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.

Winter Quiet and Solitude

Dorothy's Red ShoesWhat do you think of when you see heels clicked together three times?  Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, clicking her heels to go home.  It’s iconic.  So when I saw a commercial with people doing the heel clicking thing, even without saying anything, I knew it had something to do with home.  Imagine my surprise when home = Pillsbury crescent rolls.  Since we only had them at my house for special occasions (since Mom never served bread with meals), it wasn’t an obvious leap for me.

Work was crazy this week with lots of meetings, snow, system down time, and playing catch up.  Yesterday I took off a bit early to take Tessie in to have her claws clipped.  The poor little sweetheart was not happy with me, but it was over fast and we came home to her favorite stinky wet food and mommy as a mattress for her to knead out her stress.  I actually feel happiest some days when I’m laying down and have her on my tummy, and I don’t care if I’m covered with cat hair.  In my house, it’s a condiment.

Things have been very quiet and solitary today.  We slept late, having stayed up last night to watch Letterman’s tribute to Great Moments in Presidential Speeches.   It was soooooooooo nice to sleep until I woke up – it’s amazing how much better I feel after getting 7 1/2 hours of sleep.  The kitty and I just snuggled into the covers and slept and dozed.  There’s something healing in not being a slave to an alarm clock.

I watched some TV, called and had a long chat with a friend in Vermont, and piddled around the house for most of the morning.  This afternoon my errands were defined and short — a stop at Shaws for carbonated water, filling the car with gas (have you noticed that the price goes up every time now?), getting the car washed to get rid of that icky white road salt, and finally a stop at the other grocery for a short list of things.  No Peapod this week; I didn’t need that much.

Tonight I had a rude shock when I worked on my taxes only to discover that I somehow owe almost a thousand dollars.  Gaaaak.  I need to talk with the HR folks at work to get my deductions changed on my W-4 form.  I thought something looked kind of odd but had gotten a raise plus there were different state taxes here, plus I filed differently last year because of moving expenses.  I’ve NEVER owed this much before and it definitely takes a unexpected cut out of savings.  I guess that vaguely possible trip to Paris that I’d been thinking about is out, at least this year.

I feel a bit as thought I’m hibernating.  I hate the bitter cold weather, the late sunrise and early dark.  Although I talk to people all the time, my circle of friends here is pretty small.  So I’m a little lonely – but really more solitary than that.  Sometimes I think I should feel more lonely but my constant communication with people via Twitter, IM, Facebook, blogs and phone calls fills that need.  At least for now.

It’s quiet and  Tessie is asleep on the couch.  We’re getting more snow tomorrow, probably not much but I don’t trust the weather people.  It’s nice to have another day to stay in bed and snuggle in.

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.

Please Let it Snow, Not Sleet

Winter DrivingWinter Storm Alexander is upon us. I know, I never heard of naming a winter storm before either, but apparently one of the local stations thinks it’s a good idea, being the winter equivalent of hurricanes and all. I think it’s kind of dopey. What matters, though, isn’t the name but the fact that the weather is awful and so is the driving.

I’ve lived in three New England states over the last 21 years and know what it’s like to put up with snow, sleet, and freezing rain in various combinations. Maine manages it the best, probably because they have more of it so have enough equipment and smart drivers. Universities aren’t known for shutting down or giving early dismissals but we are encouraged to use our own time if we think we have travel issues.

Well, duh. After venturing out at lunchtime for 20 minutes, I returned to close up shop and head for home whether the U decided it was a good idea or not – and I had lots of company. It took me 30 minutes to get to the parking garage; even with only a few inches of snow, the ice underneath was problematic. It took me another hour to get home from the garage, a trip that normally takes me 15 minutes. Roads were clogged and single-lane traffic going about 8 mph on poorly plowed and treated surfaces.

My biggest challenge was the final big hill before my complex. I ended up behind a car that careened into the side of the road and was in danger of spinning out and getting hit myself, but managed to straighten out and get to our road and down to my little carport. I admit I really don’t want to go back outside to shovel out behind my car to the hopefully plowed main road.

Snow is pretty and artful and fun to play in. Ice and sleet are not and that’s what’s pelting down now. All I want to do is stay inside and play with the kitty and maybe start a pot of soup. I’d best get used to this because the first Nor’easter is due on Saturday night/Sunday. I think its name will be Brianna. Who knew?