Weather Crisis in Texas

May be an image of nature

Texas is a disaster right now. We’ve had Polar Vortec frigid temperatures for days on end, causing crazy high demands for heat. Of course. Except Texas isn’t prepared for this. Not.At.All. We’re used to super hot temps in the summer and rolling brownouts when we try to keep cool. But winter? No one could have expected this, even as meteorologists told us it was coming. We didn’t know the Texas power grid couldn’t handle the load as power plants froze up – and then water plants froze because they had no power, leaving millions of people without heat and/or water as the temps hovered in the teens.

There is no excuse for this, and even less for the way our governor and state leaders are blaming it on the Green New Deal with windmills going offline. Uh, hello? Yes, they went down – but they only account for a small portion of our state power. It’s a factor of greed with unregulated utilities choosing to opt for profits over weatherizing their power sources. And our ex-governor Rick Perry says Texans would suffer for days rather than submit to federal authority. Hey Rick, do you have power at your house?

I lived in New England for thirty years and I know how to prepare for a winter storm. Most Texans don’t have a clue. You fill the car with gas, pick up prescriptions, and stock up on bottled water and shelf-ready foods such as peanut butter with a grocery store run two days before the storm is due. You get out the snow shovels and ice melt, do laundry, and run the dishwasher so that everything that can be clean IS clean – in case you lose power. You fill bathtubs with water, watch the Weather Channel for the forecast, and get off the road as soon as you can. It’s time to hunker down – and to stay there until officials tell you it’s safe to be on the roads. I always brought work home, too, in case I wasn’t able to get out for a few days.

Maine did the best job of weather cleanup. They get lots of snow and know what to do with it, have plenty of trucks to plow and treat roads, and residents parked in lots off-street so plows could do their work. People are realistic about whether or not to drive. And people know how to prepare for a winter storm – they get lots of them, so they need to be practical so no one freaks out and wipes out the bread and milk sections of the store. Businesses mostly recognized that employees needed to travel safely and made closing/opening decisions accordingly.

Boston didn’t do as good a job as Maine. The roads were a lot worse, people didn’t pay attention to “no parking” rules, and public transporation on the T was often a mess. Universities (and there were many in Boston) almost never closed for weather because hey, the students lived on campus and who cared if the staff had problems getting in? But we had snow shovels and boots and knew how to plan, though the milk and bread sections did get empty.

New Haven was terrible for a place that saw a lot of winter. My town of Hamden was much better at plowing and treating roads; you could tell when you crossed the town line into New Haven because the roads were bad. Parking lots and sidewalks, theoretically treated, were a mess. But we rarely lost power, had lots of snow gear for ourselves and our vehicles (I had 3 shovels and many, many gloves and hats). We wiped out milk and bread and wine, too. But most of us, at least after one winter there, had basics in the pantry and closet and were ready.

People in Texas were not ready at all. They expected that things would warm up in a day or two and all would be back to normal. Ah, no. There was ice everywhere. Power was out at stores if you could even get to them. Medical equipment that depends on electricity failed, putting lives at risk. But no one could really prepare for days of no power, no heat, and no water. It was too damned cold – and it will happen again. The climate is changing and weather patterns are changing with it. I do not trust the Texas power infrastructure to put people’s lives over profits.

Not Lost, Just Buried

In case you’ve been on an island in the middle of the Pacific, you may have heard that the Northeast has gotten a little snow.  Over and over and over, usually on Tuesday, Wednesday and/or Thursday.  It started with 16″ of snow over Christmas but that was just a taste of January, which has been the snowiest month on record here in Connecticut.

Two weeks ago we got 25″ of snow in one storm on top of what was already on the ground.  Last week got another 18″ of snow with ice and sleet just for fun.  This coming week we’re expecting 4-6″ (such a piddly amount)  on Tuesday followed by hammering snow and ice on Wednesday.  FYI, it’s hard to shovel snow after it turns into solid blocks of ice.

No one knows what to do with all the snow we already have.  Our streets aren’t all that wide on a dry day and with every storm, snow piles up on existing snow and the plows box in snow-crusted cars already feet away from the curb.   That’s assuming that the plows come by at all.  The roads, while driveable, are down to single lanes in some places, or at least 2 lanes instead of 4, which keeps everyone on their toes.  Makes me grateful to have a little red car that’s easy to see against the snow piles, but that’s assuming the other drivers remember to look. Parking lots are equally a mess.  There’s simply nowhere to PUT this stuff.

Now don’t get me wrong:  snow shoveling is excellent cardio work, and I’ve done a lot of it in the last few weeks.  We do community shoveling, working together with all kinds of shovels to dig out each others cars.  One neighbor has a broken foot and another is 95 with macular degeneration and a 68 year old caretaker, so taking care of their cars is also a priority.

I’m getting terribly behind at work.  Although I can do some things from home, I can’t uncrate and process shipments of books, sign invoices, meet with selectors about new orders, etc.  I have to be there.  But I’m also a wimpette when it comes to winter driving.  Or rather, I know my limits and what things are problems, such as hills.  I’m willing to take a vacation day to avoid driving in snowy conditions but some of the support staff are low on time to use which puts them in a bind.

When the snow is falling this week, I plan to keep myself safe and dry.  I have plenty of food for my yogurt/fruit breakfasts and portion controlled dinners in the freezer (lots of chili in there), and the makings for Brunswick Stew and red beans and rice.  Or meat sauce to eat over steamed broccoli.  And plenty of cat food, of course.  I know who’s the boss of my house.

