Massive winter storm brings heavy snow, tornadoes in US, knocks out power

A powerful winter storm is sweeping across the eastern half of the United States, causing widespread power outages in 12 states. Approximately 811,000 homes and businesses have been affected so far, with New York and Pennsylvania experiencing the most significant impact.
According to PowerOutage.us, New York and Pennsylvania each have around 182,000 power outages, while New Jersey has over 127,000.The major power companies in these states, Con Edison in New York, FirstEnergy in Pennsylvania, and Public Service Electric and Gas in New Jersey, are working to restore power as quickly as possible.
This extreme weather event serves as a stark reminder of the devastating February freeze in 2021 that left millions in Texas and other central states without basic necessities such as power, water, and heat for days.
In December 2022, another winter storm, known as Elliott in the energy industry, nearly caused the collapse of power and natural gas systems in parts of the eastern United States. The current storm is covering a vast area east of the Mississippi River and is heading towards the Northeast. The storm comes ahead of what is expected to be the coldest weather the nation has experienced since December 2022.
According to LSEG, a financial firm, gas demand, which is crucial for heating homes, is projected to reach record levels on January 15 and 16, with estimates of 170.0 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) and 173.7 bcfd, respectively. It is worth noting that January 15 is the U.S. Martin Luther King Day holiday, and it is unusual for gas usage to hit a record on this day when many businesses and government offices are closed for an extended weekend.
If these projections hold true, gas demand, including exports, on January 15 and 16 will surpass the current daily record of 162.5 bcfd set on December 23, 2022, according to federal energy data. To put it into perspective, one billion cubic feet of gas is enough to fuel approximately 5 million U.S. homes for a day.
Despite the impending cold weather, spot power and gas prices have not seen significant fluctuations due to the current storm. However, gas futures have surged by approximately 30% over the past six days and are currently trading at a two-month high of around $3.25 per million British thermal units.
The December 2022 storm had a significant impact on energy companies, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority and Duke, which had to implement rotating outages to maintain electric reliability when numerous power plants failed to operate. Gas flows into pipelines were also reduced during that storm, as freezing temperatures affected gas wells, pipes, and equipment. At the same time, the demand for gas for heating and power generation skyrocketed, leading to a significant drop in line pressures.
In New York City, Consolidated Edison faced an emergency situation during the December 2022 storm, as the gas system was on the brink of collapse. Restoring service would have taken “many months” in the middle of winter.
As the current winter storm continues to impact the eastern United States, authorities and energy companies are working tirelessly to restore power and ensure the stability of gas supplies.
(With Reuters input)
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