TexasFilter: weather’s comin’.
February 13, 2021 12:01 PM   Subscribe

The entire state of Texas, all 254 counties, has been declared a state of disaster in advance of a pair of winter storms that will start to hit later this evening, through the weekend, and into early next week. “The bottom line is we’re expecting accumulating winter precipitation and brutally cold weather across all of Texas over the next several days.” -Texas Storm Chasers I know our neighbors to the north are accustomed to this. We are most certainly not, so we need to be extra careful.

Links to resources I’ve been watching:
Texas Tribune
National Weather Service for Austin / San Antonio
Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)

Electric grid, water, transportation, and emergency services are all going to be under extraordinary stress. Please stay home if you can; bring your pets inside; check your emergency supplies (blankets, batteries, food and water, etc)

See in the spring, in about 3 weeks. :)
posted by ZakDaddy (163 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
*see y’all in the spring, that should say.
posted by ZakDaddy at 12:01 PM on February 13 [7 favorites]




pretty weird seeing a state take early action in anticipation of a looming threat, in an effort to save lives. shouldn't people be throwing tantrums or something?
posted by mulligan at 12:07 PM on February 13 [73 favorites]


Wow, this is intense. It’s wild to see northern Texas forecasting temps about the same was what we’re seeing in central Illinois (below zero F).
posted by obfuscation at 12:21 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]




Careful down there, folks!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:37 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


If you live in the area consider covering up plants you want to survive. A thick layer of straw or boughs or similar material can help the roots to survive even if everything above ground dies.

Also, check how to shut off your water and drain your pipes in the event that you lose power. If your power goes and you have no heat or if your house is not designed to protect them from below zero temperatures they may freeze, especially if they are run through the outside walls. If the water in your pipes freeze it can expand and break the pipes. If you can't drain them consider turning your cold water on to trickle overnight as running water will keep flowing after still water has turned solid.

If you lose power and are sheltering in place, look for the smallest warmest room in your home and have everyone and all the pets in that room together, with all the bedding you can drag in, including mattresses if it is really bad. Shared body heat can get you through an otherwise miserable power outage.
posted by Jane the Brown at 12:42 PM on February 13 [24 favorites]


One thing that I know from having lived in the South is that, since this sort of thing is rare in the south, they simply don't have the infrastructure that the North has. The Upper Midwest will start doing maintenance checks on their salt trucks around Labor Day, while cotton country people just look at you and say, "Salt truck? You mean a truck just for... salt?"

Good luck and stay safe, Texans.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:45 PM on February 13 [16 favorites]


Oklahoma is experiencing this as well. We're looking at a possible record number of days below freezing; as much as 10 inches of snow could fall tomorrow–and we'll have a second storm bringing more snow Wednesday–or more; and we've had ice on the roads for three days now. We had sun today, which melted a little bit of the ice off the roads, but it's currently 17° Fahrenheit, and the clouds have returned.

We've been told by climate scientists that this kind of weather is the result of climate change, but we all know (of course!) that said climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. After all, ex-"president" Stumpy told us so!
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 12:55 PM on February 13 [11 favorites]


stay safe, Southerners! stay home if you can. brrr!
posted by supermedusa at 1:00 PM on February 13


If you have stray cats / dogs near you, consider putting out boxes or plastic bins, filled with straw or old towels or clothes (and an animal-friendly doorway). Optional: fill a sock with dry rice, tie it, microwave it to very warm, and toss it in the box for slow-release heat. Also, if it’s going to be freezing days running, consider putting out a bowl of warm water throughout the day. Those poor critters are going to be as ill-prepared as you.
posted by Silvery Fish at 1:02 PM on February 13 [21 favorites]


One of the fluid dynamics/chaos theory/SF writer early takes was that climate warming was going to go through a stage of climate wierding.
posted by clew at 1:03 PM on February 13 [13 favorites]


I can confirm. We are not prepared.
posted by double bubble at 1:05 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


Yep! Up here in New Mexico we're battening down the hatches, preparing a place for the chickens in the garage and (at least me) just generally living in dread of the next week. I hate cold weather!!!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:15 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Oklahoma is experiencing this as well. We're looking at a possible record number of days below freezing; as much as 10 inches of snow could fall tomorrow–and we'll have a second storm bringing more snow Wednesday–or more; and we've had ice on the roads for three days now.

The wind really does come whistlin’ down the plain!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:24 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


That giant wreck was at least partially caused by being in a toll express lane surrounded by barricades...when the first wreck happened the people behind had no way to avoid. I will definitely be avoiding those on future icy days.

We are right above freezing here in FtW and sunny but all the weather people say shit's a-comin' so we have stocked up on all the necessaries.

Our worst problem is honestly that insulation on Texas houses is for shit. You can block the drafts and still feel cold radiating through the damn wall.
posted by emjaybee at 1:29 PM on February 13 [9 favorites]


Not only snow, but in Tulsa over the next few days high temperatures will be in the single digits F. I pity the person who has to heat our old house. It was brutal enough even when we only had to deal with that for a few hours overnight.
posted by wierdo at 1:33 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Also awaiting this in the Land of Enchantment (NM). We are currently in an Exceptional Drought conditions in about 50% of the state because "extreme" apparently isn't cutting it anymore. I’m ok with the temperature staying below freezing until Thursday… if it means we get plenty of moisture from these next few storms. It will also help prevent our forests from burning up in the Spring.

Stay warm, stay safe and hope for snow.
posted by jabo at 1:42 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Here in Seattle we got about 6-8 inches of snow last night, which only happens every few years. When it does, the whole place shuts down. Not going to be single digit temps though...

I do not miss the Midwest.
posted by Windopaene at 1:56 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Seriously, if you don't know how to drive in this weather, now is NOT the time to learn.
posted by ocschwar at 2:02 PM on February 13 [30 favorites]


My PSA is that layering really works, but you have to do it right. Don't wear anything tight: that cuts off circulation, and you need your circulation to be working. Your base layer should be close-fitting but not super tight. If you wear leggings, your comfiest pair of leggings are about what you're looking for. Then you want an air pocket between your layers, so each layer should be pretty loose compared to the last layer. You might want to borrow clothes from someone who is a bit bigger than you for your top layer. In general, wool is better than synthetic, if you have it.

Mittens are warmer than gloves, but the warmest thing is mittens on top of gloves. I get cheap thin gloves like this from Target and then wear wool mittens on top of those. If you knit some of those Bernie mittens that went viral a couple of weeks ago, those would be perfect.

Or else you could simply choose not to leave the house. The wind chill here is -30, and that's what I'm doing. But I realize that's not always possible.

Definitely don't listen to Northerners who try to shame you for not being equipped to deal with this weather. People prepare for the predictable, and this isn't predictable.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:07 PM on February 13 [27 favorites]


I'm in Austin and spent Weds panic buying straw for my garden and the felt boots that I normally save for after skiing in other climates have come out of the closet and I might wear them indoors because our buildings are just not that insulated and no one builds with baseboard heat around here, and you can start to feel the cold seeping through the floor through two pairs of socks.
posted by slow graffiti at 2:15 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


I used to live in Austin, and every winter I would see buildings with burst pipes from the 3 nights of below freezing weather that makes up winter there. Godspeed and be safe Texans.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:38 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I'm one county north of Austin. The county called and texted to tell us to stay the bleep home earlier today - first time I've ever seen that! I am reasonably comfortable driving on ice from growing up in the Midwest, but I'm not going ANYWHERE until at least Wednesday. We've been housecats since the freezing rain started Thursday. Between infrastructure & lack of experience with winter driving, this part of Texas doesn't do winter particularly well.
posted by Ann Telope at 2:43 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Here in Louisville, KY a lot of roads and sidewalks are still covered in a thick sheet of ice. Should be interesting.
posted by Young Kullervo at 3:23 PM on February 13


Woah, blizzards in the panhandle. stay safe.

down in the gulf, we may come up north to visit you, just to see some snow.
posted by eustatic at 3:51 PM on February 13


I am a northerner currently and by birth, but have lived in several places in the south, including Texas. My worst winter memory by far was the one ice storm in Austin that started after we were at work. The university shut down around 2pm, and my colleague who left then got home fine, but for some reason the library, where my husband worked, didn’t close until 3, by which time every office in Austin also closed.

The roads were actually mostly fine because the precipitation had stopped but every overpass was frozen with black ice. Every. Single. One. Causing wreck after wreck after wreck. And there was no way to get to our home in north Austin from UT without crossing at least 2. I tried every single route I could and it took us 3.5 hours to get home and I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The very last bridge we had to cross had a cop keeping the traffic to one vehicle at a time and I will never forget watching the truck in front of us just fishtail all over the place despite being barely moving.

I hope since there is warning everybody just stays home. Be safe!
posted by DiscourseMarker at 3:54 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


I’m pretty sure I got that same phone call. Unprecedented; we are definitely staying home.
posted by ZakDaddy at 4:14 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I'm in the Houston suburbs and it's about to be as cold here as it's ever been here. Forecast low for Tuesday is 7; the all-time record is 5, and that was in 1930.

I think I've got the house and pipes as ready as I can. This is something we almost never deal with. I don't really have much cold weather clothing. We're just staying inside until it's over.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:17 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Please check on your elderly relatives and neighbours. Speaking as a Canadian who’s visited the state, your houses are not equipped for this. Do not drive if you don’t absolutely have to.
posted by mhoye at 4:24 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


1970, central Indiana: My brother, a sophomore at Tulane, brings home his roommate for the holidays. Among the merriment we find ourselves seated in the family room watching the local news as they describe a brutal cold snap coming, to which our Southern guest observes our disinterest and, looking around the room finally exclaims, "Well, ain't y'all gonna wrap your pipes?!" After our incredulous looks, we politely explained the concept of basements which was a revelation.

