What Are Rolling Blackouts?

What Are Rolling Blackouts?

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Rolling blackouts are a hot topic that we’re reading and hearing about lately. This is especially in correlation with Texas and the freakish winter stormy weather they experienced a few years ago. Over the past several months, many residents in other parts of the country have been forced into the dark, leaving them scratching their heads, wondering whether these forced power outages were absolutely necessary. 

So, just in case you were wondering, here’s what a rolling blackout is and everything you need to know about it. I’d also like to share with you some tips on how you can prevent them from happening in your area and a few ways that you can stay warm in the meantime. Please get Flashlights and Lanterns before you need them.

What Are Rolling Blackouts?

What is a Rolling Blackout?

A rolling blackout is a systematic temporary power outage that utilities sometimes have to use as they work to safely restore power to a particular area. It can last anywhere from one to several hours, but it really depends on how much of the region has been affected by power failure.

There’s also usually little to no notice before these utilities are completely shut off for a period of time.   

Rolling blackouts are a sort of electrical balancing act, if you will, where utilities rotate shutting off the electricity to a certain number of homes and businesses in a given area to restore electricity elsewhere. However, this is a last resort step in their emergency procedures. 

Why Are Rolling Blackouts Necessary?

Rolling blackouts can be frustrating for homeowners, especially when they appear to happen out of nowhere, even long after a storm has passed. But they are necessary, and here’s why.

Suppose the demand for electricity in the market outweighs the current supply. In that case, it can cause a much bigger problem and can instead affect millions or more people in particular areas affected by the storm(s).

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Take, for instance, the country of Pakistan. A few years ago, over 200 million people were left without power for several days due to an engineering fault with their power grid.   

The rolling blackout method is used in order to avoid widespread blackouts across entire regions, which can leave people without power for a much longer period of time. They call it a rolling blackout since they move from one area/region to another and they turn off power to one, and turn on the power to another. Thus, one particular area doesn’t suffer the blackout for the full energy challenge period. They all share in losing power for a shorter period.

The United States is only run on 3 power grids, the Eastern Grid, Western Grid, and the ERCOT Grid (Texas), so if one of them were to go down, it could affect more than a third of the country. This is what happened to Texas earlier this week when their grid was overwhelmed.   

Where Will They Occur?

When a rolling blackout happens, it will shut off most of the homes in a given area. There’s really no telling where a rolling blackout will occur beforehand, it’s really up to the electric utility provider to determine which circuits to shut off, and for how long.

Some locations in your region may experience no blackouts whatsoever, while other areas nearby may experience one, or multiple blackouts during this period of time.   

Will Critical Care Customers Be Affected?

For those of you who have critical care family members living with you, your home may also be subject to a rolling blackout for a certain period of time. If they rely heavily on electricity for their life-sustaining equipment, it’s critical for you to have a backup plan already in place before the power ever goes out.    

Here’s How You Can Help Prevent Rolling Blackouts

Rolling blackouts aren’t preventable in every situation, but utility providers have a few tips that may be of some help to you if you know that your region is currently experiencing a massive power outage. Reliant Energy, a Texas utility provider has shared with their local Houston residents to do the following: 

  • Lower your thermostat by four degrees below what you typically have it set during cold weather situations. The reverse may be true during hot weather shortages.
  • Try to avoid using major electrical appliances, including dishwashers or your washer and dryer. This is especially helpful in the morning or later on in the evening when the electricity demand is at its highest.   
  • Unplug and turn off electronics and smaller appliances when not being used. 
  • Seal off heat escape routes in your home and shut your blinds and shades so you aren’t losing heat. 
  • Setting your ceiling fans clockwise will help move warm air into the room.
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Ways To Keep Warm

It can be a challenge to stay warm when you’re left without power for an unknown period of time. This is especially true if you live in certain areas like Texas that don’t usually experience such harsh weather. Here are a few things that you and your family can do to stay warm: 

  • Dress in more layers.
  • Gather as many warm blankets as you can. Sleeping bags would also be helpful.
  • Close your bedroom doors (place a towel at the bottom to keep warmth in the innermost room).
  • Each family member should consider sleeping in your living room rather than having to heat every bedroom.
  • Purchase a battery-powered space heater or propane/kerosine heater for the room where people are spending their time (closely follow the instruction manual). 
  • For those of you with a fireplace, don’t keep anything too close to it, and crack a window for ventilation. 
  • If you plan on using a generator, never bring it indoors, and also be sure that it’s at least 20 feet from your house, if possible. 