My Head is Too Full of Words

Were you shocked by the Tucson shootings last Saturday?  I wasn’t.  I’ve been expecting some kind of violent eruption since the last election and to be honest, I thought it would be Obama who was shot first.  He’s gotten more than the usual share of death threats because he is Black, because the economy tanked and jobs lost – and because so many people are angry at the world and he is the president and epitomizes The Powers That Be.

The Tucson shootings captured and emotionally entangled me. I was obsessive in looking at more information, more analysis, more ideas to explain what I saw and heard.  It actually reminded me of my reactions to 9/11, and not in a healthy way.

All of the articles, stories, reports, videos, analysis, and prostrations didn’t help.  One article quotes another until they go in a single giant chain of links connecting one to the other.  And they didn’t change the innocent people who were dead, and the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords.   The left blamed the right, the right blamed the left, and talk show hosts decried any responsibility for anything.  Sarah Palin – well, don’t get me started there.

The problem is way bigger than why that particular mentally disturbed armed man managed to kill so many people at the grocery store – and there is plenty going on with THAT that will be dissected as we move on from here, hopefully not just with one party blaming the other.

Politicians and journalists analyzed and told us every single word, phrase, action, reaction, turn of the head, tone of voice, things done and things left undone until my head was full of words swimming in a big stew.  Our country is deeply angry at just about everything and looking for people to punish, and I’m afraid there will be a lot more violence and destruction before we get to a different place.

I don’t know how to change it and find that I isolate and just take care of myself (food, exercise, sleep).  More seems too much to deal with.  It’s not depression; I know what that feels like.  It’s more like chaos that’s too big to break down into pieces small enough to grab.  Though if my congresswoman has a meet and greet event in my area, I’ll definitely be there.

And in the meantime, I shovel.  We got over 2 feet of snow today.


Obama spoke at the memorial service in Tucson not long after I wrote this, and I listened with tears in my eyes and a sense of peace and calm.  His words were Big and not Inflammatory or Partisan.  That’s what needed to be said, and what I needed to hear.  Thank you, Mr. President.

Watching the Weather

funny-pictures-upset-lion-snowWhen you travel in winter months, and especially if you live in the Northeast, you watch the weather forecast like a hawk.  Multiply that with extra stress when the travel plans are for holiday travel.  I refuse to mess with it for Thanksgiving, which is just one day plus football, crammed into a narrow window of time.  Christmas is also just one day but then there’s Christmas Eve and extra days for visiting, parties, caroling, shopping, decorating, etc., so that makes this my holiday of choice for travel, though I admit that I’m not always upset when it doesn’t happen.

Today I’m sitting warm and cozy in my house with the kitty, watching the snow fall and blow outside.  The weather guys are all excited about the first big storm of the season and you never know when they start babbling if things are real or exaggerated out of enthusiasm for a Weather Event.  Since I’m a winter weather driving wimpette, I opted to take a personal day and stay off the roads entirely after running errands first thing this morning – and they could have been deferred had the snow started earlier.

After the storm today/tonight finishes up, we have a little break on Saturday and then another storm roars through on Sunday.  This is the one that has me worried.  Oh, I’m not traveling anywhere on Sunday and can stay warm and dry except for maybe some shoveling out behind my car (which lives in a carport).  But Monday I’m off to Texas for a week with the family and I don’t trust the weather to make this work without delays and snags.  Take heavy holiday traveling, add in weather delays and cancellations, mix with fewer planes, and you have crowded, uncomfortable flights and grouchy people.

I can’t help but remember news stories a few years ago about horrible winter storms snarling flights over Christmas, leaving people to spend days in airports trying to get to destinations.  I don’t anticipate that but it’s hard to block out the possibility.  At what point does it make more sense to say, yanno what?  Just send me home instead.

The kitty knows that something is up and has been wanting to sit on me more often today. Usually she wants to just sit nearby but not today.  I’m wondering if she’s planning to sneak into my suitcase.  Which reminds me that I need to do laundry tomorrow to be sure everything I’m taking is clean, dry and ready to pack — which means that I need to know what I plan to take in the first place.  Guess I’d best get cracking.

How Did That Scone Get Into My Kitchen?

Snowy View From my WindowThere are blueberry scones in the kitchen. I don’t know how they got there, although obviously I picked them up myself and put them in the shopping cart and then unloaded them in the kitchen.

It was that, “there’s a storm coming and we need to buy weird things because we don’t know when we will dig ourselves out to shop again and hey, we might need it,” kinda thing. The rest of my cart was pretty normal and explainable: yogurt, apples, potato rolls, butternut squash soup, ground turkey, Diet Coke with lime, Edy’s Loaded light ice cream … and those scones.

New England redefined winter storms for the modern age with the Blizzard of ’78 when people were stranded in their homes for a week, roads closed down, offices shuttered, and those bread and milk supplies ran out early. Now we make sure that doesn’t happen again by stopping at the grocery store on the way home from work the day before the Bad Stuff comes.

We see each other pushing carts around the store, grabbing things from shelves that combine holiday treats with Super Bowl snacks and comfort food basics. It’s as though we will never have a chance to get to the store again so we want to load up now. In reality, of course, the roads will be clear in a day and cars dug out enough to make another trip to food heaven before make a dent in the stuff we got “just in case.”

Today it’s snowing and I skipped work, as did most of my colleagues, to sit home and watch daytime TV and the snow fall gently and steadily. Staying off the roads, even in a moderate snow, allows the road crews time to clean up well, which makes it easier for us to get out and about later.

And what’s the hardship in staying home with my kitty? I’m working my way through the second season of West Wing on DVD – and nibbling on a blueberry scone. Hope your day is relaxed and comfortable.