So I dearly hope y'all are wrappin' your pipes and all, staying safe - here in Ohio we just this morning, for the first time, had Whole Foods inform us there are no pickup or delivery times available a full two days out from the armageddon. I think we'll survive.
posted by thecincinnatikid at 4:44 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I wrapped my outdoor hose connectors which I generally am too lazy to do. Only one sink is in an external wall so I left the cabinet open.

I'm honestly more worried about a power outage..I had my kid bring the firewood into the garage in case, heaven help us, the heat goes out and we have to light a fire. It's enough for maybe two hours. Really hoping it won't be necessary.
posted by emjaybee at 4:50 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


"Our worst problem is honestly that insulation on Texas houses is for shit. You can block the drafts and still feel cold radiating through the damn wall."

Yeah, I was shocked how cold I was all winter in North Carolina (vs. Chicago), because there is noooooooooo insulation for that. Pro-tip, you can tack up blankets/comforters/etc. over interior doorways and localize yourself to a room or two, let that precious body heat keep the room a bit warmer.

Trickle your pipes overnight for sure, and open the cabinets under your sinks so that warmer house air circulates around the pipes -- often those under-sink cabinets become the coldest part of the house.

Man I hope y'all's water mains are buried deep enough for this, ugh. Lengthy deep freezes suck.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:55 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


Our worst problem is honestly that insulation on Texas houses is for shit. You can block the drafts and still feel cold radiating through the damn wall.

People in the south always say things like this and I never understand it.
Insulation keeps heat out as well.

You have A/C, do you just let it leak out all summer?
It gets down into the 30s during the winter in a lot of Texas, that's cold enough that you wouldn't want air leaking in.

(Not attacking you specifically, but people, energy audit your houses, no matter where you live, it'll save you money in the long run.)
posted by madajb at 5:27 PM on February 13 [7 favorites]


Insulation keeps heat out as well.

Couple of years ago I had my house insulated (yay, 1959 thinking that heat/cold would be freeeee in the future), and my west-facing walls went from being summertime radiators to ... just another wall.

Seriously people insulate, it doesn't fucking matter where you live (with, yes, one or two isolated exceptions), it's a good idea. My local climate is essentially perfect for human habitation, and the insulation was STILL worth it.
posted by aramaic at 5:50 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


This makes me think of how in Marquette, Michigan (where it gets properly cold every winter) sometimes the water mains freeze. So the city hooks up what's basically an welder to the pipe and uses resistive heating in the large metal pipe to get the water going again. It's routine.

Yep -- that's how prepared areas like that are.

I can't imagine being somewhere in the south with this weather. I hope everyone is able to stay home and safe.
posted by c0nsumer at 6:01 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Pro-tip, you can tack up blankets/comforters/etc. over interior doorways and localize yourself to a room or two, let that precious body heat keep the room a bit warmer.

Make sure when you do this that the rest of the house isn't so cold that the toilet ices over; that's just a prelude to burst pipes.

(College! A learning experience in more ways than one.)
posted by Vervain at 6:31 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


I'm a lifelong Minnesotan who is trying out the snowbird life for the first time this winter. This is NOT the weather they promised me here in southern Texas.
posted by a fish out of water at 6:31 PM on February 13 [20 favorites]


At least I got to use a brand new dad joke:

“See, when the weather gets really bad, they just change the prediction to an asterisk.”

“Dad, that’s a snowflake.”
posted by BeeDo at 6:34 PM on February 13 [8 favorites]


I know our neighbors to the north are accustomed to this....

Reminds me of the time I spent in San Francisco, when the papers ran a screamer headline, "Arctic Storm Lashes State", whereas in Boston, where I came from, 40 degrees Fahrenheit would have been known as "early spring weather".

... since this sort of thing is rare in the south, they simply don't have the infrastructure that the North has ...

That's the real point. A light snow in a place where nobody has snow tires or snowy-road driving experience, it could mean a seven car pile up.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:17 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Anyone remember the ice storm in Georgia a number of years ago that hit during rush hour? When i read about storms like this in the South, I always think about that one and the videos floating around of cars at a full stop slowly sliding sideways down a slop due to the black ice?

Stay warm, folks. Stay home.
posted by Fukiyama at 7:22 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Fukiyama, I remember that ice storm because an old friend had just started a job as a tv traffic reporter in Atlanta and had to stay at the studios overnight. That was memorable.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:17 PM on February 13


A light snow in a place where nobody has snow tires or snowy-road driving experience,

There's also far fewer plows, salting trucks, etc. than would be required for dealing with this sort of event the way you do in areas that get this type of weather regularly. Roads staying clear in this type of event requires early and frequent plowing and/or salt treatment, and if you don't keep up, the roads will stay a nightmare for much longer. And then there's staffing. Given that we've been having trouble keeping up with plow staffing in New England because of COVID, I can't imagine that's going to help.

That expected temperature map made me - a life-long New Englander - say "DAMN" out loud. I'd be dreading this weather and I'm set up for it. I hope everyone can stay home and stay warm.
posted by pie ninja at 8:22 PM on February 13 [9 favorites]


You have A/C, do you just let it leak out all summer?
(Not attacking you specifically, but people, energy audit your houses, no matter where you live, it'll save you money in the long run.)


I've never owned a home, can't even imagine how that would ever even be possible for me, but the places I can afford to rent don't usually do a great job keeping air or bugs or what have you in or out. Replacing some weather stripping or something, yeah alright, but hardly seems worth improving rental properties for landlords on my own dime that the landlord already hogs.

Landlords don't give a shit what your bills are and would gladly pay less for maintenance or improvements if you're the one dealing with the consequences. I don't know what needs to happen in Texas to get the leeches to improve the dwellings they lord over.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:46 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


I know our neighbors to the north are accustomed to this

I remember watching The Weather Channel once, many years ago. I must have been in my late teens or early twenties, living in the Buffalo area. The super-annoying host said, from the studio in Atlanta, “Well, looks like they’re getting another twelve inches of snow up in Buffalo, but I guess they must like it or else they wouldn’t live there, AHAHAHAHAHA!!” I’ve never wanted to reach through the screen and punch some smug face quite that much.

Seen on FB today: “Hey, Northerners, your weather is drunk and in my yard. Please come and pick it up.”
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:57 PM on February 13 [14 favorites]


This is my last week in Texas. I moved down to Houston from North Dakota because I hate the cold. It's one big cosmic joke to me that Houston could see the coldest weather on record this week.

I've also been anxiously checking the Space City Weather site frequently to make sure my Epic Road Trip across the southwest will actually be possible - I ain't going if it's one big icy road from here to California (cross fingers, it should be safe by Saturday).

Ugh, I haven't worn my floor-length puffy coat since I left North Dakota. Not cool, Texas!
posted by librarylis at 9:09 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


Seen on FB today: “Hey, Northerners, your weather is drunk and in my yard. Please come and pick it up.”

The Halloween Blizzard of 91 was a Gulf low that went from Texas to Minnesota due to a stalled front caused by a hurricane. A lot of our snow gets dumped on us due to Southerners' moisture.
posted by Fukiyama at 9:10 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


You have A/C, do you just let it leak out all summer?

Even at the summer maximum A/C only needs to deal with a 40F, maybe 50F, degree difference between conditioned space and outside. Compare to places with winter where that delta will routinely be a 100F. Insulation is generally more important in the cold places.

People can't see insulation or the HVAC performance envelope so it is hard to sell increased efficiency via increased insulation [despite a better insulated house being a more comfortable house]. If every house you've lived in has been poorly insulated you might not even know what is possible. Add on that lack of A/C capacity doesn't much hurt the building while lack of heat will freeze anything holding water. The latter tends to empower building authorities to enact tighter minimum standards.
posted by Mitheral at 9:16 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


Insulation keeps heat out as well. You have A/C, do you just let it leak out all summer?

People, particularly in the US, are so used to having A/C now that they forget that it being more or less universal is a relatively recent development in many areas. I didn't live in a house that had A/C until the mid-nineties; that was in Oklahoma, in fact, in a house of relatively recent construction. The house that I lived in right after that, in Memphis, made do with window units until we moved in and installed central air, and it also featured a sleeping porch, where the whole family would sleep in the summer, with windows on perpendicular sides so that they could prop them open and get a cross-breeze going.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:21 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


People, particularly in the US, are so used to having A/C now that they forget that it being more or less universal is a relatively recent development in many areas.

I have never lived in a house with air conditioning, including 6 years in the Midwest, but I imagine that is less usual in Texas, even if it is only window units.

Regardless, even without a/c, there are benefits to doing an energy audit on your house if you can.
Every little leak that is letting in cold air now is letting in hot air in the summer.

it also featured a sleeping porch, where the whole family would sleep in the summer, with windows on perpendicular sides so that they could prop them open and get a cross-breeze going.


One of the things I would dearly love to change about my house now is putting in windows on the north side to catch the prevailing winds in the summer.
It is the only wall in the house without windows and it sucks when you see the leaves blowing outside but not breeze coming through the house.
posted by madajb at 2:02 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Hey, Northerners, your weather is drunk and in my yard. Please come and pick it up.

