Inside look at Texas electric company that prepared for February’s deep freeze years ago, Houston ties to all its insulation

HOUSTON – A giant electric blanket.

Essentially that is what is covering miles of pipes within the El Paso Electric Company’s system. KPRC 2 Investigates is the only major broadcast station in Texas to be provided with complete access at two of their facilities.

Senior Director of Operations Louie Guarderrama showed KPRC 2 Investigates proper insulation some fifty feet above the ground.

“What we are doing is making our preparations for next winter and the winters thereafter more permanent,” Guadarrama said.

While February’s freeze resulted in over 100 deaths in the state, including 31 in Harris County and potentially $295 billion in property damage, El Paso came out unscathed.

Following the last major freeze in the state a decade ago, the company spent $4.5 million to retrofit two of its facilities serving Texas and New Mexico.

“It’s not a significant amount of money,” said Senior Vice President Steven Buraczyk.

However, what really made this particular insulation resonate with us was the 713 area code on the company’s tags. All the insulation that protected the El Paso Electric Company as well as its hundreds of thousands of customers from having their lights turned off during February’s storm, manufactured 746 miles away in Houston.

KPRC 2 Investigates took a recent tour of Coverflex’s facility on the city’s southeast side.

Mellanie Askew, the president and CEO of CoverFlex, started the company 22 years ago. She remembers working with the El Paso Electric Company well.

“They took it seriously. That is good to hear. It really is good to hear,” Askew said.

Currently, there is no law on the books requiring winter protection like what we recently saw out west. Askew views insulation being made mandatory by the legislature for every facility in Texas as a gamechanger for not only future storms but also her industry.

“Wow, there would be so much work for a lot of people, for a lot of companies. There is a lot of insulation companies here. A lot of people that would benefit. A lot of people, a lot of lives would change,” Askew said.

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