Utilities in 14 states are told to start rolling blackouts because of storm strains.By Clifford Krauss and Patrick J. Lyons

The Southwest Power Pool has ordered member electric utilities in 14 states to start controlled rolling cutoffs of electric service because the demand for power in the region, driven upward by the bitter cold, is overwhelming the available generation, hampered by the storm.

“This is an unprecedented event and marks the first time S.P.P. has ever had to call for controlled interruptions of service,” Lanny Nickell, the power pool’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “It’s a last resort that we understand puts a burden on our member utilities and the customers they serve, but it’s a step we’re consciously taking to prevent circumstances from getting worse.”

Most of the outages will last about an hour and will cut power to a few thousand customers at a time. They are necessary to limit demand and “safeguard the reliability of the regional grid,” Mr. Nickell said. An outage in Oklahoma that began shortly after noon affected about 6,000 customers.

The power pool, based in Little Rock, Ark., manages the electric grid that links utilities in all of Oklahoma and Kansas and parts of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska and New Mexico. Most of that region has been affected by the winter storm or by the frigid Arctic air mass that has driven the storm south.

The statement said the power pool was forced to begin relying on reserve energy sources at 10:08 a.m. Central Time on Monday, and it issued the controlled outage order when the reserves were exhausted a few hours later. It said it had been steadily stepping up warnings to conserve power since Feb. 9.

Each member utility would decide for itself how, where and when to cut off power to customers to achieve the necessary reductions, the statement said.

Utilities belonging to the main grid operating authority in Texas, which connects with the Southwest Power Pool, began imposing rolling outages overnight because of the storm.

Each member utility would decide for itself how, where and when to cut off power to customers to achieve the necessary reductions, the statement said.

Utilities belonging to the main grid operating authority in Texas, which connects with the Southwest Power Pool, began imposing rolling outages overnight because of the storm.

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