~ Wonders how different the political climate might be in the south if those states had to budget/tax to account for, and deal with, severe winter weather.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:14 AM on February 14 [6 favorites]


As predicted, there is icy white stuff on my yard and my neighbors' roofs this morning. The lady on the news urged us to save energy and unplug things we aren't using, so I did that last night.

My heater is at 68 degrees and running pretty much constantly.
posted by emjaybee at 6:00 AM on February 14


My God, the homeless. In Harris County, the homeless are not equipped or prepared for below freezing temperatures, especially ten degrees, which I think is what downtown Houston is supposed to reach.

It's going to a bit better where I live, around 15 degrees, but there are no shelters in my area, and the homeless depend on local 24 hour convenience stores to let them huddle inside during extremely cold nights, because most of them don't carry blankets or heavy clothing around in our typically hot steamy weather.

On a personal note, I keep hearing conflicting information on either turning off my water or letting my pipes drip hot water. Like I said, it shouldn't drop below ten degrees where I'm at, probably closer to 15.
posted by Beholder at 6:07 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


> Even at the summer maximum A/C only needs to deal with a 40F, maybe 50F, degree difference between conditioned space and outside. Compare to places with winter where that delta will routinely be a 100F. Insulation is generally more important in the cold places.

Summer temperature differential in the US is not going to be more than 30°F (outdoors: 100°, indoors: 70°) for sustained periods except in a very few extreme locations, and winter temperature differential in most of the populous northern parts of the US is usually going to be around 40-60°F (outdoors: 20°, indoors: 70°) for long periods, excepting the coldest parts of the country which reach a 70°F differential (outdoors: 0°, indoors: 70°) regularly. (All numbers rounded, obvs)

Traditional house construction in the south tended not to emphasize insulation because before AC cooling was harder than heating, especially when daily temperatures are routinely in the upper 80s F: when houses are being built to be as ventilatable as possible, it seems like an unnecessary expense to also thicken up the walls. Traditional shotgun housing is designed to optimize through-ventilation by providing the least impediment to airflow when the front and back doors are opened.

Before the mid-20th century people with money definitely got the nicer houses designed for the environment, both summer and winter. When you live in the north, it's difficult to appreciate the degree to which avoiding sunlight (as well as facilitating ventilation) can be a key part of improving a house's cooling, especially in the south. Simply planting a forest around the house can be effective (although it has liabilities of its own), but the next best thing is to use all the utility spaces as a functional barrier between the living spaces and the sun. One memorable architectural detail in an early-1950s North Carolina house my spouse and I still discuss with each other: The house faced south, all the hallways were on the south side of the building, and there were building-length verandahs for both the first and second floor -- even in the worst of summer during a power outage that would have been a very nice place for sipping iced tea, because the extended roof and porches made it hard for sunlight to reach the front of the building in the summer and the hallways were effectively massive airlocks because every room could close its hallway door, so occupants only endured solar-heated air if they had to go to the bathroom. The only living spaces on the south face of the building were the servants' quarters (since converted to a guest room and a laundry room). It was the bespoke house of a prominent doctor of the time who was clearly being compensated accordingly.

Thankfully the nationwide genericization of suburban housing that's been going on since the 60s has brought with it improved insulation standards... at least usually. There's certainly no shortage of developers even today who are happy to cut corners on the details you can't see, but building insulation is part of your house's inspection report so it's not hard to know what you're getting when you're buying.
posted by ardgedee at 7:15 AM on February 14 [8 favorites]


My God, the homeless...in Harris County

The George R Brown is open for folks who are currently unhoused! I think it might be a joint city-county thing and I know Metro and cabs will be offering free rides to the GRB (but Metro is only running until the weather gets bad).

I don't know how widely the news went out so I'm mentioning it here in case you know of folks unhoused in your area. I am planning to mention it to someone on my running route - this weather is not going to be safe to sleep under an underpass by the bayou.
posted by librarylis at 7:28 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


So...four days ago Herr Duck and I drove twenty-two hours from Minnesota to New Mexico, in hopes of leaving the cold and snow behind. (Long story, but we are COVID-safe and pretty isolated here). We are now sitting gloomily in our little cabin, looking sadly at our hiking clothes, watching the snow pile up, and feeling relieved that we knew enough about the forecast to pack a bunch of board games. So we drove 22 hours, almost all the way to effing Mexico, looking for sun and warmth but the cold and snow followed us anyway. Did we bring it along with us? If so, we're sorry. :^/

It's worth remembering that at 26 degrees above zero, we are currently running a full 40 degrees warmer than we would be at home right now.
posted by Gray Duck at 8:30 AM on February 14 [4 favorites]


On a personal note, I keep hearing conflicting information on either turning off my water or letting my pipes drip hot water. Like I said, it shouldn't drop below ten degrees where I'm at, probably closer to 15.
This is a big problem. Pretty much every source says to let at least one indoor faucet drip if you don't turn off the water completely, but the CIty of Houston is telling people to not drip faucets, for fear of system-wide low pressure. That seems vaguely understandable, but if a shitload of people have busted pipes because they didn't drip faucets, the water system problems will be a lot worse.

When it comes to outside faucets, Austin is telling folks to let those drip, while most sources say to cover them. I don't know what to do here; my house is 100+ years old, on a pier and beam foundation with exposed pipes (because who's gonna plumb a house in Houston and insulate everything), so I don't know which route to take. I'm leaning towards dripping.

If the power goes out, I really hope my cats are willing to be shepherded into one room for a few days, because I don't expect electricity to be restored quickly.

And of course I have to go into work tomorrow morning, since the cats and dogs at the shelter need looking after. I'm gonna bike, shitty as that'll be, because driving is an even shittier option. Thankfully I don't mind the cold too much, in part because I'm sartorially well-equipped to handle it.

This fuckin' place, man. I feel like I'm worrying about some kind of weather all the time, whether it's hurricanes, six-month summers, flash floods, or, now, everything freezing and breaking in a city completely unequipped to deal with it.

I'll be putting out birdseed and thawing the birdbath every day this week so the local avians have a better chance. I suspect they'll fare better than a lot of us.
posted by heteronym at 8:31 AM on February 14 [6 favorites]


I’m in the suburbs just north of Austin. We got *6 inches* of snow recently. Completely and totally ridiculously crazy. And now this. One of our local meteorologists on Facebook is forecasting A LITERAL BLIZZARD tonight.

The ice has already been so bad that the oaks are literally splitting — all the way down the trunk — from the weight of the ice on their branches. Even the trees aren’t built for this shit.

I love (reasonable) cold and complain bitterly about the extreme heat we get nine months out of the year, but this is beyond reasonable.

I’ve been obsessively reading about the weather all week. I wonder if this is how it feels to be waiting for a hurricane (I’ve never lived in hurricane country).
posted by liet at 8:40 AM on February 14 [3 favorites]


I wonder if this is how it feels to be waiting for a hurricane (I’ve never lived in hurricane country).
It's not entirely dissimilar, but at least with hurricanes you can usually evacuate to someplace without a hurricane bearing down on it.

I'm glad you mentioned the tree thing, liet. I heard from my neighbor yesterday about trees up around Fredericksburg breaking under the weight of ice. If that happens here in Houston, we are mightily fucked.
posted by heteronym at 8:49 AM on February 14 [3 favorites]


One more tip from a Canadian, if you lose power for an extended period, do NOT try to bring your grill indoors for cooking. They give off a lot of carbon monoxide and that's the last thing you want.
posted by peppermind at 9:13 AM on February 14 [12 favorites]


Yeah, we're not engineered or prepared for long exposure to this stuff. Fortunately it is a rarity. 1989 was the last storm of this severity. Accumulated ice plus untrimmed branches have been the source of rolling blackouts here the last two days. At least our hurricane lamps are getting a workout. We are as ill-prepared for this as many other locales are for our annual 6 to 8 weeks of +100F temperatures. Stay inside, stay off the roads, stay warm, keep everything charged and be prepared as best you can for the outages. Should start thawing out by Wednesday...
posted by jim in austin at 9:22 AM on February 14 [3 favorites]


As a lifelong New Englander, a quick thought- If you have cats, kitty litter is a good thing to throw under your tires for traction. Try not to go out at all, but if you do, maybe chuck a bag in the trunk, especially if you have rear wheel drive.
posted by jenkinsEar at 10:04 AM on February 14 [3 favorites]


The University of Texas (Austin) just announced they're shutting down until Wednesday morning, including remote workers. That's a pretty big deal, I can't remember them ever closing down for longer than one day. They used to be pretty reckless about refusing to shut down for inclement cold weather (like not announcing a shutdown until 8am when everyone had already started heading in) but they've gotten better about it in the past 4-5 years. It's a very hilly campus, so when it ices over it's a total disaster area.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 10:07 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


Beholder - Any pipe or spigot outside you try to turn off and disconnect hoses - you will get frozen pipes if you let your outside taps drip (and a whole lot of ice to contend with around that pipe too) and you will ruin your hose. Any pipe/faucet inside you let drip or trickle and that is when you open the any cupboards that might be blocking warm air circulation.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 10:45 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


They used to be pretty reckless about refusing to shut down for inclement cold weather (like not announcing a shutdown until 8am when everyone had already started heading in) but they've gotten better about it in the past 4-5 years.

