Mardi Gras on the rocks

Save your beads, boys. Ain’t nobody pulling off their tops today.

February almost always looks better somewhere else.

In February 2014 I fled Bibleburg for Albuquerque. In 2016, I traded Albuquerque for Fountain Hills.

And this year?

Well, shit. I appear to be sheltering in place, like everybody else.

Well, maybe not everybody else.

At stupid-thirty I looked outside and noted that our neighbor to the west had laid down some tire tracks in the snow that fell overnight. It kept falling, and after sunrise, the neighbor to the east laid down a matching set on the other side of the cul-de-sac.

They both have jobs and munchkins to manage. Me, not so much. I don’t have to be anywhere, and so I’m not going there.

• Lone Star Update: In Texas Monthly Mimi Swartz feels her hurricane reflexes kick in as the power grid is pushed to the limit.


31 Responses to “Mardi Gras on the rocks”

  1. Dale Says:

    Got an elderly neighbor? Give them a hand or two with a shovel or sand. She and I did that for many years and now we are competing to be the elderly neighbors.

    • Pat O’Brien Says:

      Good idea Dale. Everything is relative. In an over 55 community, I am middle aged at 71!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      In Bibleburg a neighbor and I tag-teamed driveways and sidewalks in the Greater Patty Jewett Yacht & Gun Club Neighborhood. We were the young fellers, being in our 50s and still spry.

      A neighbor offered to clear my driveway the other day as a thank-you for borrowing my shovel to do his. That was a first. I guess the old feller I see in the mirror isn’t just another acid flashback.

  2. SAO' Says:

    It’s bad pretty much everywhere.

    Lived in Nashvegas for 2 years, saw this twice in those 24 months.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      There’s nothing like feeling those tires break free. Herself put a Jeep CJ into a pirouette once in Santa Fe, and some years later I rocketed backwards down our Weirdcliffe hill, along the same stretch where a neighbor towing a couple snowmobiles had done the exact same thing and shot off the edge and down into the trees, where the snowmobiles were of absolutely no help at all.

      We were visiting Hal and Mary, and hadn’t been up to our place in a while, and it struck me once we were committed to the climb and in 4WD that I didn’t have any weight in the bed of the Tacoma. Missed getting the front wheels on the gravel at the top of the 50-meter ice sheet by this much, which might as well have been a country mile.

      At least I didn’t fly off the road and into the trees. I stuck the landing in a ditch on the hill side, and so did the tow-truck driver. Good times. Maybe not.

      • SAO' Says:

        Snowshoeing in RMNP, spun the Dakota 720°, came to rest in the ditch on the uphill side of the road, which felt like I’d won the lottery because the downhill side dropped 20 ft into an iced-over stream.

        Rolled two cars before that, but there was no ice on on the scene either time. Once playing Speed Racer. Once on Day 3 without sleep, 5 mph, reaching in the backseat for a Coke that was just out of reach and slipped off a steep shoulder. Witnesses said I looked like the vehicular version of the guy in the yellow raincoat on Laugh-In.

  3. SAO' Says:

    Texas is getting hammered, and they use those elevated clover leafs everywhere which freeze up if you look at them wrong. So when you crash, you’re not walking off to a frontage road or adjacent connector, you’re stuck 30 ft in the air.

    Only thing more predictable than the sun coming up each morning is GOP leaders mocking blue states every time something goes wrong, then sniveling for help when it’s their turn in the barrel

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      For real. Herself’s niece down in the oil patch has been without power since yesterday. And as all Coloradans know from bitter experience, there ain’t no sech a thang as a Texican what knows how to drive on snow and ice. You might as well try to get an armadillo to dance the hula.

      Doesn’t help that since this kind of weather is comparatively rare, nobody has the equipment to clear the streets. And of course everyone is driving them giant pick-’em-up trucks what are light in the keister. 4WD won’t he’p you stop, Skeeter.

