelmed the system, causing inaccurate estimated restoration times and assigned crews. Rest assured every outage is addressed. If you are experiencing an outage, but do not see it on the outage map, please report it through PEC SmartHub, by calling our outage line at 888-883-3379, or by texting “OUTAGE” to 25022 from the number associated with your PEC account. If you would like to make sure your outage is reported, please call 888-554-4732.
How will this impact my bill?
During extreme winter weather, you may use more electricity than usual to heat your home. For most systems, heating uses significantly more energy than cooling. Any immediate increase in your bill will be due to increased use, not increased rates. Tips for conserving during cold weather are available here.
Why do I see Kilowatt hour usage (power use) in SmartHub when my electricity was out?
PEC’s system retrieves information from your meter at regular intervals, and those daily readings can be seen in SmartHub under the ‘My Usage’ tab. During a power interruption, those readings may not be available, so the system estimates your daily usage, which can produce inaccurate results in SmartHub. The billing system registers only the total actual Kilowatt hours used at your meter at the end of your billing cycle, so you will only be billed for electricity you actually used.
Am I going to be charged for electricity during the time when I didn’t have power?
The rate for your base power (per Kilowatt hour) during this weather event will not change; however, any variations in your bill will be due to the amount of energy consumed. Keep in mind, heating your home during cold weather can cause higher than normal energy consumption.
Will I be reimbursed for damages, losses, or hotel accommodations?
PEC’s insurance may cover damage related to member’s property during the outage restoration. Examples of this include damaged fences, ruts, or other damages caused by crews on-site. Contact Member Services at 888-554-4732 or at [email protected] to start the process to file a claim.
You can also:
- Reach out to your property or personal homeowner’s insurance carrier to submit a damage claim
- Continue to follow weather protocol tips to prevent further damage
- Review The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) website to understand types of damage, find information on food spoilage, price gouging, and avoiding scams in the claims process
Is there a Medical Necessity Program?
PEC does have a Medical Necessity Program. This is a registry of residential service locations where people rely on life-sustaining electrical equipment. When planned outages or service interruptions for nonpayment are scheduled, we will attempt advance notice so preparations can be made. PEC, however, cannot guarantee uninterrupted power.
Registration also does not guarantee priority electric service restoration, and locations registered in the program are not exempt from planned service interruptions. Registered members are not exempt from their financial responsibilities from their power consumption nor from the termination of service in accordance with PEC policies.
To apply, call PEC Member Services at 888-554-4732, pick up an application in your local PEC office, or download an application here. Click here to learn more.
Will there be federal assistance available?
State and local disaster declarations may mean some members are eligible for federal recovery assistance. Before applying for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), insured property owners need to file claims through their existing policies. FEMA can be contacted at 800-621-3362 to apply for assistance or check application status. FEMA Disaster Recovery Center locations are listed here.
People who experienced storm-related damages are encouraged to fill out this survey to report property damages to the Texas Division of Emergency Management. Eligibility requirements for FEMA’s housing assistance program are available on FEMA’s website.
I need financial help, what can I do? Or what if I can’t pay my bill?
Each year, we earmark funds for member assistance and partner with area agencies that can help us match these contributions to the people who need them most.
If you would like to apply for assistance with your electric bill, please contact the participating agency in your county. Our Member Assistance Program provides a maximum of $300 per calendar year to qualifying PEC members. Please note that application for aid does not guarantee assistance. Learn more here.
Will PEC come back and pick up branches, limbs, and debris left over from storm repairs?
There are no plans to remove storm debris like branches or limbs from homes or businesses. Some cities will pick up yard debris with trash pick-up, or it can be taken to the city dump in accordance with their regulations. Information on debris pickup is often listed your the city’s website. You may also hire tree debris cleanup contractors or use the debris as mulch.
Trimming trees near electrical equipment is dangerous — never do it yourself. Contact PEC to clear any vegetation that is near electric equipment. There is no charge to place a service request; you can do so online here or by calling 888-554-4732, Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
PEC is only responsible for clearing vegetation that puts electric equipment at risk. Find tips for safely clearing storm debris here.
How was this storm different than Winter Storm Uri in February 2021?
There are important differences between this event and Winter Storm Uri. During Winter Storm Uri, we saw snow and lack of generation on the system. In Winter Storm Uri, the state’s power grid and generation resources were at risk. The February 2023 Winter Storm Mara brought immense ice and freezing rain that damaged PEC’s infrastructure due to the amount of ice accumulation. The state’s power grid was not at risk. The significant ice caused power lines to be weighed down, and tree branches, wire, and poles snapped causing additional damage. Some power restoration efforts required rebuilding these lines.
Additionally, there were significant challenges with substations and equipment not owned by PEC that impacted our members. We don’t operate this equipment and could not estimate restoration times until their equipment was repaired.
What did PEC do to prepare for extreme winter events?
After Winter Storm Uri in 2021, PEC implemented new state-of-the-art vegetation management software. This helps crews see exactly how far away trees are from powerlines and trim where it’s needed. We also tested our systems through simulated controlled outage events and tested our departments through emergency drills. Each storm comes with its own set of challenges; this storm was no different, as the significant accumulation of ice put intense pressure on limbs, causing them to break and fall on equipment. PEC is committed to investigating better ways to prepare our operations if this were to occur in the future.
We’ve been paying the winter storm surcharge from 2021. Was this money enough to cover that storm?
Members are currently paying a Temporary Winter Storm Surcharge that appears as a line item on each bill. PEC is paying off the approximately $160 million needed to pay debt associated with energy and infrastructure damage costs from Winter Storm Uri in 2021. The surcharge covers these 2021 costs, and the charge will be removed once that debt is paid off.