UNC used to be this way too. Eventually, enough bad things happened (broken legs, student nearly killed outside a classroom building by falling serac, etc) that they changed.
posted by thelonius at 11:01 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


My outside pipes are wrapped and covered. They are off. No dripping. I haven't decided on whether to let my inside pipes drip, though.
posted by Beholder at 11:02 AM on February 14


Pipes: take off anything connected to an outside faucet. Open cabinet doors inside and leave one tap trickling (more volume than occasionally dripping). If you have a tub or shower in the outside wall, leave that trickling. Best if you can catch water in a bucket in case you have no water and need some for flushing or washing up.

Cats will seek the warm area; all of their own volition.
posted by mightshould at 11:16 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


Re: the blizzard vs hurricane thing, it’s funny because my parents were born and raised in Buffalo but now live in Houston. When everyone freaked out about hurricane Rita, before authorities did a good job of communicating who should and shouldn’t evacuate, my parents specifically said they MUCH prefer blizzards because there’s no tormented “stay or go” decision. You just hunker down and stay home. But I suppose it’s what you’re used to, right?

For those dripping your faucets, drip the cold water not hot! Your hot water pipes are much less likely to freeze because they will conduct the heat from your hot water heater. It’s your cold water pipes you gotta worry about.

I live in Chicago and I hate that our house does not have water shut offs for our outdoor spigots but so far we have survived by putting covers on them. It helps that our basement is finished and although it gets pretty chilly it stays warm enough I guess.
posted by misskaz at 11:52 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


For those of you with new-ish houses, the outdoor spigot should be the frost-proof design for anywhere that has any chance of even a slight freeze. See this piece.However, to work, your hose can't still be hooked up, holding the water in the sleeve.
If you do *not* have frost proof spigots, there should still be a shutoff somewhere upstream (in the basement or crawl space). Good installation practices (and most codes) require some way to isolate every fixture from the building service, so you needn't shut the whole building down to service or replace one fixture (see: the shutoffs under the sink or behind the toilet). Shut that valve off, and open up the spigot to let the water between the shutoff and the spigot drain.
posted by notsnot at 12:13 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Another thing to keep an eye on is the supply line to your refrigerator if you have an ice maker and/or the water in door dispenser and the fridge is on an outside wall. Those supply lines are pretty narrow and may freeze and burst faster than the other pipes in the house. I have a friend who has had this happen multiple winters in a row despite insulating after the first time.

Not sure there’s much you can do to prevent it, but if your water dispenser stops working I’d pull the fridge out and point a space heater at the wall.
posted by misskaz at 1:38 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


If you can get to a hardware store in time (and they have it in stock, not sure about Texas), electric heat cable wrapped around the pipe will keep it from freezing as long as you have electricity.
posted by jenkinsEar at 2:17 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Or Christmas lights
posted by sepviva at 3:47 PM on February 14 [3 favorites]


More links:
Possible rolling blackouts (Dallas Morning News)
Statewide power outage tracker (Oncor)
posted by ZakDaddy at 5:28 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


From Oncor / ERCOT:
Due to record-breaking electric demand and reduced power generation as a result of the extreme winter weather, all Texans are asked to reduce their electric use as much as possible Sunday, Feb. 14 through Tuesday, Feb. 16. Even small steps, such as turning down the thermostat to 68 degrees, turning off and unplugging non-essential lights and appliances, and avoiding the use of large appliances like washers, dryers and dishwashers, can help make a difference.
posted by ZakDaddy at 5:29 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


All of the toll roads around here (just north of Austin) have been closed; ice clearing efforts have failed. Brrrrrrr.
posted by ZakDaddy at 5:30 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Y i k e s

I spent the last eight years in Michigan, where people are much more prepared for this and we'd mostly just shrug as long as it was above 0F. I mean, we'd complain but we wouldn't be worried about it.

Even then, the roads could be a nightmare after any winter precipitation. Even the best-prepared cities could struggle to keep up with the weather, and even the best-prepared drivers would slide off the roads or cause accidents.

Last year my parents (also in the Midwest but not Michigan) lost power for several days and had to heat their house with their fireplace. My stepdad made coffee for my mom by boiling water in the fireplace. If they hadn't had a fireplace I don't know what they would have done - go to a hotel? But then what about the pets?

Like, winter storms are no joke regardless of where you're from, and they are so much worse if you don't have the infrastructure (or the fireplaces) to deal with them. I think sometimes people who are more prepared for these types of events forget just how much weathering them is down to that preparation.

Another thought: If you feed the birds, check your feeders often! They will really go through it fast when it's cold and they need the energy to keep themselves alive.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:39 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


My hurricane comment was about the impending dread while obsessively watching the forecasts — that’s all.

Local FB weather guy has walked back his comment about there being a *literal* blizzard tonight, but apparently things still look Real Bad according to this NWS bulletin. (local FB weather guy = James Greenhaw — well worth a follow if you’re in the area and still do Facebook)

And our birds ate through almost a whole bird feeder’s worth of seed today! Poor little guys. (don’t worry, we already refilled it)
posted by liet at 5:58 PM on February 14


States that deal with low temperatures are often the best to deal with anti-icing efforts. Massachusetts for example pretreats all of the state highways (including interstates) with liquid brine (either NaCl or MgCl depending on the temperature) prior to any big snow/ice event. Just this pretreatment alone helps with keeping ice from forming after plowing. Some municipalities use "wet salt" where they spray rock salt with calcium chloride brine as it's being spread which requires special equipment on the spreaders but keeps roadways clear as the salt tends to stay in place and also lowers its effective temperature. Texas doesn't really have that equipment.

What we're seeing here is basically one of the first effects of climate change. The jet stream is meandering more and more thanks to increased stratospheric warming and letting arctic air escape into much lower latitudes. Go look at the Jet Stream maps. Check out where that jet stream is dipping down to. Note that everything above the jet stream is air coming straight off the arctic. Plus there's not a lot left of the jet stream over Texas. Of course we're going to see that cold air spread like crazy around the state and over into neighboring states.

I am hopeful that this big freeze will spur Texas into finally joining its power system into the Eastern Interconnect. They've stayed apart for so long to basically spite the feds and any sort of federal regulation in the power system to enjoy massively cheap power for industrial users (which further attracts them to the state) as well as ensuring the domination of fossil fuels in the generation mix due to the fossil fuel industry's home state being Texas. ERCOT was seeing prices of $3000/MWh for electricity at some points, nearly an order of magnitude above the states previous peak of $325/MWh. It might not be worth remaining independent to spite the feds anymore if this is going to become the norm. You can't get more peak if every peaker is running flat out and everywhere in the state needs power to run all those hastily acquired electric heaters.

It's kind of sad that all this low tax, low spending, "don't mess with Texas" bullshit posturing is coming back to bite the people in the ass least able to afford it. Sure the middle class employee has remote work or a snow day. But the poor single mother working at Whataburger? Show up or you don't get paid, or worse, fired. Ice on the ground? That sounds like a "you" problem. Fucking crony capitalism.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 6:06 PM on February 14 [14 favorites]


Two good points about the birds. One, most species do just fine in cold weather as long as they have food. Two, even in bad conditions, they're not completely or even mostly dependent on feeders. Stay safe, folks!
posted by mollweide at 6:06 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


"When it comes to outside faucets, Austin is telling folks to let those drip,"

Almost-life-long Midwesterner here -- I have never let an outside faucet drip. And my husband, who is in charge of faucets and is also from Florida, literally NEVER remembers to turn off the line to the outside faucet before our first extended cold snap of the season. The reason pipes don't burst when you run the faucet isn't because the lines don't freeze; it's because the faucet being open allows the pressure inside and outside the pipes to constantly equalize, so if they DO freeze, they don't burst. (Usually.)

It has to be really freaking cold inside the house for pipes to freeze and burst (like 20*F or lower). In the winter (before Covid) we all the time set our thermostat to 55*F if we were traveling for Christmas or whatever, with no fear of pipes bursting (and not running them while we're gone usually).

As long as the power stays on, my much bigger concern with your extended cold snap, Texas, is that your water mains are only required to be 30 inches underground. In Illinois they have to be 42" down, and most local codes insist on 60" or so. (Some Canadian codes require 8 feet.) That's deep enough to stay at 55*F no matter how cold (or hot) it gets, like a geothermal heating system. If the deep freeze goes on long enough to freeze down to the water mains, it'd be a nightmare. Ground freezes slowly, so hopefully it'll be mostly okay.

Also when it warms up again, note that frozen soil doesn't absorb meltwater from snow, so you can have surface water flooding problems while it all melts. It's usually not that big an issue, but if heavy rains cause flooding issues in/near your house, you should be alert for that with snowmelt too. (We had a couple of below-grade windows in Peoria that were fine when it was three feet of snow, but when that started melting and the ground was frozen, became a huge problem. When the melt started we'd go outside and throw shovels of snow back ON the driveway, to melt faster and run off in a different direction than "into my window wells.")

Which is actually another snow-control tip, when it's going to be above freezing for several hours, you can shovel the tops of big snowdrifts back onto your driveway (or even into the street, if you're not a dick about it and live on a quiet side street), because big snowdrifts are hella insulating and melt very slowly, but if you throw a few shovelfuls across your driveway so the sun can melt a scattered half-inch, especially if you have a dark-colored driveway that heats up faster in the sun, you can make a daily small dent in those snowdrifts while it's still dropping to freezing overnight.

