Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Great Texas Ice Storm of 2011

Watching Texans respond to winter weather can be pretty humorous at times.  Growing up in Charles City, Iowa, I came from a world where any snow storm under six inches was considered just a minor nuisance.  In the snow belt, school gets cancelled when snowfall amounts are 8-12 inches or more.  Otherwise, we would just put on warm clothes, got into our cars with studded or chain-wrapped tires, and deal with it.

I've been in Texas since 1982 and continue to watch in amazement the 'freak out' factor that this entire state puts into any storm than includes snow or ice.  When rumors of possible snow and ice hit the forecast, Texans go into 'emergency mode'.  At neighborhood grocery stores it's not uncommon to see hundreds of people stocking up on soup, beer, meat and other things they hold dear.

Each winter in Texas, we seem to average between 1 and 2 'snow events'.  Most storms present a bit of a driving challenge but pass through quickly.  Even our biggest snow storm---10 inches on Christmas Eve of 2009---melted away in less than 24 hours.   From my experience, the biggest challenge in Texas winter is dealing with Texas drivers----especially those in pick up trucks who feel a need to drive aggressively regardless of the conditions.   When I stay off the roads during a storm, it's because of these people, not the weather.

This week, winter storms took on a different dimension in Texas.  The coat of ice combined with record low temperatures have truly produced a storm of historic proportions.   And while the recent storms in Chicago and the east coast are much more significant, Texas just isn't prepared for weather like this.  The homes aren't built for it and the people aren't either.   This year, the combination of ice and cold has been very challenging.  And for the first time ever, Texans have been dealing with rolling blackouts---total shutdowns of electricity in order to conserve depleted supplies of electricity.

My family has been trapped in our home since Tuesday morning.  Other than the inconvenience of the blackouts and some other minor difficulties, we've been very comfortable.  Our fireplace burns around 16 hours a day.  I have a fully functional office so I've lost no contact with my staff or customers.  The highlight of this extended time at home has been the time with my family.  During the day, I take a couple of extended breaks each day to hang around with the family.  It's been enjoyable to eat lunch at home and a highlight this afternoon was videotaping Mac as he sledded down "Suicide Hill", his name for our ice covered road on our hill.

Years from now, I probably won't remember what I was doing 'work wise' during The Great Storm of  2011.   But I know I'll always remember the times with my family.

Pete Thomson
Twitter:  @pwthomson