Final Word

Rolling blackouts may be a nuisance at the time, but if it keeps the rest of the affected area up and running, it’s harder for us to stay upset. Having to repair an entire power grid can take a long time and could cost lives as a result if the rollout approach isn’t used. 

Are there any of you who have experienced a rolling blackout recently? Were you prepared for one and how long did it last? I’d love to hear from you. May God Bless this world, Linda. 

Copyright Images: Lantern On Windowsill Deposit photos_19182595_s-2019

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  1. Rolling blackouts are a way to further separate the classes. They cut off power to folks on oxygen while ensuring the local NBA has plenty to heat and light the entire stadium for the elite few who are “allowed” to attend.
    Don’t let them kid you as park fountains ran nonstop, downtown skylines stayed lit and artwork like this, https://www.tripsavvy.com/skydance-pedestrian-bridge-2516758, glowed.
    When The People complained loudly all of the sudden we were back to level one usage and the minute tip off happened suddenly it jumped back to level two “please stop doing your laundry”.
    We were told natural gas was running out too only to find out they’d been limiting production. Once discovered and production was to increase it was too late as the wellheads were froze.

    This storm shows that you can’t trust government or even corporate greed to keep you fueled and energy supplied in our so called modern world.
    Alternate sources are a must and lots of them.

    The part that is worrisome is post SHTF we woulda had zero warning of this record breaker storm. The day before I was watching gnats, migrating robins and hawks and seeing tree buds.
    I question wether I would have been able to react fast enough and had enough resources left at the end of winter to survive 2 weeks never getting to the freezing mark and -10 with -30 wind chills.

    1. Hi Matt, you think the same way I do. My biggest worry as I have said before is our 3 power grids. One on the west coast, one on the east coast, and Texas has the 3rd powder grid. Texas is not federally regulated, how do they get away with that? I wish the other two grids were NOT federally regulated. This is nuts in Texas! I need to ask our readers if they had any warning. Linda

    2. And if as to help me prove my point on different class levels and appropriate responses to emergencies off goes Senator Cruz to Cancun on a “spontaneous” vacation.

      1. Hi Matt, I guess he wanted to stay warm! LOL! I bet those last-minute plane tickets were pricey. LOL! I would feel guilty thinking about the people in my home state freezing with broken pipes and only getting 4 bottles of water from the government workers. But, it’s just me. LOL! Linda

    3. Matt, what do you think about how some folks are blaming the blackouts on the failure of the wind farms in Texas? I know the ice froze up the wind generators, but the main reason for the blackouts was the lack of natural gas supply.

      Makes me wonder if there will be a push to connect the Texas grid to the national grid–you know, never let a good crisis go to waste when you can use it to increase government control over the people.

      This sort of stuff is why we are preppers.

      1. It was a failure of all systems. Do they need fed regulators? No. Do they need better oversight? Yes
        This sort of stuff is indeed why I’m into preparedness.

        Best sheeple bleat on the Texas situation:

        Houston Texas: “Boil your water”

        Texan: “How can we boil water? We don’t have any electricity”

        1. Matt, some folks just don’t know how to use their brains. Or, as John Wayne said, “Life is hard. It’s harder when you’re stupid.”

          My own opinion is that any one who sees what is going on in the world today and who isn’t taking steps to get prepared is failing in their primary duty to protect and provide for their family.

  2. I love this info. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of rolling blackouts before this whole thing with Texas.

  3. This is another reason to be prepared. Have some alternate form of heat, an alternate way to cook, and water on hand.

    I feel so bad for Texas, it is bitterly cold.

