North Texas Daily

Both the university and city work on infrastructure winterization as colder weather comes

Both the university and city work on infrastructure winterization as colder weather comes

Both the university and city work on infrastructure winterization as colder weather comes
October 21
10:00 2021

Both the university and the city of Denton are currently undertaking winterization efforts to ensure their infrastructure can withstand another severe winter storm.

In February of this year, Winter Storm Uri knocked out power for many Texas residents. Denton was no exception.

“It was so cold in our apartment that on our next grocery store visit I purchased a small collapsible fire pit and some firewood,” Denton resident Jared Atkins said.

Denton residents should not have to worry about a repeat of last winter as colder weather starts to roll around, however, according to local power companies.

“I think the whole grid will be more prepared,” said Terry Naulty, assistant general manager of Denton Municipal Electric. “Not just Denton but the whole grid, and that includes natural gas supplies.”

Naulty said part of the problem during February’s storm was the equipment that removes moisture from natural gas had lost power, allowing the gas to freeze.

“Those facilities have now been identified and have been put on a critical infrastructure list so that they don’t lose electrical power,” Naulty said.

Even with the Texas grid as a whole seemingly in better shape according to Naulty, DME is also taking individual steps to prepare for winter weather.

“It’s really a two-stage process,” Naulty said. “The first phase of winterization is actually some operational changes that we’re making.”

Phase one, which includes “minor hardware equipment changes,” has already been implemented. The main problem for DME during Winter Storm Uri was the loss of natural gas to the facility. Phase one of DME’s winterization efforts focused on making sure it could avoid freeze-ups if it did lose the natural gas supply a second time.

“The next phase, engineering evaluation, will be to determine what changes can be made to ensure that we never lose [the] natural gas supply,” Naulty said.

While phase two of DME’s winterization has not started yet, the Denton City Council will be approving a contract for the engineering evaluation in the coming weeks, Naulty said.

The university is also preparing for potential severe winter weather and started developing its initial plan in March.

“Our design for our buildings has been notched up a little bit,” said Danny Armitage, associate vice president for auxiliary services in Student Affairs.

Nine pages of the university’s after-action report, which was shared with the North Texas Daily, detail the steps of its improvement plan. Specific goals include expediting emergency communication, developing a plan to address housing issues caused by prolonged power outages and installing critical equipment with monitors to alert operators of power issues and other failures. Many of the steps in the report have a goal date set for this November but due to “significant procurement issues” some may take longer than initially thought, Armitage said.

“I think we have a better understanding of what we can do if and when we experience anything like last February,” Armitage said.

The university had a winter weather plan in place before Winter Storm Uri but has increased efforts since then. During the storm in February, dining and residence halls experienced burst pipes and rolling blackouts. Three sorority houses and the University Services Building experienced substantial water damage, then Associate Vice President for Facilities David Reynolds told the Daily in February.

“There are teams in place that have been working all year long since that winter event to make sure that we have a handle on what we can do if and when a similar type of event happens again,” Armitage said.

Featured Image: Snow covers the University of North Texas entrance sign on Feb. 22, 2021. Photo by Jami Hitchcock

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John Anderson

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