      • SAO' Says:

        Lived right outside Fort Knox when my dad ran the hospital there. Hardin Co, KY wouldn’t spend a dime on clearing equipment, but the Army would just call the engineers, hit the streets with graders and scrapers, and while I was sleeping in half of January, the kids who lived on post didn’t get so much as a one hour delay.

        Similar problem in Wash DC with their bridges. DC points at MD, MD points at VA, and while they’re all blaming each other, commuters plow into the Potomac.

  4. khal spencer Says:

    We got almost a foot up here. Spent the morning clearing our driveway and then helping my eightysomething neighbor with his.

    So tomorrow is Ash Wednesday? Had forgotten about it. Will have to dig out my T.S. Eliot for the annual reading.

  5. JD Says:

    Interesting to see the impact of the ice, snow, and bitter cold on the wind turbines. Another little, but surmountable, gut check on renewable energy sources. No doubt the oil/gas advocates will play this up big.

  6. Charley Says:

    Montane’s wind mills modified to operate in -22° f. But, then they have cold winters.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Sounds like the Texicans skipped the cold-weather mods. “What th’ hail, Joe Bob? Don’t hardly git cold enough to th’ow an extry blanket on the cot in the single-wide.”

    • SAO' Says:

      Texas de-regulators saw the bill for the winterization kit, assumed it was like the undercoating that auto dealers try to get you to buy, and hard passed.

  7. Shawn Says:

    An interesting thought on Texas. To my recollection after living there a couple of times, nearly all of the heating in homes is via natural gas. With the exception of a small need to power the electronics of gas furnaces and water heaters, you don’t need much electricity to heat with natural gas. Or has Texas suddenly gone to electric heating? (That of course is a no). Are Texas homes poorly insulated so that the owners need to run out and buy up all the space heaters in the state to stay warm? Not likely. Most Texas homes built in the last 25 years can easily take a few days of 25F weather. I know the ones that I lived in could and they were built more than 25 years ago. Additionally, if Texas is having a problem with electricity now, what the hell happens in the middle of summer when there is a much greater power load with A/C’s running? From a power generation position, It takes a whole lot more energy to cool air than it does to heat it. I think the Texas power issue is a made up pile of horse manure driven by the oil and gas lobby or similar interested group.

    As Charley states, Montana’s wind turbines are deigned for colder temps as I suspect that most throughout Europe are, throughout Oregon, Washington, Colorado, etc, are, as well as those in Texas. There are too many turbines operating in this country in cooler conditions to think that Texas has wind turbines that are of a noticeably different design. I don’t buy it. But again, I don’t thing the electrical generating capacity is the issue.

    But what the hell do I know. The time that I spent in that business in Texas was quite a few years back (it seems like last week to me) must have all been a dream. (That’s possible – The girl I knew down there sure was).

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      It’s fascinating, innit? Like you, I remember Texas primarily for heat. We had a few Fedders air conditioners in the windows of our house on Randolph AFB, and I remember sticking pretty close to ’em whenever I wasn’t in the O-club pool swimming laps.

      But I also remember getting pretty friggin’ cold during the occasional blue norther. I have no idea what the old pile used for heat. I think officers’ housing (stucco and Spanish tile) was built sometime in the Thirties.

      In this instance, sounds like Texas got caught with its natural-gas wells down. Production in decline, very little fuel stockpiled, frozen well components, pumps that suddenly didn’t work (they run on electricity), etc. Add all this to a massive drop in temps and you have folks burning the furniture to stay warm.

      As with everything, there is a political component. Notes The Washington Post:

      What has sent Texas reeling is not an engineering problem, nor is it the frozen wind turbines blamed by prominent Republicans. It is a financial structure for power generation that offers no incentives to power plant operators to prepare for winter. In the name of deregulation and free markets, critics say, Texas has created an electric grid that puts an emphasis on cheap prices over reliable service.

      Cheapest is not always bestest.