    1. Hi Janet, this is crazy about what’s going on in Texas. I can’t imagine how some of these people will recover from the weather-related damage. I sure hope the world sees how they must be prepared to cook, heat, eat and drink when something like this happens. There is no way to protect the animals, there are no words, this is so sad. Praying for all in Texas! Linda

  4. I live in Southern Texas about 100 miles east of Houston. We are experiencing rolling blackouts now. I haven’t lost power yet but some of my family have. The long periods of temperatures below freezing have been our biggest problem. We get snow once ever twenty years but this front left about six inches of snow and ice mix and we have no snow removal equipment. All that being said. Between the pandemic and this storm we have spent a lot of time indoors. This is why we are preppers.

    1. Hi Gene, great comment, thank you. We do not have snow equipment where I live in Southern Utah. We had a snowstorm a few years back but nothing like Texas has this week. Did, you get any warning from the news about a severe cold front coming in? Or did they not realize how bad it was going to be? Just wondering. I hate ice mixed with snow, 4-wheel drive does nothing in that stuff. Stay safe, thank you for sharing, I really appreciate hearing from people. Linda

      1. We had plenty of warning in our area. We were even told by The grid operator that we would probably have rolling blackouts.

  5. I live in Central Texas and people have been totally caught off guard by this historic event. We’ve had more snow in the last 5 days than we’ve had in the last 20 years! 6.5 inches, 5 winter storms with round after round of snow, ice, freezing rain. Lows of 0-8 degrees. Power off for days so no lights, or heat. Roads impassable. Grocery stores almost empty, people standing in the snow waiting to see what’s left. Gasoline hard to find. And now little to no water and a boil water notice due to high demand and people letting their faucets drip to prevent broken pipes. People are melting snow to have enough water to flush their toilets. Some people are lucky enough to have had rotating power but most people have been without power for days. We’ve learned that “rotating power “ is a flexible term. Our power was supposed to rotate (cycle) on/off but didn’t. This was a real wake up call for people here. JUST GOES TO SHOW NO MATTER WHERE YOU LIVE EMERGENCIES CAN HAPPEN! We were prepared so we’re fine. Our power is on but we still just have a trickle of water out of our faucets. Things are slowly improving and warmer weather is expected this weekend so everything will thaw out. We are really looking forward to getting back to normal! All I can say is if you’re not prepared, start!

    1. Hi Kay, oh my gosh, thank you for sharing!! So, I’m assuming no one knew the impact of the storm coming, right? I remember we had a 500-year flood, we had so much damage because subdivisions plan only for 100-year floods. Houses slid off hillsides, some left teetering, it was crazy. No insurance covered it. Luckily the government declared the flood a state of emergency or something. Donations were collected to help those in need. But our storm was nothing compared to this historic Texas event. May God bless every family involved and all first responders. Stay safe, Linda

      1. Hi, Linda. The crazy thing is, local weather forecasters were saying this “polar vortex” was coming for one solid week before it hit and to expect lots of snow! BUT they never said “This is going to be BAD people, stock up while you can!” I’m guessing no one said that because they remembered the runs on grocery stores when the pandemic hit. Utility companies were also underprepared. Every power source in Texas was affected and was operating at reduced capacity due to weather. Entire cities were blacked out! For the first time in my life I actually heard a newscaster say if the need for power exceeded the available supply, the entire grid could crash and could take MONTHS to rebuild, that it could be catastrophic! Scary! You can only hope that people and the utility companies will learn something from all this and be better prepared next time.

        1. Hi Kay, oh, now I think I understand a bit more. It makes total sense. It’s like having people warned in such a way that you need to stock up food and water but they didn’t want some runs on the grocery stores or gas stations. As in empty stored within 3 hours or whatever. I saw a comment somewhere that Texas had a similar situation (not this bad) back in 2011 (?) and they had hoped the utility companies had beefed up or replaced equipment because of the outages back then. I really hope the entire country steps up their game to be prepared after watching the news on Texas. Let’s hope the weather improves this coming week. Wow, there are no words watching this on TV. My heart aches for all of you, Linda

  6. All of Texas is in our prayers. Another reminder of just how important it is to be prepared. Hopefully there are those in Texas who started to prepare because of the pandemic and are now thanking their lucky stars for what they did. We are in Western New York, so it’s hard to believe it is warmer here than Texas. I am thankful for everything all of you have taught me. God keep everyone safe and warm.