Also, shovel out your nearest fire hydrant if you can!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:56 PM on February 14 [9 favorites]


I've lived in a singlewide most of my adult life. I have had pipes freeze because the insulation in a trailer is no better than I would expect for housing in some parts of Texas. Burst pipes are no fun. Since adopting the dribbling water from the coldest outside wall faucet practice, I've had no such problems.
posted by mightshould at 2:41 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]


I had my first pipe freeze over the weekend--- the hot water tap in my kitchen. The cold worked fine. When I investigated I remembered that there is a 90 degree elbow in my old galvanized steel plumbing for that line an inch above a basement window. Not really sure what the thought process was when that was done 60 years ago but I wonder if it ever froze before. Thankfully I got to it before anything broke and I heated it up enough to get it going again.
posted by drstrangelove at 3:21 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


I must have been in my late teens or early twenties, living in the Buffalo area. The super-annoying host said, from the studio in Atlanta, “Well, looks like they’re getting another twelve inches of snow up in Buffalo, but I guess they must like it or else they wouldn’t live there, AHAHAHAHAHA!!”

In the 90s when I was in school I had to go in early to finish a project that absolutely had to be completed that day. But the forecast was calling for heavy snow so I got up in what seemed like the middle of the night to drive in to school. The roads hadn't been plowed or treated yet and it went from "I must get to school before 7 am" to "Please let me get there and not get stuck." I think 8-10 inches had dropped. It took an hour to drive what normally took 10 minutes but when I arrived one of my classmates was already there. He asked me where everyone was and I laughed asking if he had looked outside. Then I remembered he was from Buffalo. "This is mere child's play." His car was a little fwd Plymouth, too--- no monster truck or all-wheel drive required when you know what you're doing I suppose.
posted by drstrangelove at 3:42 AM on February 15 [3 favorites]


We've had snow here since just after the New Year. That is normal. We don't get as much snow as further up in Scandinavia or in the US Midwest, because of the Gulf Stream, but I snow in every two or three years. This year has been unusual, though, because of those meandering jet streams. We had two weeks of extreme cold. It has been so cold at night that my heating system couldn't handle it, and when I lit up the fireplace in the morning, the room would fill with smoke because my chimney had cooled down so much during the night. The trick is to make very big and hot fire, but some mornings I haven't had enough wood inside.
Now the temperature is back to a more normal (for here) winter level, but there's a blizzard warning. So yesterday I went to the village to stock up and I had a puncture, and had to leave the car and walk home*. So now it will be interesting wether the car will return and be snowed in with me, or snowed out at the mechanics'.
The good thing is, it's warmer inside now. I have only had one shower in 14 days because the north-facing bathroom was so cold. Now it's a nice(-ish) 17º C.

* I have the nicest mechanic, so I haven't changed a wheel since I took my drivers' license, 30+ years ago and wouldn't start again yesterday. If he can, he'll drive the car out here, because he likes to visit, even with social distancing.
posted by mumimor at 4:32 AM on February 15 [3 favorites]


when I lit up the fireplace in the morning, the room would fill with smoke because my chimney had cooled down so much during the night

As a Texan who has used the fireplace more in the last 72 hours than in the last seven years, this explains a lot! Thank you. I kept thinking my flue was closed or the chimney was blocked the last couple mornings, or that I had a batch of rum wood or something.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 7:41 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


If you don't have a fireplace or firewood, light up a lot of candles and tea lights. It's pretty, too.
posted by mumimor at 8:21 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Hoo boy it is cold!

Woke up in Austin to a beautiful blanket of snow covering everything. I can't tell where my yard ends and the road begins. Our power was out for about six hours, then came on for about 15 minutes (we immediately made coffee) and then it went back off again. Rolling blackouts have been happening all over town, but for 4-6 hours at a time (they communicated 20-40 minutes).

It seems like our newly-purchased gas stove won't even operate the range without electricity. I guess there's a failsafe that closes the valve to the burners, so we can't cook anything. It was 8F when I woke up with a windchill of minus 11F, and it's only getting colder. Friends have frozen pipes even though they had the water dripping (I guess it wasn't enough).

My NextDoor community is "omg i pay taxes to the city to have reliable power this is unacceptable somebody should do something about all the problems why can't they keep the lights on". My house is currently at 59F and we don't have a fireplace (but we will be fine, lots of blankets and backpacking gear). Stay safe out there, ya'll.

Looks beautiful though.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:43 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]


There is already some FUD floating around that the power outages are caused by renewal energy specifically wind turbines not being able to operate in the cold and that is only sort of true. Some counter facts:
  1. Yes 4.2 gigawatts of wind power is offline. But that is only 8% of the approximately 30 gigawatts of power that has been knocked offline by the cold and ice. The rest is mostly NG/Oil/Coal plants being shutdown.
  2. Texas for REASONS is semi-isolated from the rest of the North American grid. Anywhere else the temporary generation loss could be made up by operators as far away as BC or Quebec.
  3. Even the interconnects that Texas has were already in use and operating near capacity because many generators in Texas were shut down for preventative maintenance during what is normally a slow period (normal max electrical use is in the summer).
  4. This may be a hair split but for the most part it isn't cold that is effecting wind turbines but ice. Ice build up on the blades first reduces efficiency and then results in complete shutdown to prevent damage
  5. Some outages are going to be caused by transmission towers failing from the weight of ice on them and the lines. Originating power source obvioiusly has no impact on these outages
It has to be really freaking cold inside the house for pipes to freeze and burst (like 20*F or lower)

All you need is a whisper of air flowing around a pipe and below freezing temperatures. I've seen pipes freeze at just a couple degrees below zero. Pipes in exterior walls constructed without an air barrier (or with poor detailing of an air barrier) are the most at risk but even an interior pipe near a penetration like a vent, window or exterior spigot are at risk.
posted by Mitheral at 10:36 AM on February 15 [6 favorites]


I read Eyebrows McGee's excellent advice and felt a bit better about our pipes' chances about 30 seconds before discovering that the pipes that run through the attic have frozen - none of the sinks in the house have cold water, but thankfully the hot water pipes and the toilets are still operating. Then as I was typing this the first time around, the power went out and stayed that way for about 6 hours. Plenty of folks still don't have it back, so we're definitely among the lucky.

The local governing style leans heavily on personal responsibility and preparedness over regulation and centralized services. Despite HEB's best efforts, not all situations can be handled through personal preparedness alone, y'know? So when something big goes down, be it extreme weather or, say, a pandemic, things can spiral out of control in fairly short order. YEE HAW.
posted by Ann Telope at 11:41 AM on February 15 [4 favorites]


Expanding a bit more on Mitheral's great points, de-icing technology for wind turbines already exists, and is often implemented in newly purchased turbines. The most common technique seems to be quiet basic; simply have some electo-thermal heating elements in the blades (Vestas Anti-Icing, for example). Of course, operators in Texas likely didn't expect to deal with much ice, and considered it acceptable to shut down for these hours assuming they would be very few (rather than several days per winter). But, this event is certainly a good example of how important resilience planning around climate change impacts is going to be.

Additionally, I'm no expert, but it seems Texas' electricity market does not include a capacity market, which is essentially a market where typically smaller generators can receive compensation to be ready-to-go in case of high electricity demand (these generators bid a specific capacity, and must be able to deliver it in an agreed-upon timeframe). I don't know enough to know the arguments against a capacity market (I assume financial efficiency), but it seems it would've helped in an event like this. At least procuring these ancillary generators would have offset some of the conventional generation that is offline for annual maintenance; whether these generators would have had similar operational problems in the cold weather is a separate issue.

Overall, this event is a frightening reminder of the huge challenges we need to start addressing to get ready for a rapidly changing climate with more frequent extreme events.
posted by unid41 at 12:04 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


Additionally, I'm no expert, but it seems Texas' electricity market does not include a capacity market, which is essentially a market where typically smaller generators can receive compensation to be ready-to-go in case of high electricity demand (these generators bid a specific capacity, and must be able to deliver it in an agreed-upon timeframe). I don't know enough to know the arguments against a capacity market (I assume financial efficiency), but it seems it would've helped in an event like this. At least procuring these ancillary generators would have offset some of the conventional generation that is offline for annual maintenance; whether these generators would have had similar operational problems in the cold weather is a separate issue.

Texas doesn't have a capacity market because one basically has to build generation capacity in the state and then they get paid fuck all because they're competing against all this other garbage that charges fuck all because they don't have any pollution regulations to meet. Do I want to set up a peaker in Texas that pulls $40/MWh in the summer or do I want to build a natural gas peaker in Louisiana right next to the natural gas trading hub and pull double that all the time supplying the EIC? Tough choice that one.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 12:38 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


We're in the north austin suburbs and we've been without power since early this morning, 5am or so. No ETA announced. It is getting pretty dang cold in here. I figure we'll be fine, we've all been camping in freezing weather, so we'll get out the snuggiest sleeping bags and get through it.

Also we are all sooooo bored.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:52 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


1.1 million of the 2.5 million electricity customers in Houston are currently without power and have been since yesterday. It's forecast to hit 15F by morning and that's if we're lucky. Roads are currently unsafe (it rained which froze into ice and then it snowed) and so it's dangerous to leave to get to a warming location. People will die overnight because of cold.
posted by librarylis at 1:27 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


I think the saddest thing is that pretty soon you're going to witness the powers that be blaming renewable energy for those deaths like Mitheral pointed out. In reality, the state's obsession with fossil fuels and sticking it to the feds stopped ERCOT from importing more energy from the north east.

