day 7 of bullsh*t weather in Texas...here's the tea
So last Thursday was our second "snow day" of this year...and by noon the roads were already becoming unsafe. We don't usually get snow so much as ice - under all this snow is a layer of ice that's up to 3" thick.
See my last post re: no driving + water/food/power concerns.
We're now on our seventh day of bullshit weather and abysmal emergency response.
I've been reading and researching, trying to make sense this mess...and here's the tea I've got so far.
Texas has been on its own power grid since the beginning, to avoid federal regulatory oversight. Our governor went on TV and used this opportunity to criticize "the Green New Deal", as if that's the entire problem (spoiler alert: it's not).
Then, to give an insight into what kind of prickish doorknobs are in charge, do read what the mayor of Colorado City, Texas, had to say about "lazy people expecting handouts" amidst this crisis (yes it's a fucking crisis).
He has since resigned, but (spoiler alert!) he's just one face of a tenacious reality here. My friend Maureen wasn't even wrong when she said, "Every white dude I've ever known from small Texas towns says this shit."
To add further insult, here is the official statement of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, released Feb 15th, that details their emergency order issued on utility pricing.
Yes, pricing. Not availability of services. As half of Austin has been without power for going on 3 days, pricing is the emergency they are choosing to address. Here is the link to the full ERCOT order.
Read the last line of the first paragraph carefully - I'll quote it here:
"Because energy prices should reflect scarcity of the supply, the market price for the energy needed to serve load being shed in the face of scarcity should also be at its highest."
Here is a screenshot of the document in case it becomes unavailable in future:
"The Public Utility Commission of Texas originally ordered ERCOT to raise the wholesale price to the state cap of $9,000 per megawatt hour.
"On Tuesday, the commission reversed that decision, allowing prices to remain beneath that cap."
So in Texas, we have a mostly "deregulated market" on electric services, meaning that for those like me, just outside of Austin, we've got about 200 companies to choose from - and if we don't understand what we're signing up for, we could be seriously at risk if the market demand changes.
Here's some personal accounts of what's happening, to make it more understandable. Basically, if you're not already on a fixed rate energy plan, you may see some sticker shock. I recommend logging into your electric provider or (gasp!) calling them to check.
Oh did you hear, Austin is also under a "boil water" notice now. Or, is it? Communication has sucked throughout this entire ordeal. So even if you have water, it isn't safe to drink unless it's been boiled. Which you need either power or gas to do.
Even Dan Rather has chimed in, admittedly with more questions than answers.
Also, as Mr. Rogers used to say, look for the helpers.
Ted Cruz left for Cancún, while Beto (who narrowly lost to him in the last Senate race) has been organizing phone volunteers to check on the elderly and bring them needed resources.
To be clear, I love Texas. I actually do.
I used to desperately want to live anywhere but here, but now, I have come to feel like it's worth it to dig my heels in and show people what ELSE Texans can look like, aside from the stereotypes.
Right. So homes in Texas are built with the bare minimum of insulation for some $trange rea$on.
We don't have basements here, and a lot of older homes are on pier-and-beam foundation - which effectively means there's a foot or more of empty space underneath, instead of a concrete slab.
Keeps us cooler in Summer - because that's the type of emergency we are prepared for.
Texans are much more likely to own a spare window unit A/C and an assortment of box fans, than a space heater. (Luckily we have all three!)
It's not unusual for Texans to not own things like gloves, scarves, or waterproof footwear. Most of us have just one real coat - or an assortment of hoodies. My daughter refuses to wear anything but leggings and shorts, for example. I think I own three sweaters, in total.
My dear friend Marissa reached out from Canada to check on us, and she asked if we had enough warm clothing. I had to laugh, because most Texans do not own anything like what northerners would call "warm clothing"!
Here is a preview of what Texas grocery stores look like right now. Empty shelves and hour-long outdoor lines.
That's not even getting into the depth of the homeless' struggles here. We have literal tent-cities under many of our overpasses here in Austin. While they are opening "warming shelters" across the state for the 4 million+ without power, it's nowhere near enough.
Rugged individualism isn't supposed to mean, 'get fucked, neighbors.'
Speaking of neighbors and rugged individualism...oh my. I have a ridiculous story to share about my 82 year old father.
He lives alone in the country, and when I called him yesterday, he told me he's been without power for two days.
The house was about 50 degrees inside, and he had hardly any food that didn't require a microwave to eat it. He has a fireplace, but no wood. Also no matches, lighters, or candles - so he's in darkness from sundown to sun-up, with only the cat and dog to keep him company.
I hung up with him and started pinging my network, trying to get hold of anyone close enough to check on him and bring him a warm meal. Within an hour, I'd talked to a very gracious neighbor who, in spite of their own struggles, agreed to go over with firewood, canned goods, and hot lasagna for him. So nice, right?
Folks, he refused to answer the door...!
I called him, explained that help was on the way, and he insisted he was fine, doesn't need anything, and to tell the neighbor to go away. Kept declining his calls, too.
My father was literally ignoring them standing in the cold and ice, knocking on his door repeatedly.
I talked to him this morning. He is sitting in his car to warm up and charge his phone, listening to the radio mourning Rush Limbaugh's passing*, and says he doesn't need any help and is doing just fine.
He has a box of crackers and three apples, he tells me, so he's not even hungry.
Talk about getting punished for a good deed. I can't make this stuff up...
Things I never thought I'd be /quite/ this grateful for include...
- Reliable water, electricity, and natural gas...we are super fortunate to have not lost power during any of this, despite us curbing our usage, and my anxiety being amped to the MAX.
- Owning a Berkey water filtration system. Water filtration is a critical issue, and even with 35 gallons in rotation, I do not think we're nearly as prepared as we could be.
- Having an 'unreasonable' amount of properly seasoned firewood and 'fatwood' on hand (thanks, Cody!).
- Having the foresight + intuition to stock up on food, and to cook things ahead that can be eaten cold, just in case. My kids were not super keen on my menu of lentil soup, cold cornbread, and five quarts of refrigerated smoothies - but we were not hungry.
- Stocking up on candles...I have lots of tealights, and I knew I should have bought more 7-day candles! Definitely need to get these Anthony Bourdain ones.
- Learning that we happen to live in a magical slice of "essential grid" that is very unlikely to lose power! So fortunate...
- The most unusual gift my husband bought me for Valentine's day - space heaters! They've come in handy way more than we ever expected...
- The displays of community and grassroots solidarity I've seen unfolding, even in spite of the egregious bungling of so-called Texas 'leaders'.
- Artists and art! Because since March of last year, we've been leaning heavily on the creative work of artists to help us decompress, escape, and find shreds of joy amidst a relentless hailstorm of stressful happenings.
- Silver linings. Once everything finally thaws, it looks like my husband will be very busy helping folks to recover. Locals, please save his new website! Down to Earth Handyman
Please see the blue pic I've attached for general places to donate to, if you can afford to do so.
UPDATE: We've had some wonderful friends offer us help since I first posted this. (Thank you!)
Aside from being down to "emergency foods" and entirely out of coffee, I think we are doing pretty well. My father endured three days without power, but he is also okay. My oldest child is safe as well.
Thanks all - for listening to me, and for caring. Love your neighbors, y'all.