Piece of Mind: Time To Examine What Went Wrong

Feb 19, 2021

Is it too early to start crafting after-action reports on what the hell just happened to us in Texas?

Not at all!

We got hit with a storm that might make some folks in, say, Fairbanks, Duluth or Buffalo chuckle. They're use to the kind of weather we've endured. It gets even worse in those places, but dang, man ... we aren't accustomed to this. And it showed in our utility companies' response to it.

I have been prowling this planet for 71 years and I do not recall ever going without power or water for the length of time we did in Princeton, Texas. I grew up in Portland, Ore., where it rains a good bit and occasionally gets pounded with snow. My career took my family and me eventually to Amarillo, Texas, where it gets mighty cold and where it does snow -- often a lot at one time.

We were unprepared for what happened. I hear now that the outfit that manages 90 percent of Texas's utilities -- ERCOT -- has said we were "minutes away" from a total collapse of the electrical grid during the worst of the storm.

Total collapse? What the hell does that mean?

Utility companies shut down production capacity ostensibly to save energy while the Arctic blast blew in over Texas. Where I come from, they call it a "clusterf***," which it was.

We heard reports of production stations lacking proper winterization. Natural gas pumps froze. Wind turbines, too, were rendered useless in the cold.

There needs to be a top-to-bottom -- and back to the top -- review of what happened here. There also needs to be action plans developed to prevent it from recurring when the next monstrous storm decides to descend on Texas, which is full of good folks who seem to believe they live in an indestructible state.

Mother Nature has told us otherwise. She issued a dire warning that we are vulnerable to nature's wrath, which came our way in a form that is foreign to millions of us. Hurricanes blow in from the Gulf of Mexico. We can get pretty damn hot in the summer. The rain at times fails to dampen our land. Yes, we are a sturdy bunch here in Texas, as the Dust Bowl proved in the 1930s, even as it wiped out West Texas families.

Always time to thank first responders | High Plains Blogger

It's time, though, to examine carefully what happened to our electrical infrastructure and make sure we do not repeat what could have been an even more tragic event.

John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.

Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.