      • SAO' Says:

        The free market’s only response to a crisis is to jack up prices. Exact same situation with hospitals. There’s no incentive to buy extra respirators and maintain beds for an emergency.
        Conservatives will never accept that there are any downsides to the free market when it comes to wealth distribution or poverty. But emergency prep should be a non-partisan issue.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        These people are a band that only knows one song. No Holiday Inn in the land would book ’em, but the fans keep buying the same sorry tune, over and over and over again.

        It’s one thing to be personally prepared. When we lived outside Weirdcliffe, we had a propane stove and furnace, tank filled regularly by the local propane dude. Well water. The usual electric hookup. A landline.

        But we also installed a wood-burner in the fireplace and regularly cut/bought wood for same. We had the Coleman two-burner to cook on when things went sideways, plus candle- and battery-powered lanterns, and a deep closet full of nonperishable staples, jerrycans of water, warm clothing, cross-country skis, and snowshoes. UPS battery backup for the computer to rescue imperiled works of genius, etc.

        When the power went out, as it did, we were good for a while. Days, even. But I hate to think about spending a week in February without juice on that snowbound, windswept hillside. That’s when you start wondering whether your PUC has gone long on small hat sizes. Or you have.

    • SAO' Says:

      Yeah, not buying the frozen turbine story one bit. Those things are all over Nebraska, Wyoming, the Dakotas. Going to sound like a jerk saying this, but the weather Texas got hit with is called “any Tuesday in November” in Nebraska.

      FYI, you know why all these GQP states are embracing wind energy? Because they tax the blue folks in college towns, then pay the folks in red counties to lease the land. It’s just another government hand out, but it’s going to the white people … I mean, right people … so it’s ok.

      • Pat O’Brien Says:

        Turbines run fine in the cold, but not with ice on the blades. I assume that was the problem. The blades must be balanced, like a car wheel, or things get shaky, literally. Plus some of these things are huge! I tried to get a tour of one when driving home from Dallas one time, but no joy. Closed to the public. Things fascinated me!

    • Pat O’Brien Says:

      Without the blower running, a gas furnace won’t work. Air convection alone won’t work because the heat exchanger will overheat tripping a thermocouple that turns off the burner. So you would have to have a generator to power the blower and all the cost, safety concerns and logistics that go with it.

      • Shawn Says:

        Yes. I failed to mention the electrical needs of the blower on the furnace. I believe those are normally 1/3 to 1/2 motors driving a squirrel cage. That equates to 240 to 325 +/- watts. Let’s be conservative and say that each furnace has a 1 hp blower motor drawing 746 watts. That’s a good deal more than the power draw of modern household LED lights, but is less then the normal power draw from a household in the pre-LED / CFL days of incandescent lighting and CRT tv’s and monitors (ie: 1999).

        I believe the issue is as many have said is that the electrical delivery system in Texas is a political issue – Poor decision making, financial greed, and simple energy production bias. There is no reason there shouldn’t be / have been enough power to operate the controls, blowers, valves, UPS’s, etc., that which is the normally power draw on the system each and every day.

        One matter that I haven’t read about but which could be a notable cause of the power issue in Texas is iced over power lines causing them to break and power poles to collapse. If that is occurring then my rant is barking in the wrong direction. There exists an existing ice storm episode in the Portland, OR area where many people are without heat and power. Portland, being a city near a large river with big dams, has homes that are heated primarily with electricity. The situation there is not of an electrical power shortage, but of a collapse of the electrical delivery to various areas of the city.

        I am saddened about the many thousands of people in Texas who are have no heat or electricity and are trying to stay warm and feed themselves. I hope that the weather turns for them soon so that they can then coordinate with their elected leaders to reduce the effects of similar future weather events.

  8. Pat O’Brien Says:

    This shines some more light on the current, pun intended, state of the power grid in Texas. It also explains why parts of Northern Mexico lost power. Patrick is right.

  9. herbinnh Says:

    Very nice photo, Patrick. A glimpse of the elegance to be had in simple collections of silver nanocrystals arranged hither and there. Chapeau!

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