I can see the SPP being spurred into action and bringing larger links from the east to the mid west to (fairly) quickly remedy this situation in the next couple of seasons but I don't know how quickly ERCOT Texas can adapt to this new reality that they are going to be a cold weather state every time the arctic oscillation swings negative.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 1:36 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


I think the saddest thing is that pretty soon you're going to witness the powers that be blaming renewable energy for those deaths like Mitheral pointed out. In reality, the state's obsession with fossil fuels and sticking it to the feds stopped ERCOT from importing more energy from the north east.
Again it is so weird that they can get away with it, when states and countries in the North (all over the world) have renewable energy. Heck, I have solar at 57º North. Most of my nighttime power (if my battery runs out like it has in this cold) comes from wind, my heat comes from the ground. This should be much easier in Texas.
posted by mumimor at 2:03 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Houston's a clusterfuck, but not entirely in the ways I imagined. Half the folks I know have lost power, and only some have gotten it back. Biking to work this morning wasn't bad at all, thanks to empty streets and enough snow to provide traction. I saw a woman running in a snow suit, which was a trip.

I fully expect to lose power sometime this evening and wait who knows how long until it returns. (I wonder if not being a Centerpoint customer has anything to do with it; probably not.) I'm thankful that the trees don't appear to have been overburdened with ice. The birds seem more or less fine, and are enjoying the seed I tossed out for them.
posted by heteronym at 2:06 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


Again it is so weird that they can get away with it, when states and countries in the North (all over the world) have renewable energy. Heck, I have solar at 57º North. Most of my nighttime power (if my battery runs out like it has in this cold) comes from wind, my heat comes from the ground. This should be much easier in Texas.

Texas really has a dearth of solar power too which is utterly gobsmacking given how many hours of sunshine and how much irradiance they have in western TX. Their generation mix is only ~3% solar power. I don't know how anyone can look at that and think "makes sense".

The crusade against residential solar and distributed generation has really fucked them. If they had widespread solar it'd all be coming online in the morning as the snow falls off all the panels. The efficiency would be insane given the cooler temperatures as well.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 2:32 PM on February 15 [5 favorites]


Yeah, it’s crazy. I’m at 47 degrees N, in Seattle, and our panels have created 7 MwHs over the 7 years we have had it. Don’t have any batteries though, that would be sweet. Distributed solar should be everywhere.
posted by Windopaene at 6:14 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


Here in the southwest Houston suburbs we just got power back after being without it for 22 hours, from 2am until midnight. The house was getting COLD. The whole family (two adults, three kids, one dog) were huddled in the master bedroom closet for warmth. Don't know how long we'll have power, but at least we can run the heater now. It was going to be a pretty rough night without it.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:53 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


Just saw the news on TV. It looks wild. I hope you are all safe and sound.
posted by mumimor at 2:07 AM on February 16


Rolling blackouts in Oklahoma, too, which isn’t on Texas’s grid.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:11 AM on February 16


Walked across the street to my neighbor’s yard and shut their water off this morning. Looks like a pipe burst and water was pouring out the side of the home. It’s a new build and nobody has moved in yet.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:24 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


24 hours without power now. House is still ok, in the 50f range but ticking down. This is my longest ever blackout by about 23.5 hours. 11 inches of snow on the ground means outside is pretty fun, sledding and walking on frozen ponds, which is rare here. Temperature is currently 5f with a -5f windchill, so the temp has dropped but the windchill temp is rising. Roads are actually fine, we just got snow which is no big deal to drive on, so takeout hot food, a charging station, and heat in the car have kept us sane. I’m kind of worried about round 2 Wednesday night. Hopefully we have electricity before then.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:55 AM on February 16


Any word on useful local charities in a position to help, especially with the unhoused or underhoused population?
posted by persona at 7:58 AM on February 16


My sister in Plano: "At the most we've had about 1.5 hours of power/heat since yesterday morning at 3 am. Pool is frozen over (freeze guard doesn't work without power!). Water pipes have burst. Called water company - min of 300 people ahead of us. Booked a dog friendly hotel and when we arrived they were exiting their current guests because they had also lost power. All hotels in the area are sold out."
posted by cooker girl at 8:05 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Thank you, Mitheral, for that info about about turbines, etc. My sister (the one I posted about above) just told us the reason for the power outages was because of the turbines. And she got that info from guess where? Townhall.com. If you don't know, that's a conservative website previously run by the Heritage Foundation.

And yes, my sister is anti-Covid-vax, how could you tell?
posted by cooker girl at 8:31 AM on February 16


So I got to shove that corrected info in her face (via text) and wonder why I keep bothering.
posted by cooker girl at 8:31 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


Of course, operators in Texas likely didn't expect to deal with much ice, and considered it acceptable to shut down for these hours assuming they would be very few (rather than several days per winter). But, this event is certainly a good example of how important resilience planning around climate change impacts is going to be.

Many of the windmill farms (possibly even the majority, though I don't have stats) are in the northern part of the state, along I40 near Amarillo. Amarillo has a cold weather winter climate, gets actual blizzards and several snow events every year (I think their first snow was in September this year) so expectations of freezing and ice should have been built in to the original spec. The ones in south Texas - those could be forgiven, as they get a snow event only once a decade.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:46 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


How's it going out there Texas? You guys still OK?
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:22 AM on February 16


Thank you, Mitheral, for that info about about turbines, etc. My sister (the one I posted about above) just told us the reason for the power outages was because of the turbines. And she got that info from guess where? Townhall.com. If you don't know, that's a conservative website previously run by the Heritage Foundation.

If Texas had PV at the same rate of California in their generation mix they'd have a dozen extra gigawatts of power flowing into the grid this morning. Instead they strangled PV in Texas in the cradle to protect the fossil fuel owners in a war they're never going to be able to win.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 9:32 AM on February 16


Rolling blackouts in Oklahoma, too, which isn’t on Texas’s grid

At a much smaller scale, and not just Oklahoma. Basically the entire middle of the country is having a cold snap equivalent to what Texas is seeing all at the same time. This kind of extreme cold event is usually limited to a couple of states at a time, not something around a third of the country at the same time.

I suspect that the biggest issue is the lack of natural gas transmission capacity since it has not grown in step with the large increase in natural gas fired generation. Still, the problems are much less severe in the SPP area because it is so much larger and better connected to neighbouring grids.
posted by wierdo at 10:47 AM on February 16


...

Dallas Business Journal: Texas power outages: How the largest energy-producing state failed in freezing temps
This isn’t the first time that weatherization has been an issue with equipment failure and rotating outages in Texas.

In August 2011, six months after an ice storm crippled much of the state and resulted in rotating outages, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation issued a report with recommendations.

"Generators and natural gas producers suffered severe losses of capacity despite having received accurate forecasts of the storm," the report states. "Entities in both categories report having winterization procedures in place. However, the poor performance of many of these generating units and wells suggests that these procedures were either inadequate or were not adequately followed."

That investigation revealed what happened in 2011, also happened in 1989, which is the first time ERCOT ever implemented rotating outages.

"The experiences of 1989 are instructive, particularly on the electric side. In that year, as in 2011, cold weather caused many generators to trip, derate, or fail to start. The [Public Utility Commission of Texas] investigated the occurrence and issued a number of recommendations aimed at improving winterization on the part of the generators.
Recommended

These recommendations were not mandatory, and over the course of time implementation lapsed. Many of the generators that experienced outages in 1989 failed again in 2011," the investigation discovered.

Fast forward a decade and here we are again.

Winterizing equipment – making sure it can sustain extended periods of below-freezing temperatures – has never been a requirement in Texas like other states.

...
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:10 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]



I think the saddest thing is that pretty soon you're going to witness the powers that be blaming renewable energy for those deaths like Mitheral pointed out.


Already happening on social media.
posted by ocschwar at 1:24 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Yep. It's driving me mad. Half of my Facebook feed is people blaming wind energy instead of blaming Texas' refusal to properly winterize all its various sources of power.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:27 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


Many of the windmill farms (possibly even the majority, though I don't have stats) are in the northern part of the state, along I40 near Amarillo. Amarillo has a cold weather winter climate, gets actual blizzards and several snow events every year (I think their first snow was in September this year) so expectations of freezing and ice should have been built in to the original spec.

West Texas stays very dry in the winter. So icing on turbine vanes is a rare occurrence even in cold snaps.

Icing is extremely dangerous because it accumulates unevenly on the turbine vanes, and if the weight is sufficiently lopsided, the steel towers will buckle. You can have in-vane heating systems, but that's a lot of money for something that happens once in 10 years if ever. Or you can have crews ready to deice the vanes, but that's personnel we're talking about, and ERCOT is all about trimming that payroll. Plus, it's a sprawled out and barely populated region there. And those crews would be filled with Texans who don't exactly know how to drive in these conditions.

Or you wait for the icing to thaw and drip off. Which is what West Texas wind operators usually do.
posted by ocschwar at 1:33 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


These recommendations were not mandatory, and over the course of time implementation lapsed. Many of the generators that experienced outages in 1989 failed again in 2011," the investigation discovered.

Fast forward a decade and here we are again.

Winterizing equipment – making sure it can sustain extended periods of below-freezing temperatures – has never been a requirement in Texas like other states.


I'd make a 'cold hand of the market' joke but jfc, people are going to die because of this.
posted by kalimac at 1:37 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


but that's a lot of money for something that happens once in 10 years if ever.

I saw "$7000" as the cost to install resistive heaters, but that's probably at the factory, not in the field.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:09 PM on February 16


I saw "$7000" as the cost to install resistive heaters, but that's probably at the factory, not in the field.


