February 17th, 2021

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The Deep Freeze

The Sunday snowstorm brought 3 inches of snow. The governor declared a state of emergency for the entire state. Three inches of snow rarely causes anyone to declare a state of emergency, though 3 inches of snow in north Texas exceeds the inch or two of a usual snowstorm. Instead, the state of emergency resulted from the way that temperatures state-wide and winter precipitation in much of the state affected the state's power grid. Texas' power grid is managed by a non-governmental entity called the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT. This independent non-profit determined that the demand upon the Texas electrical grid exceeded supply.

The temperature in our town went down to a low of 4 degrees F. and on Monday, a high somewhere near 7 degrees. This is much colder than our usual snowstorm, which generally happens when things cross just below freezing. One reason why we rarely have snowstorms is that the temperature often has a way of staying just above freezing.

Monday we awoke to a frozen winter wonderland in our neighborhood. I decided to work from home rather than try to drive to the office. This turned out to  be the right decision, because the power at our office went out. At home, our power experienced rolling blackouts, planned alternating periods in which we had power and other periods in which we did not have power. Our electricity provider, a co-op called CoServe, has delivered to us a steady and reliable alternation which started out mostly on/sometimes off and now is roughly 40 to 50 minutes on and 40 to 50 minutes off.  Our internet service is spotty, though my cell phone hotspot has proven a huge help.  Our cable television service went from spotty to the channels not being "tunable." Many of our fellow Texans are in far worse conditions, with extended power outages and various system issues with turn-on. Our local residents and politicians express their frustration with ERCOT. Texas' political mantra is that it is pro-business and "can do."  When an event like this makes Texas unable to effectively do, it rouses even our rather conservative politicians.

Monday and Tuesday, upcoming matters got postponed, people were difficult to reach, and our office power was off. But I still managed to ge some work done. By Tuesday, the temperature climbed to a tropical 19 degrees F., closer to a very cold day here.  Tuesday night a second snowstorm arrived.  This storm brought another 2 or 3 inches of snow. Outdoors things look like a Winter wonderland.

After work yesterday, before the new snow and the dark set in, I took a walk in Glendover Park. For the first time I can recall since we moved here 20 years ago, the park pond is frozen over. One large space near the little pier is not solid ice.  Mallard, Gadwall and Lesser Scaup ducks all hung out together in that non-iced area, with a few ducks sitting on the ice nearby.

I put out seed last weekend in our feeder before the first snow began. As a result, we have had a steady influx of birds in the backyard.  The species we have seen include Pine Siskin (yet another part of the massive irruption of this species in north Texas this year), Dark-Eyed Juncos (feeding on the ground), Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, Great-Tailed Grackles and a Starling. This morning I spread more seed along the top of the snow.  The seed we have is not my favorite--it is flavored to make it unappealingly hot to mammals such as squirrels.  I would rather share the wealth among many taxa. But I hope it will feed the  birds, albeit at a cost of more than the song-proverbial tuppence a bag.

Beatrice has been a trouper, though the cold is difficult for her as she is a very short-haired dog. We keep her wrapped up in blankets, and she makes the best of things.

Lack of power and television means we get use out of the battery-powered radios in our house. I like radio, though I rarely listen to the weather on the 8s channel as often I do this week.

My evenings feature, not surprisingly, a lot of reading. I always think of the netbook I use as an ereader as having too little battery life to be useful, but in fact it works perfectly for the time period of our power outages, and promptly recharges when the power returns.  I finished Gavin Mawell's "Ring of Bright Water." Though it is a well-known story, I had never read it. I found it a very good read. I remain concerned that otters, while wonderful creatures, lack the generations of domestication of dogs or cats.

My own pet thoughts do not run to otters. I am happy with our elderly dog Beatrice. But I do think again about setting up an aquarium. I last had one 20 years ago when we lived in La Crescenta, California. I kept wild (feeder) guppies in the tank, where they thrived. I could have done a better job with water levels than I did.  If I set up another tank, I would again go with wild guppies, or with platys or mollies, though I have always been intrigued with White Cloud Mountain Fish. White Cloud Mountain Fish once successfully bred in a community tank that I kept for the science teacher Ms. Welch in 7th grade. But I have only once tried to keep them, and they died too soon.

Today I will work again from home. As I type this we are again without power. I am going to take off my coat and begin my work day soon.











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