2:10 p.m. Feb. 3: This story has been updated with information about Anthony and Socorro ISD’s delayed-start Friday.
With El Paso under a winter weather advisory expected to last through the end of Thursday, officials are urging El Pasoans to take precautions even if the storm may not be as severe as the one that devastated the state a year ago.
“Snow is in the forecast which might, or might not come, but we still want to warn people about this, because definitely, temperatures are probably going to drop,” said Enrique Dueñas, spokesman for the El Paso City-County Office for Emergency Management.
The National Weather Service El Paso is predicting that a winter storm will begin to unfold during the day Wednesday, but the bulk of cold air and snow will not arrive until Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. Bitterly cold conditions are also expected Thursday through the weekend with several areas remaining below sub-freezing temperatures for at least 48 hours.
The forecast for Wednesday includes a 60% chance of showers then a likely chance of rain and snow with a high of 57 degrees and a low temperature of 21 degrees overnight. On Thursday there is a 30% chance of snow with a high of 33 degrees and a low of 19 degrees overnight.
El Paso school districts canceled classes Thursday and El Paso Community College and the University of Texas at El Paso moved classes online.
The El Paso, Ysleta, Socorro and Anthony independent school districts will have a two-hour delayed start Friday.
While the storm is not expected to be as severe as the deadly winter storm that impacted the state in 2021, El Paso Electric CEO Kelly Tomblin said the utility has been preparing for months to handle inclement weather that can be experienced during the winter season.
“Over the next couple of days, we will have additional crews deployed throughout our service region ready to respond to any event,” Tomblin said in a statement. “Our power generation teams will remain vigilant in their oversight at our power stations and have ensured additional fuel resources are available in case weather events cause supply limitations.”
El Paso Electric spokesman Javier Camacho said the cold snap that hit Texas in February 2011 was strikingly similar to the one that hit last year in February 2021, but the only stark difference was EPE’s preparation for the cold snap.
“The freezing temperatures did not last as long in 2021 for the West Texas/El Paso area as it did for the rest of Texas, but the ripple effect was still felt here, especially access to natural gas to fuel power generation stations,” he said.
Camacho said the utility has made several changes since the 2011 freeze to help ensure there is power for El Pasoans during any freeze. Some of the changes include approximately a $4.5 million investment in winterization upgrades.
In 2021 the utility implemented a new contingency effort called the Blackstart Resource at EPE’s Montana Power Station, which allows EPE to generate enough power from a backup diesel generator that will initiate the plan to restore power to the service region in case of a system-wide outage or emergency.
Dueñas said it is important for people to remember the four “Ps” ahead of severe weather which are to protect people, pets, plants and pipes.
He recommended people stay indoors if possible and stay dry and wear layers and hats or scarves if outside.
“Just make sure you’re checking in on the elderly, make sure you’re checking on anyone who has any disability that doesn’t allow them to maybe go out for themselves or go get some groceries or something — just to make sure that they are okay,” he said.
He also said it’s important to keep pets inside if possible or ensure they have appropriate shelter that will keep them warm. Dogs, he said, should not be walked during extreme cold temperatures because their paws could get frostbitten.
For the other Ps, plants and pipes, Dueñas said vulnerable plants should be brought inside and property owners should ensure their outside pipes are insulated to prevent them from freezing and bursting.
Dueñas said the El Paso police and fire departments are prepared to respond to any emergencies and anticipate there may be more calls for traffic accidents in the coming days.
“We’re asking people to just drive slower, keep some distance from the cars in front and of course — do not drive distracted,” he said.
He also said the city has activated warming shelters throughout the community.
Blankets are available for anyone in need at any El Paso Fire Department fire station in the city and in the city of Horizon. Blankets can also be donated at fire stations. Call 311 for more information.
The Office of Emergency Management, in collaboration with the City’s Parks and Recreation Department and the Extreme Weather Task Force, will open the following warming centers for the community.
Warming centers will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Saturday, Feb. 5 located at:
Galatzan Recreation Center at 650 Wallenberg Drive
Marty Robbins Rec Center at 11600 Vista Del Sol Drive
Memorial Senior Center at 1800 Byron St.
Chamizal Community Center at 2119 Cypress Ave.
Wellington Chew Senior Center at 4430 Maxwell Ave.
Pavo Real Senior Center at 9301 Alameda Ave.
San Juan Senior Center at 5701 Tamburo Court