Assuming that's the whole turbine, not per-wing, and assuming $20 per megawatt hour, which is normal for ERCOT, that's 350 hours of income to recoup the cost. That in turn keeps you operating during a cold snap like this, for (let's say) 72 hours. Those hours are potentially lucrative, depending on wind speed, but we don't know by how much. Electricity is trading at $9k per megawatt hour right now, but that's $9K of Monopoly money. We don't know how much of that the utilities and customers will be able and willing to pay when the dust settles.

I'm probably the most vocal proponent of free market policies on this site, but this is a black swan event, and the market by definition does not do black swan events.
posted by ocschwar at 3:03 PM on February 16


Electricity is trading at $9k per megawatt hour right now, but that's $9K of Monopoly money.

With the load shedding the cap on the wholesale price went down to $2K/MWh. The problem with that is that natural gas is so expensive right now that most peaker plants can't come online even at that price. ERCOT had to get the Texas Public Utilities Commission to give them the authority to jack up the wholesale price of electricity to match the price of natural gas despite load shedding calling for lower wholesale pricing.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 3:17 PM on February 16


From what I see on the ERCOT map, at least the transmission system isn't leaving any power stranded at the generation point.
posted by ocschwar at 3:20 PM on February 16


Joel Montfort @jmontforttx It's looking like power plants in Texas unplugged to avoid skyrocketing natural gas spot market rates that went to hundreds of $$ to avoid losses. @ERCOT_ISO has now passed an emergency order allowing them to charge consumers those spot market prices. Capitalism at its finest.

I have to observe that turbines never shut down because the spot price of wind is too high.

Ted Cruz's August 19th, 2020 tweet about California rolling blackouts
California is now unable to perform even basic functions of civilization, like having reliable electricity.

Biden/Harris/AOC want to make CA's failed energy policy the standard nation wide.

Hope you don't like air conditioning!
turns out not to be aging well.

'Course he wasn't alone. Senator John Cornyn wrote October 30th, 2019 "California’s energy nightmare shows us why Texas must trust the free market"

And Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick chipped in on August 20th, 2020 with "This is what happens when the Democrats are left in charge. Why California’s liberal climate policies are causing electricity blackouts".

Texas Republicans’ Tweets Mocking California Blackouts Resurface Amid Power Crisis
Some commentators have also seized on Cruz’s request to President Biden for federal disaster funding for Texas, which Biden has approved, accusing the senator of hypocrisy given his opposition to aid for other natural disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy.

posted by Mitheral at 4:50 PM on February 16 [5 favorites]


Joel Montfort @jmontforttx It's looking like power plants in Texas unplugged to avoid skyrocketing natural gas spot market rates that went to hundreds of $$ to avoid losses. @ERCOT_ISO has now passed an emergency order allowing them to charge consumers those spot market prices. Capitalism at its finest.

It's not allowing them to charge consumers spot market prices (unless you're with one of those providers like Griddy who charge wholesale spot +$10/mo) and I wish people wouldn't spread this lie. They're talking exclusively about the wholesale price of power.

Without the increase in the offer cap no more capacity would come online because the spot price of natural gas is just completely nuts right now. It's peaking at $600 per mmBTU at Oklahoma compared to the normal price of $3. ERCOT needed to bring the cap back up to $9,000/MWh so that peaker plants would be able to afford to come back online with what little natural gas still remains available.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 5:12 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


I am learning SO MUCH about electricity generation from this thread, thank you so much to everyone sharing their knowledge and expertise!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:43 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Your Childhood Pet Rock can you explain the lie a bit? Both Joel Montfort's statement and yours parse the same for me. IE: NG peaker plants didn't come online because their input cost exceeded the price they could get for the electricity generated.

Bloomberg Green "Frozen Wind Farms Are Just a Small Piece of Texas’s Power Woes"
While ice has forced some turbines to shut down just as a brutal cold wave drives record electricity demand, that’s been the least significant factor in the blackouts, according to Dan Woodfin, a senior director for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s power grid.

The main factors: Frozen instruments at natural gas, coal and even nuclear facilities, as well as limited supplies of natural gas, he said. “Natural gas pressure” in particular is one reason power is coming back slower than expected Tuesday, added Woodfin.
posted by Mitheral at 5:53 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


Your Childhood Pet Rock can you explain the lie a bit? Both Joel Montfort's statement and yours parse the same for me. IE: NG peaker plants didn't come online because their input cost exceeded the price they could get for the electricity generated.

Because it's not going to be passed onto consumers like "here's a fuck you amount of money you have to pay this month btw your bill is $9/kWh". The $9000/MWh is what the provider pays. Normally they'll have hedges and reserves squirrelled all over the place to deal with these sorts of temporal distortions in the market, albeit nothing of this magnitude before.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 6:55 PM on February 16


Normally. This event is more than enough to bust through all the hedges that had been secured for this year. And the reserves. Right now if you have a wind farm that's operating and selling in Texas, you might wind up being paid in utility stock next month.
posted by ocschwar at 7:13 PM on February 16


Ah, got it. It is the word consumers which means utilities in Joel's case but could be easily confused with retail customers in your case.
posted by Mitheral at 7:17 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


if you have a wind farm that's operating and selling in Texas, you might wind up being paid in utility stock next month

An unexpected path to change?
posted by clew at 7:24 PM on February 16


I doubt it.

The problem here is that the Texas market is structured to favor efficiency over reliability.

A right wing administration could shift the policy towards reliability just as a left wing administration. But if the policy doesn't shift, then the new utility owners would be subject to the same incentives, and responding to them in exactly the same way.
posted by ocschwar at 7:43 PM on February 16


If anyone had any lingering doubts about the ability of wind turbines to handle the cold here is a press release about the wind turbines powering McMurdo Station and Scott's base in Antarctica with picture.
posted by Mitheral at 9:48 PM on February 16 [5 favorites]




Texas mayor tells residents to fend for themselves during power outage: ‘Only the strong will survive’
I don't know what to quote from this, everything about it is insane. And Texas
posted by mumimor at 9:35 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Say what you will about the tenets of Soviet Socialism, dude, but at least they knew how to handle cold weather.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 10:25 AM on February 17 [5 favorites]


Say what you will about the tenets of Soviet Socialism, dude, but at least they knew how to handle cold weather.

Unless the snow started speaking Finnish.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 2:05 PM on February 17 [7 favorites]


I don't know what to quote from this, everything about it is insane. And Texas

Texas in a nutshell (shamelessly cribbed from Wikipedia):

Houston, Texas
Population: 2,320,268
Mayor: Sylvester Turner (political party: Democrat)
Mayor known for:
  • Working to increase funding for mental health services by 625%
  • Advocating greater regulation of ride-sharing services
  • Voting for bills preventing gas companies from cutting off service during freezing temperatures
  • Voting against education funding cuts and lowering teaching salaries
  • Supporting the ACA
  • Lots more along the same lines
Colorado City, Texas
Population: 4,146
Mayor: Tim Boyd (until recently) (political party unknown)
Mayor known for: posted by Bugbread at 3:59 PM on February 17 [6 favorites]


That is something, Bugbread
posted by Windopaene at 5:21 PM on February 17


Give the ex mayor credit for being honest, because that's exactly how Republicans think. They can deny it, but IGMFU is at the core of everything they oppose and support.
posted by Beholder at 6:49 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


> Texas Republicans’ Tweets Mocking California Blackouts Resurface Amid Power Crisis

@DavidShuster: Just confirmed @SenTedCruz and his family flew to Cancun tonight for a few days at a resort they've visited before. Cruz seems to believe there isn't much for him to do in Texas for the millions of fellow Texans who remain without electricity/water and are literally freezing.

I don't think Texans are expecting a United States Senator to be out there repairing gas lines or delivering bottled water to people, but I think the bare minimum they might expect of a political leader might involve not fucking off to Mexico for a few days.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:45 AM on February 18 [6 favorites]


I think the bare minimum they might expect of a political leader might involve not fucking off to Mexico for a few days.

Considering that the freakin' governor says one thing (the truth) in official state briefings and then spouts the wind turbine propaganda and attacks the green new deal during Fox tv appearances, leaving is actually the best thing all of Texas' top leadership can do. They are just in the way.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:42 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


I don't think Texans are expecting a United States Senator to be out there repairing gas lines or delivering bottled water to people, but I think the bare minimum they might expect of a political leader might involve not fucking off to Mexico for a few days.

I think we are making the same point, but I definitely want to emphasize it.

As a Texan, I don't expect Cruz to hand me a bottle of water or a case of water (although the optics in those events are great for a pol). What I do expect is him (his staff, etc.) calling Nestle, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, etc. seeing HOW to get water here more quickly. And as a Senator of Texas, I would expect him to be calling Ozarka and seeing if they need any relief and also if they have ability to ramp up production/delivery.

We have at least two hospitals that are evacuating, and I know of at least one other (because I work there) that came damn close. (My hospital is 3+ hours south of Austin. Our temps generally run 5-10 degrees hotter than ATX.)

So, yeah. As always, Cruz is being a shit. Eternally optimistic, I hope this is a "let them eat cake" moment. Realistically, I know it's not. But, I'll write him (and Cornyn) a letter write now. It won't be polite.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 7:46 AM on February 18 [9 favorites]


Just saw an exchange on a friend's Facebook feed -

It started with a meme they'd created by photoshopping the picture of Ted Cruz in the airport holding his suitcase onto the older photo of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie relaxing on a beach sometime during the Covid crisis. The picture was met with some general amusement.

