Why did Austin experience more power outages than DFW? There’s two key differences
As of Friday afternoon, Austin Energy has 1,745 outages affecting 113,819 customers across the city. Meanwhile, Oncor, the utility company serving Dallas-Fort Worth has 3,394 outages affecting only 64,996 customers.
There are two main reasons why more Central Texans experienced power outages than North Texans, according to the National Weather Service. The first is the type of trees in the area and the second is the type of precipitation that fell.
Austin has a lot more live oak trees than DFW . Live oaks keep their leaves all year long, making them very susceptible to falling limbs and branches when weighed down with ice.
“The ice accumulates on all of the leaves, and weighs down the branches, which then snap,” said Victor Murphy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.
This event nicely shows why live oak trees (Quercus virginiana) do not grow very far north. Their broad canopy is very susceptible to damage from the weight of ice and snow. pic.twitter.com/gi5HlVxTS3
— Brian Brettschneider (@Climatologist49) February 2, 2023
Most of the precipitation that DFW received on Monday and Tuesday was in the form of sleet, which doesn’t stick on trees or power lines like freezing rain does. From 6 a.m. Monday to 6 a.m. Friday, the DFW area received 1.05 inches of precipitation, about 60% of which was sleet on Monday and Tuesday and liquid rain on Thursday. The remaining 40% was freezing rain that fell on Wednesday.
In contrast, the Austin area received 1.31 inches of liquid precipitation this week, 1.01 inches of which occurred between midnight Tuesday and noon Wednesday. It was nearly all in the form of freezing rain. So DFW not only got less precipitation to begin with, but the vast majority was sleet and liquid rain rather than freezing rain.