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Friday, February 19, 2021

Report from Texas


Just a few lines to let my truckbuddies know that the Pork Boys are surviving here in the Deep Freeze - and thankfully, in better shape than many of our fellow Texans - the disaster struck us only a glancing blow.  The temperature where we live got down to zero Monday night, with a wind chill of minus 12.  Now that's goddamn cold, I tell you what, boys.  Not something M.P. or I have ever seen in our lifetime.  

Rolling blackouts started without warning about midnight on Sunday - but unlike in other places, here they were mostly only an hour or so long - on again, off again.  We never knew, though, if the blackout would last an hour or all night or what.  Thankfully again, I can report that the power - including the Internet - has stayed on continuously since Thursday morning.  

However, yesterday we were informed that our town is under a boil-water order; either the reservoir is very low, or the water pumps are not working, or both.  At least we do have water, unlike some places, and the boiling is a minor inconvenience.  Some towns and neighborhoods have not had ANY water or power since Monday night - horrible.  

But though it's been sometimes very unpleasant, we are getting through this disaster with less discomfort than many people, including some of M.P.'s family; the worst has been sitting here in a drafty old house with a drafty old heating system, where the indoor temperature has been at 50 degrees or less most of the time - painful, but not unbearable.  And now we are looking forward to the return of more normal temperatures, as the latest forecast shows:

We also have plenty of good things to eat and drink, having stocked the larder before the snows fell, so no need to worry about us.  There are many others, though, who are having a really rough time of it, as you all have no doubt seen on TV news.  But here where we live, the snows are melting, the stores are open, and the streets were full of traffic today, so life is quickly getting back to normal.

However, I do want to say a couple of things to enlighten all you furriners out there who may be tempted to believe some far-fetched things said by the drama queens who call themselves journalists in this day and time.

First of all, please remember that Texas is a great big state:  about 800 miles across in both directions, north to south, and east to west.  Bigger by far than California in square miles.  We have a population of 30 million in a state about 20 percent larger than France.  So of course, when you hear somebody say, "Texas is . . ." or "Texans are . . ." you must understand that a hasty generalization is sure to follow.  The truth is, we have everything here in a place so big and so populous - but not everyone is just the same.  Country people tend to be pretty hardy folks; city dwellers, like city dwellers all over the world, not so much.

Also, a lot of ignorant little boys and girls who just love to be on television are spouting nonsense about "how such a HOT state" could get so "COLD."  Well of course it does.  There's a wide range of temperatures across this state in every month of the year.  And every year here in north Texas, the temps often get down into the teens or 20's at night during the winter, and some years we have snow.  Some years we don't.  What's different this year is going all the way down to zero, which as I said is nearly unheard-of for most of the state.  Our homes are not built for Canadian temperatures.  And what makes it really bad is losing power AND water, not to mention the intertubes.  You can get along without Netflix for a few days - but not without a toilet.  When it gets to that point, you're fucked.

M.P. and I are philosophical about it - we understand that Nature is not subject to human control, and never will be.  We've lived through winter storms before, not to mention hurricanes and tornados, which are all just part of life on Planet Earth - you pays your money and you takes your chances.  Some people now in distress did not prepare for this crisis, which was heavily advertised for nearly a week before it arrived.  Some made poor decisions in reacting to the cold.  Some were simply unlucky, or in the wrong place at the wrong time.  My heart goes out to all of them - they're only human, and we all fuck up sometimes, don't we, guys?  Compassion, not judgment, is needed here now.

What pisses me off is how an act of God has become another political football so quickly.  I am here to say it has nothing to do with anyone's favorite flavor of politics, and just shut up about it already.  Lots of talking heads on the picture tube are yammering on about who is to blame - most of whom have never set a foot in Texas, or know shit about the Texas energy grid, or can even tell a transistor from a capacitator.  But suddenly they are mouthing off like they know fuck-all about it.

It may well be that some actors or agencies failed to prepare for this crisis as well as they might have - Texas has plenty of everything, including assholes - but I am willing to say that I don't know enough yet to fix any blame, and will reserve judgment until I do.  If anyone really, really needs an answer right now this minute, here is a report from NPR that seems to explain what happened in a calm, reasonable way.  And if that isn't enough for you, just go away.

I will say one more thing before I close:  I will never vote to do away with natural gas.  It has kept us alive through a week of bitterly cold nights inside this house.  Every time the electricity was cut off, so was our gas furnace, which is connected to an electric thermostat.  The only thing to do was light candles and go sit in the kitchen by the gas stove, which we turned on and opened the oven door.  Just as our mamas and grandmas always did when occasion demanded.

That not only saved us from going into shock, it also kept the pipes from freezing and bursting, which would have flooded the house.  And then what would have happened to us?  There was nowhere to go over icy roads in the dark - all the motels are full up, and Mick's family are miles away - three of their homes have been dark since Monday, anyway.  We could easily have become a pair of statistics such as you've already heard about.

Nope, nope, nope - spare me your environmental whine.  When you have sat up shivering all night for a week in the dark, not knowing when or IF the electricity would come back on, then we can continue the conversation but not before.  No matter how the electricity is generated, there has to be a backup when the electric grid fails.  This is just as true in the summer as in the winter.  I'm talking simple survival, not politics.  

That's all I have to say.  We're okay for now, and I hope all of you are too.  It's 15 degrees outside at this moment, and pretty damn nippy inside, too.  I'll write more when I've thawed out more.  

Update, 4 p.m.:  Unexpectedly, it's up to forty degrees outside, hooray!  And about 65 inside, thanks be to God.

Click to enlarge.



Frank said...

Glad to hear that you guys are OK. We all take for granted the access to electricity and heat and fuels of all kinds. And we are taken off guard when the unexpected happens. People think New Mexico is always warm and sunny - sunny, yes, and HOT in the summer, but winters bring cold and occasional snow. We did not get hit with the sustained sub-freezing weather, but it has hit some lows of 10 degrees.
When we lived in Connecticut we lost power during an ice storm for more than a week. Our oil furnace would not work without electricity but we had propane for cooking and two propane space heaters; a small gasoline generator (running outdoors of course) ran our fridge, TV and a couple of light bulbs. As we were on well water our well pump was out of commission and could not be hooked up to the generator. We had some bottled water from the grocery store for cooking, washing up. Melted snow was for flushing the toilet. Having back-ups is the key. Luckily we were able to use the showers at a a nearby health club which had power. We got through unscathed. But it does make you think about what we don't usually think about...stuff that "always" works without any effort on our part.
Well, take care, eat well and hopefully things will improve soon.

Russ Manley said...

Yes, events like this really make you appreciate the modern miracles of light, heat, a/c, and other things that we usually just take for granted. My grandparents were all born into a world where such things didn't exist, or were only luxuries for the far-off wealthy. Now these conveniences are necessities of life. Makes us comfortable - but also vulnerable. And not nearly as rugged as our ancestors.

I guess the only real solution to the energy problem will be when every house has its own built-in power station of some kind. Fission, fusion, solar, who knows what that would look like.

Davis said...

I've been concerned - so glad you've made it through fairly well. I have friends who were without power or water for three days. What a mess. But yes it's an entirely natural thing and we must learn to adjust and prepare.

Russ Manley said...

Appreciate your concern, Davis. Yes, it's been horrific for many people down here - strangely enough, many places further south than we are got hit worse. Winter or summer, Texas weather is always a fierce force to contend with, and unpredictable too.

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