But it got better when someone asked why the Bernie Sanders meme wasn't also in the photo. And someone else answered "because Bernie's probably in Texas handing out warm mittens."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:08 AM on February 18 [7 favorites]


As a Texan, I don't expect Cruz to hand me a bottle of water or a case of water (although the optics in those events are great for a pol).

Beto is literally starting phone trees on Zoom for wellness checks on seniors and organizing getting them into warm areas as necessary.

If there's one thing that Republicans have cleverly managed to excise from the American body politic, it's that a representative's primary job is to serve them. Cruz has a massive staffing operation, influence, and political power at his beck and call and he fucks off to Mexico. He should be spearheading the fucking efforts to help others because charity is literally is the one thing between capitalism and it failing en masse. If he wants to fight socialism in the US you'd think solidarity in the face of adversity would be #1 on his agenda but he can't even do that because he's so fucking inept and lazy.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 11:18 AM on February 18 [13 favorites]


I thought that was kinda my point?

I'll grant you lazy. Inept? I think he knows exactly what he is doing and doesn't give a (muffled curse) about those he is supposed to represent.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 12:50 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Cut Cruz some slack.

His children had to flee their home country as climate refugees.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:53 PM on February 18 [6 favorites]


Texas was seconds/minutes away from catastrophic blackouts that might have lasted months:
As millions of customers throughout the state begin to have power restored after days of massive blackouts, officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which operates the power grid that covers most of the state, said Texas was dangerously close to a worst-case scenario: uncontrolled blackouts across the state.

[...]

Magness said on Wednesday that if operators had not acted in that moment, the state could have suffered blackouts that “could have occurred for months,” and left Texas in an “indeterminately long” crisis.

The worst case scenario: Demand for power overwhelms the supply of power generation available on the grid, causing equipment to catch fire, substations to blow and power lines to go down.

posted by Mitheral at 2:18 PM on February 18


Basically: "We heroically saved ourselves from particularly bad consequences of our own and self-serving incompetence."
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:40 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


We had an ice storm here in Toronto a couple of years ago that caused a lot of power outages because of trees falling onto the power lines in residential areas. It was tough to be without power at home for a couple of days even though we had an insulated house, a fireplace, warm clothes and a working gas stove and oven. The city learned its lesson and since then they've been sending more crews out in autumn to trim the trees near power lines. Hopefully the lawmakers and utility operators in Texas will at least to themselves admit what went wrong and then plan better for the future. Money can't be happy that the state is shut down for so long and the insurance payouts are going to be enormous, and these people will listen to money right?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:05 PM on February 18




Noam Blum @neontaster

BREAKING: The Perseverance rover sent back a message saying it was only accompanying its daughters to mars and is scheduled to depart back to earth tomorrow.
4:10 PM · Feb 18, 2021·
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:22 PM on February 18 [5 favorites]


Texas was seconds/minutes away from catastrophic blackouts that might have lasted months:

One of the things that the EIC had back in 2003 was unholy amounts of hydro power to bootstrap, synchronize and balance the load across the entire system. Hydro can basically throttle output at almost the speed of a car engine. I can't imagine having to do that with base load and natural gas peaker plants. Especially since they only have 1.25GW of DC ties to fall back on in order to cushion shocks in load.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 8:37 PM on February 18


I lost the links that said this, but apparently ERCOT never had the actual authority to force any operators to winterize. That belongs to a different body, the Public Utilities Commission.

So of course now ERCOT's going to be the scapegoat.
posted by ocschwar at 6:31 AM on February 19


Knock on effects of power and gas outages starting to take effect: Texans running out of food as weather crisis disrupts supply chain
posted by Mitheral at 9:59 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


Oh dear. I'm worried that perhaps we are hearing less from our friends in Texas because they are struggling with all these issues. Give a note if you can!
posted by mumimor at 11:04 AM on February 19


I'm in East Texas and today is the first time the temperature got above freezing for more than an hour since Sunday. That is not normal.

We have been extremely lucky and are extremely grateful to have had power the entire time. I don't know why we were so lucky. My brother lives one street over from a hospital and he lost power Sunday night. He trekked a couple miles in 12 degree weather to get to our place. We have a gas furnace, so we've been able to stay warm without pulling too much electricity. A lot of people have not been so lucky. Many have been without power this whole week. I can't imagine how difficult that has been.

We tried trickling water in our faucets, but this is an old pier-and-beam house and it got down to -2 Monday night (also not normal) so we ended up with a burst pipe. We shut our water off Wednesday morning, not long before the whole town lost water. There was a power outage at the water treatment plant, and stuff froze up before they could get the back-up generator going. We've been melting snow to flush the toilets and boiling/filtering/filtering again the bathtub water for drinking. Water should be restored in the next few days, but we'll be under a boil notice for awhile. Many have made note of how hard it is to boil your water when you have neither water nor power.

The roads have been pretty much impassable. I was walking the block Wednesday and had to help push two cars out of the ditch. They were both young moms trying to take a side road to get to the grocery store for formula. One of them didn't even have a coat on and was frantic because the one tow-truck company she could get on the phone couldn't help her because she was on a hill. We explained first gear to her, told her to go slow and not hit her brakes. My brother and I just held our breath and watched as she inched her way down and around the corner.

There are a lot of very large 4x4 trucks around here, so some people have been able to get around. There have been a lot of those good ol' boys putting their phone numbers on facebook and then helping any and everybody that asks for help. Folks are paying for other people's motel rooms. The local facebook groups seem to be equal parts very scared people and people offering their assistance. It's nice to see.

This has been a slow-motion disaster and I'm not sure I fully grasp the scope of it yet. Lots of buildings have caved in. The livestock auction barn collapsed. There are a lot of chicken houses around here, and I'd be surprised if one of them still has a roof. Wednesday was just icy rain all day long, so these enormous pine trees have been dropping very large limbs all over the place. Apartment complexes and dorms have had flooding issues from burst pipes. There will be a lot of mess to clean up when this all finally thaws out. Hopefully tomorrow the weather will start getting back to normal.
posted by mcdoublewide at 3:01 PM on February 19 [7 favorites]


The retail utilities are broke. As I suspected, those $9K/MWH power prices were posted with what is now effectively scrip.
posted by ocschwar at 4:01 PM on February 19


I'm in East Texas ... We have been extremely lucky and are extremely grateful to have had power the entire time. I don't know why we were so lucky.

It is possible that you are in the region of Texas served by the Eastern Interconnection rather than the Texas Interconnection. The easternmost counties of Texas are in the Eastern Interconnection. ERCOT has some online maps, of which Load-Zone-Map_2020_full.jpg is the most recent.
posted by RichardP at 4:13 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]


I’m on the Texas grid. But one side of a street will have power and the other won’t. I don’t know why, but we have been very lucky.
posted by mcdoublewide at 4:18 PM on February 19


Most of my family are in Austin/San Antonio - my cousin's been without power or water for five days (he's okay, they're staying with friends who've been better off). He says people are queueing outside local breweries for water hand-outs. It sounds like some local businesses are really trying to step up, but there's not a lot of aid efforts going on at the state level.
posted by BlueNorther at 6:12 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


File this story from last month under "hasn't aged well":

Texas GOP defends 'We are the Storm' slogan as critics decry QAnon link

You certainly are the storm now, Texas Republicans.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:40 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


Man it is hard to describe the scale of disaster - I got extremely lucky and had almost continuous power so my pipes didn't burst, and if they did I don't know how I would have afforded the plumber since I've heard $5K+ because of demand and who knows if my insurance would have paid out or not. I have water at half pressure and I feel disgusting since I haven't showered in 48 hours and I'm debating washing my hair in the sink with water heated on the stove (I saved the water from dripping my taps and snow outside my door when it was fresh) . I am among probably the most fortunate 20% in the entire city since I missed the brunt of both the big outages so far and I don't live in a wealthy neighborhood, and people just a block away or so got screwed, and yet I am still very tired and edgy and frustrated.

I wanted some fresh food yesterday and went to Trader Joes not really hoping for much of anything having seen the pictures of lines but it was an excuse to leave the house. They had some fruit and squash and other dry goods but the one sad thing in the produce cold case was jicima wraps and I don't know what you would put in a jicima wrap anyway since there was no meat, no tofu, no other green vegetables, no dairy. I really worry about food prices and scarcity not for myself but for people who were already unemployed and suffering before this. Texas is a big food producer and losses are in the billions already. The late orange crop is a 100% loss. This was the cusp of transition to summer crops here and most farms hadn't quite set out their tomatoes, but we had a really warm start to Feb and any tender unprotected commercial crops are gone.

I pulled back the straw I laid down in my garden last week and found one little cilantro plant and a couple young lettuce hanging out like nothing happened and couldn't believe it actually worked and that is the single thing I have been happy about in a week. Now growing my own food seems not like the distracting hobby it was last year but a tiny hedge against disaster. I can't feed myself entirely off 10'x20' but now it seems like I need to try to get as much as I can out of marginal soil and rationed water because I am suddenly acutely aware that I live alone and no one is coming to save me when my luck and relative wealth and privilege run out.
posted by slow graffiti at 12:50 PM on February 20 [7 favorites]


And just like that, it's a beautiful day in central Texas. Currently 56°F (13°C) and the snow is melting away. Power is on. Water is flowing. Lines are out the door and around the building at grocery stores. There's a lot of hate for Ted Cruz and nothing will come of it.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:55 PM on February 20 [4 favorites]




Texas Senate hearing on the event. ERCOT testifying.

Some preening peacocks, but also two senators who came prepared with useful questions to ask.
posted by ocschwar at 9:42 AM on February 25


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