2021 Winter Storm FAQs
We know that the winter storm was frustrating, and people have many questions. BPUB staff worked around the clock to answer calls, emails and post to social media to keep the community informed with the latest information. We know sometimes our call center can get backlogged and questions on social often go unanswered. This can occur when there is a high-volume incident, such as the 2021 Winter Storm. Rest assured that BPUB staff worked to serve its customers during this time.
The prolonged nature of the 2021 Winter Storm coupled with the restrictions required by the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to distribute call center and communications staff across multiple shifts and locations. This limited the number of staff available to answer calls and respond to the hundreds of comments received on social media. Combined with the unusually high volume of calls and social media questions and the rapidly evolving nature of the storm, some calls and questions did not get answered promptly.
In addition to maintaining the call center, BPUB provides updates on its official website and social media as they become available. BPUB staff logged all social media questions and used them to put together this FAQ.
Yes, BPUB’s water was safe to drink throughout the 2021 Winter Storm. While many communities around Texas experienced water quality issues related to the 2021 Winter Storm, BPUB’s water system was not compromised.
Customers can report a scam or scam attempt to the Brownsville Police Department and BPUB’s Customer Service Department. You can contact BPUB’s Customer Service Department by calling 956-983-6271 or emailing [email protected].
After ERCOT ended their call for rotating outages on Feb. 18, BPUB crews began assessing the damage caused by the winter storm. Once, we knew what we were working with. our crews worked around the clock to nearly 4,000 customers without power. The last remaining customers were restored on Feb. 21.
No. BPUB customers have not and will not see higher bills because of the 2021 Winter Storm outages. However, because of the extreme and prolonged cold, many customers ran their heaters more than usual. Like air conditioners in the summer, heaters use a significant amount of electricity, resulting in higher consumption and a higher bill. If you saw an increase in your bill for your usage during that period, check your previous statement to see how the electrical consumption compares.
Many utilities saw significant financial impacts related to the Winter Storm. These economic impacts came from the cost of fuel and electricity that spiked along with the statewide demand for electricity during that time. Fuel and electricity costs are typically passed on to customers on their electric bills. While BPUB did see a significant increase in expenses, the utility did not pass these costs to the customer. BPUB customers did not experience any changes in rates or charges. The financial impact on BPUB was lower than other utilities because of BPUB’s ability to produce power from BPUB’s owned generation. All BPUB’s electric generation resources, including the Silas Ray Power Plant, were available and operated with minimal exceptions throughout this emergency.
When the cold weather hit Texas, people across the state began running heaters longer, in addition to the regular appliance and electricity use. This increased demand on the electricity grid beyond the available supply. In addition to high demand, over the course of the storm, generation infrastructure such as natural gas pipelines and wind turbines became inoperable because of the extreme cold. As a result, state regulatory agencies asked utilities, including BPUB, to reduce the amount of power within its system, causing rotating outages across the service territory. Like other utilities, BPUB prioritized maintaining power to areas on a circuit supporting critical services, including hospitals, fire departments, police, etc. In some areas experiencing outages, BPUB could not meet the demand to restore power to an entire circuit adequately. At times, that necessitated making targeted phone calls to those areas asking residents to turn off their heaters and unplug appliances to aid in restoration. In addition to supply-related outages, there were equipment-related outages due to the icy weather, some of which could not be adequately assessed until the rotating outages ended. BPUB crews began making repairs as soon as it was technically feasible. In some instances, crews had to go into customers’ yards to repair things like transformers to restore smaller pockets of customers impacted by outages.
While rotating outages typically last 30 to 60 minutes, the 2021 Winter Storm presented a unique set of challenges. Limited supply and inoperable natural gas and wind generation units hampered electric generation as utilities faced worsening weather overnight. At the peak of the storm, the state lost about 48.6% of available electrical generation. That includes natural gas, nuclear and wind facilities.
The state forced utilities to reduce electrical load on their portions of the system to safeguard Texas’ electrical grid. Because the amount of electricity that utilities had to shed was so large, there were more extended outages than expected for some customers as the need to reduce usage continued to spike.
Additionally, hundreds of BPUB customers experienced prolonged outages because of weather-related issues or damages within the electrical system that BPUB could not properly assess and fix until the rotating outages ended.
Once rotating outages ended on Feb. 18, BPUB crews began assessing the damage caused by the winter storm. Crews worked around the clock to restore power to nearly 4,000 customers. BPUB restored the remaining customers on Feb. 21.
BPUB’s Project SHARE program, along with our Elderly Low-Income Assistance Program and Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP), provides customers in need with financial assistance on their utility bills. Customers can get more information on eligibility criteria by visiting our assistance program section.
For Texas residents in the FEMA-declared counties, please visit https://disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
Please note that FEMA programs do not pay for fuel or cover food losses. If customers have an immediate need for food or shelter, please call local 2-1-1 resources.
Applicants are required to inform FEMA of all insurance coverage (renters, homeowners, etc.) that may be available to them. Insured applicants must provide FEMA with documents of an insurance settlement or denial letter to process their application.
Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) has created a self-reporting damage survey to help identify damages across the state from the recent severe winter weather. The survey is available in English and Spanish.
Reporting damage to TDEM is a voluntary activity, is not a substitute for reporting damage to an insurance agency, and does not guarantee disaster relief assistance.
Once a customer submits a claim, it is assigned to a Texas Municipal League (TML) adjuster. It may take 3 to 5 business days for an adjuster to be assigned to your claim during high volume times.
The TML adjuster should contact you via phone call with an acknowledgment. Due to their office being in Austin, Texas, their phone calls may start with area code 512. Please keep in mind that TML will determine your claim. No BPUB employees make decisions on any claims submitted.
A customer may submit a claim to the BPUB Risk Management Department. The BPUB Risk Management Department is responsible for investigating property damage and personal injury claims.
To submit a claim:
Complete and submit the electronic form or print and mail it to the address provided on this page. Submit copies of all related receipts, photographs, video and a diagram, if applicable.
Submit claims by mail to:
BPUB Risk Management Department
P.O. Box 3270
Brownsville, Texas 78523-3270
For directions on filing a claim or requesting a claim form be mailed to you, call (956) 983-6289 or email [email protected].