  7. Hi Linda,
    There is not much to say about the situation and cause in addition to the comments already posted by other Texans. It is like they said. We are lucky that we are in an Electric Co-op and while we have had rolling blackouts, none of them have exceeded 2.5 hours and most have been 1.5 hours with the on-time between anywhere from 2 hours to 6 hours. The only thing our Co-op could do better would be to schedule the rotating outages so that they could tell everyone when their scheduled outages would happen. You could be in the middle of cooking dinner or some other event requiring electric power and suddenly the power would go out. If the service would set up a schedule, people could be better prepared. For Pat and I, we have been able to martial through. Being fairly well prepared, we have food, alternative lighting alternative cooking methods and alternative heating. But, we have not really needed the alternative heating since our outage never exceeded 2.5 hours, the house would only cool down by about 10 to 12 degrees.

    Our plumbing is in the concrete slab so it has not frozen up. So, we have had water supply although with a little reduced pressure for a few hours yesterday. There are a number of folks in newer homes with the plumbing in the attic whose pipes have frozen and have been without water for a couple of days.

    We had about 10-12 inches of powder over ice from the first round. That had started to melt from ground heat. However, another round came through today and dropped about another four inches of powder on top. We have now had power continuously since 9:30 last evening and it is now 3PM. So, hopefully our rolling blackouts are over.

    This just definitely shows why we all need to be prepared. It will only get worse with the new (mis)administration. There are several things that I plan to do for future needs for supplemental power and water. While we are doing well, I see others who definitely could use some information if they will just listen.

    I know I have sort of rambled around in this comment but I am trying to get through as soon as possible on the outside chance we could get another blackout.

    We are Texans and we will survive this. And, I think that is an attitude for most of flyover America, especially preppers. Hope all is well with you and Mark.

    1. Hi Harry, thank you for your comment. I’m with you, Texans will survive, it’s in their stock and blood. You will not cave to this. My concern is those who have not stocked a pantry with food or water and believe the government will deliver food and water. I saw some cars lined up in Galveston (or near there) picking up 4 bottles of water from the government. These were the small bottles out of a case of water. Then people standing in line in the cold for an hour so they could get 15 items at a grocery store. Of course, this isn’t the whole state of Texas, it would vary from city to city. I’m such a brat, I will never stand in line for anything, so luckily I have food and water! LOL! I pray people will get their act together and not just in Texas but the entire country to be prepared. There really is no excuse. We preppers do in fact have an attitude, we are self-reliant. We do not depend on the government for food or water. We all thought COVID woke people up, I guess not in some cases. Mark and I are doing well. Glad you and Pat are doing well. Linda

      1. Yes, it is sad to see folks who are basically helpless and do not have enough common sense to prepare ahead at least for the duration of a weather event such as this or some minor infrastructure breakdown. I had hoped that this event would wake some people up, but from comments I have seen on the NextDoor app, I fear it has not. One good thing, we have had continuous power since last evening and I received an email from our power co-op that for now the rolling blackouts are over unless the weather turns bad again. And, that is not in the forecast, so this weekend will be cleanup and reorganize time for us. LOL!!
        Have a great weekend!! Harry

        1. Hi Harry, this is great news that you received from your co-op! I’m praying the temperatures slowly get warmer!! I used to live in snow country up north and ice storms are the worst. I’m glad to hear you’ve had continuous power. The cleanup will be horrific for so many, it’s so sad. Have a great weekend!! Linda

  8. here in my part of Tx, we were told rolling blackouts were very probable. We are prepared in my home. we have a wood stove and a gas range (propane). It got cold even with our preps in place when the power went out. But we survived. We are on a well system in the neighborhood. We did not lose water, but many others did. We filled gallon water jugs just in case we lost water. We have plenty of drinking water, but needed to be able to flush the toilets if a loss of water happened. We bought cheap cat litter in case we ran out of non potable water, and to use on the steps outside on our last trip to town. We have’t been on the roads as we can’t get up the hill here.During the power outs, we used flip lights at night. We blocked off all the rooms that we don’t use regularly. We hung plastic over the front door to help keep the heat in. We were blessed in that the longest our power was out was 1 hour. The power would go out anywhere from 2 – 3 hours apart. Many are not prepared for any type of weather event. I pray this was a wake up call for them. God Bless and stay safe.

