Snowdrifts

Wind-blown snow collects in drifts Monday along an ice-coated barbed wire fence along FM 3117 east of Temple as a rare winter storm blanketed most of Central Texas with more than 8 inches snow. More snow and ice are forecast for today.

Temperatures plunged even further below freezing early Tuesday morning in Bell County as tens of thousands of Bell County residents continued to not have power.

The National Weather Service recorded temperatures as low as 1 from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. Tuesday. The wind chill made it a frigid minus 12, according to the weather data.

Still, even as the cold was relentless, people across Bell County continued to lack electricity to keep their homes warm.

Oncor Electric Delivery estimated up to 52,720 customers in Bell County were affected by power outages, according to the company’s map showing interruption of service. About 2 million Texas households did not have heat as the state’s electric operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, lost control of the power supply, The Texas Tribune reported.

ERCOT planned to have rotating outages throughout the state. So far, that has yet to happen at the scale at which the electric operator planned.

“Oncor was able to rotate some outages overnight, but poor grid conditions have continued to prevent us and other utilities for rotating, or rolling, the entirety of these outages, leading to extended periods without power for many of our customers,” according to a Tuesday morning statement from Oncor.

“At this time, ERCOT is unable to predict when grid conditions will stabilize, and urges all customers to be prepared for extended outages to continue,” the statement said.

Temple resident Michael Walter has not had power since 6 a.m. Monday, he said, it flickered on and off. Inside his home, Walter’s thermometer read 52.

“We have Reliant, I have not heard from them,” Walter said. “I was able to sign up online for the Oncor power outage updates, but no updates and no ETA.”

Walter has been staying warm in a travel trailer powered by a portable generator.

“It has kept one room semi-bearable, and we can cook and make coffee, which is better than most,” he said. “My parents live in the next development and are also out of power, but (they) want to stay in their cold home so we have been bringing them coffee, etc.”

Walter said the thermometer in his parents’ home was at 51 degrees Tuesday morning.

Although Tuesday started out sunny, the National Weather Service expected conditions to rapidly change as the day turned into night. It forecast freezing rain and sleet starting late Tuesday night and into early this morning, with lows around 19 and wind chill values between 9 and 14.

That freezing rain will bring dangerous conditions today. The National Weather Service anticipates one-tenth to three-tenths of an inch of ice accumulation.

More ice accumulation is possible today. The National Weather Service forecast showed a chance of freezing rain and sleet before noon and after that a slight chance of the same precipitation. The agency said up to one-tenth of an inch of additional ice accumulation is possible during the day today.

Government offices across the county remained closed Tuesday. City of Temple offices are closed until further notice. Non-essential county government offices are closed through the end of the week. City of Belton facilities were closed Tuesday, with only emergency service employees reporting to work.

“Additional weather-related closures may be necessary this week. An update will be provided on Wednesday,” said Candice Griffin, a Belton Police spokeswoman.

Area officials have strongly urged residents to keep off the roads because driving conditions are still poor.

The Temple Police Department posted on social media a photo of West Adams Avenue at Interstate 35. The roads were blanketed in snow, except for a small strip on the interstate. TPD said road conditions are not safe and stressed to residents to stay home.

“All roads are iced over,” the Belton Police Department tweeted Tuesday morning. “Nolanville Hill is not suggested. Please consider bunking where you are. The roadways are very dangerous. We strongly advise against unnecessary travel.”

Walter is hoping the roads clear up soon. He wants to make the 42-mile drive to Georgetown to bring his daughter to Temple so she can be in a safe, warm place.

Walter said his daughter has been alone without power and water, and her phone was critically low on battery.

“Last night, her brother went and got her from her apartment after his 12-hour shift, so at least they could freeze alone (together),” Walter said. “He was fortunate to have a Jeep. They have them picking up other people as well. We need to help each other out.”

Telegram staff writer Joel Valley contributed to this report