CPS Energy weather bills ‘seriously past due’ two weeks before deadly winter storm, records show

Weather provider threatened to disrupt services if it did not receive payment within 15 days, records show

SAN ANTONIO – Two weeks before a deadly winter storm hit San Antonio, killing a still untold number of people, CPS Energy had become ‘seriously past due’ on bills for its customized weather platform, records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders confirm.

The invoices from DTN, a Minnesota-based weather services company, totaled nearly $8,900 and had gone unpaid for months, internal CPS records show.

“Be advised that your service may be disrupted if payment is not received within fifteen (15) days of the date of this email,” stated a Feb. 1 email from DTN’s billing department, which alerted utility officials to the overdue balance of $8,886.69.

DTN provides the utility services that include forecast graphics and mapping for severe weather events.

A Feb. 1 email from DTN's billing department informed CPS Energy that it was "seriously past due" on two invoices. (KSAT)

The invoice and email records were released following requests from the Defenders for all storm and weather-related communication between DTN, CPS and a meteorologist data analyst hired to provide forecasting services for the utility.

CPS officials did not respond to repeated requests from the Defenders, sent over several weeks, to explain the DTN invoice issues.

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A DTN spokeswoman late last month confirmed via email that its services to the utility were not disrupted.

“I checked with the team in response to your inquiry,” the spokeswoman wrote. “The services provided by DTN were not interrupted to CPS Energy.”

Thursday, hours after the story was published, a CPS spokesman apologized and said he overlooked sending an approved statement after getting caught up in the field.

We value the important services DTN provides and have been cooperatively working with them on payment for those services. As part of our financial controls to protect our community’s investment in CPS Energy, we require correct purchase orders and invoice amounts to process payments from all our vendors and suppliers. As we transitioned to a new contract with DTN, we noted some apparent differences between the contract terms and the initial invoice. We have been working collaboratively with DTN to address our questions. In the meantime, they continue to provide services and we fully expect to pay the invoices once we have resolved these items.

John Moreno, CPS spokesman

Records also show that CPS’ meteorologist data analyst, a local contractor who refers to himself on one social media platform as “Kid Cold Front,” sent a photo of himself smiling on board a lawnmower Feb. 18 to a CPS staff member.

The contractor told the employee in an email included with the picture, “If the snow doesn’t stop before midnight I will personally clear it with my snowmower.”

The apparent attempt at levity came on a day that bodies of people who froze to death during the storm were still being found inside area homes.

“Why? She was good. She was fine last night.”

While local officials have yet to provide data on the number of storm-related deaths here, the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office has attributed at least two deaths during the storm to hypothermia.

An 87-year-old man found dead Feb. 19 had probable hypothermia along with an enlarged heart, according to a copy of his autopsy report.

The report noted that he was found in a “hoarder-type residence with no power during the February 2021 Winter Storm.”

A second person, 64-year-old Nieves Barrientos, died of hypothermia Feb. 16.

Barrientos’ autopsy, which stated that she had five layers of clothing covering the top half of her body, noted that rashes covering her abdomen and lower body were possibly related to cold exposure.

Pictures of Nieves Barrientos and her family. (KSAT)

“I told my husband ‘let’s go check on her,’ but the weather was really bad. So we had to wait,” said Barrientos’ daughter, Evelia Aguilar.

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After Aguilar and her family were able to safely travel to Barrientos’ nearby home, a family member went inside and discovered that Barrientos had passed away.

Aguilar said the home, which was without power, was so cold inside that she and her family could not feel their hands or feet.

“Why? She was good, she was fine last night,” said Aguilar, who added that her mother would often stay with her family and had survived a battle with COVID last year.

“She had gone through so much. And we never thought this was going to take her,” said Aguilar.

Aguilar, who said she blames CPS Energy for her mother’s death, had not retained an attorney at the time KSAT interviewed her, but was in the process of hiring one.

About the Authors

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.

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