    1. Hi Judy, oh my gosh, I love hearing you are okay. What are “flip lights”? I sure wish the world could read how YOU survived this because YOU were prepared. I’m still shaking after watching the news and wondering how are these people going to get people out to repair the damage. This is so crazy!! Stay safe, stay warm, Linda

      1. Ok, I’m having internet issues ,so if you get 3 replies, I’m sorry LOL. I found the Flip lights on Amazon. They are 3 inch square LED lights that run on AAA batteries. We have one in each room and a few to carry around when we go into a room that doesn’t have light and isn’t regularly used. Also, my 4 yr old grand daughter is afraid of the dark, so she has her own light. I like these lights better than having to carry a flashlight. (we do have a couple of flashlights). God Bless, stay safe and warm

          1. Oh, Linda, what a find in these light switches!!!! Just got my box of lights. Judy P let us all know about the flip-it lights and then you posted this link. I am amazed at just how bright these are and the versatility of being able to carry around from room to room in a power outage or mount them where needed. And they are very bright!!! I am sending some of these to each of my sons for their family and sharing them with elderly neighbors who didn’t even have a working flashlight in our last power outage!!!

          2. Hi Carol, Oh how I love hearing this! I love writing my blog but I love hearing tips from my readers! It brings me so much joy to learn new things, like the flip light switches!! I may deliver some to my elderly neighbors, great idea!! Linda

  9. I only go food shopping at the beginning of the month; I have food stocked for 1 year, and restock the foods I have used, and rotate. I am prepared for most any emergency. I have water that I put in 1/2 gallon jars from the plastic gallon jugs, ( read instructions how to can water. It is simple) and several containers of water.
    We have lost power, up to 19 hours, and since I have a large propane stove that heats up to 6300 sf, the fire burns, but no blower because of no electricity. I have 3 smaller propane heaters, and numerous cooking items, such as a large portable propane stove, a BBQ grill, and a smoker. I have 3 freezers packed with foods, and believe me, I will,- and have cooked everything in them. I have several small propane canisters for emergency.
    I watch or listen to the news always, and when the weatherman says that we could have a blizzard, or heavy snow, I make coffee and put it in the air pots, I make a big pot of stew, (sometimes veggie) or chili so we have something hot/warm to eat, make sandwiches, put them in an empty cooler and take extra to the neighbors. I have tried numerous times to teach them how to prepare, but they work and do not have the time to cook before hand. I am a cook by trade, and I’m 76 years old. I wrote a manual for the kids I teach how to cook, and prepare for most disasters, every Saturday from noon to 3 pm.
    I have all kinds of of radios, some battery operated, and my prize possession is the hand-cranked one.
    I guess I would be called a prepper, but my Pennsylvania upbringing on a farm taught me a lot, and I use what I had learned today.
    My heart goes out to Texans, and could wish they were more prepared! I am sorry that the whole of America is not prepared as they could be.

    1. Hi Linda, you are prepared for sure. I’m with you, I wish the whole of America would get prepared. You would think they would learn from year to year. Some people will step up to the plate, others will always depend on the government. The shocker to me was seeing the government handing out 4 bottles of water to families in cars lined up in Galveston, TX. These were the bottles out of the cases of water so those bottles would not quench the thirst of very many. Normally the government hands out cases of water, there is a shortage so they gave out 4 bottles, I guess. If that doesn’t teach people to up their game, then they will never be prepared. Can you imagine coming home with 4 bottles of water for your family?? Unbelievable, I can only pray they learn from this!! Stay safe, Linda

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