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bigger? in texas

Dennisons Wrong Foot

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Q - What are winters like in San Antonio?

A - I’ve only lived here for 15 years, we’re still waiting for summer to finish.

That’s how I used to answer, but last month winter arrived. We get 4 or 5 freezing mornings every year, occasionally much colder, but there is usually sunshine and dry weather. It snows in northern Texas every year, rarely in San Antonio, and almost never further south. When we do get snow (two light showers since I moved here) the whole city shuts down – major roads are closed and almost nobody goes to work. That’s necessary because south Texans are notoriously incapable of driving safely in bad weather.

TV stations are always predicting Armageddon, so when record cold and snow were predicted we listened then carried on as normal. Only this time the forecasts were correct. Average daytime temperatures for February should be 20C, but from February 13th we stayed below freezing for four whole days, had six inches of snow in one night (3rd highest amount ever recorded here), and a further 3 inches a few days later, plus snow and ice on roads for almost a whole week (the roads are never salted). Temperatures reached minus thirteen, colder than most locals had ever experienced.

The whole of Texas was hit – for the first time ever all 254 counties of Texas were under a winter weather warning at the same time. One city on the Mexican border had a record 11 inches of snow in one day. All this meant a record electricity demand.

There are 3 power grids in the US – East, West, and Texas. The Texas grid (which does not quite cover the whole state) exists solely to avoid federal regulation. It does have physical links to the other grids and to Mexico, but these are little used. Texas has been warned in the past that its grid is ill-equipped to deal with severe cold but an absence of regulations or political will meant that nothing was done. During the storm not only did demand reach record levels, but supply decreased. Wind turbines froze because they were not ‘winterized’ and gas companies were unable to pump sufficient amounts because their equipment also froze. The grid is managed by ERCOT (several of whose board members lived outside of Texas). ERCOT instituted rolling blackouts, having reportedly been within five minutes of the whole grid going down. The blackouts were intended to last for no more than 15 minutes per hour, but many areas had no power for 2-3 days. Other areas (that share a circuit with critical infrastructure such as hospitals) suffered no outages at all and the value of houses in these areas increased by $20k overnight. We also suffered water shortages, because suppliers were unable to pump water in the extreme cold.

Our home had no power for 2 ½ days. The indoor temperature obviously dropped substantially, but my wife managed to keep warm by staying in bed the whole time. She had also fallen in the snow and sustained a hamstring injury that still limits her walking almost a month later. Other people were not so lucky. An unknown number of Texans across the state died, many of them from hypothermia. There are numerous stories of ice on inside walls of homes.

ERCOT controls prices and raised them to the maximum permitted amount for several days (almost 400 times the average level!!!). Natural gas companies made more money in 2 day than in a normal year. Some of the increases have been determined to be unnecessary, but ERCOT has refused to rescind the extra $16 BILLION that it is accepted we were overcharged. The San Antonio supplier has not yet passed on extra charges, but some Texans faced immediate electric bills over 100 times the normal amount. Cities on the edge of Texas that run on one of the other grids did not suffer the same problems. Other states get much worse weather but can always cope. It has now been determined that the unregulated Texas grid has actually led to higher power charges across the state. It goes without saying that the lawsuits have already started. Politicians who previously praised the lack of regulatory interference are now demanding regulations to prevent a repeat occurrence.

I live almost 20 miles from my business, and was able to drive to work every day. The snow and ice meant a 25 minute journey took 75 minutes and was mentally exhausting, but was doable with careful driving. Most people took the week off. There are around a hundred other businesses close to my store, and on the first day after the snowfall only one other (fast food) was open. On the second day another fast food place was open, plus a gas station that ran out of gas within a couple of hours. For the rest of the week opening hours were unpredictable for even the large supermarkets, and many smaller stores stayed shut. Shortages of bread, milk, eggs, water, meat, etc. led to long lines everywhere. One customer said that her family had unknowingly drunk contaminated water and her son and grandson were in a local hospital who told her that they wanted to transfer her son elsewhere, but were unable to do so because there was no fuel for their ambulances!

Even though the store operated on reduced hours for most of the week, we broke our all-time sales record by 50%. I was physically and mentally exhausted for two weeks afterward - empty shelves needed restocking. On the day that everywhere else was closed we sold three weeks worth of cigarettes. Weeks later and distributors still have shortages of spirits, beer, soft drinks, and tobacco. Supermarkets continue to ration many items.

But this is Texas so there will be no major changes.
 

Dennisons Wrong Foot

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How rare snow is:
A 20 year old relative was building a snowman for the 1st time in his life. After a few minutes he went back inside - worried that he might be allergic to snow because of the hot tingling sensation in his hands!
 

Tredman

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We are still in a drought.
Shitty water supply system, tried to supply some new systems in Houston and San Antonio a couple of years ago - some nice guys, but generally poor level of education to be running water supply and wastewater treatment. General idea is we will do what we’ve always done..

Glutton for punishment that I am I’m currently bidding to supply a predictive maintenance system for the sewer pipes in Houston.
 

Paddingtonwolf

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My eldest niece and nephew are approaching twenty. They live in Oz. The only time they have ever seen snow was when they came to visit uncle Will about 14 years ago.
 

Dennisons Wrong Foot

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Shitty water supply system, tried to supply some new systems in Houston and San Antonio a couple of years ago - some nice guys, but generally poor level of education to be running water supply and wastewater treatment. General idea is we will do what we’ve always done..

Glutton for punishment that I am I’m currently bidding to supply a predictive maintenance system for the sewer pipes in Houston.
SA in particular is known for being relatively uneducated. In fact everywhere in Texas (except Austin) and the South in general.
Good luck!
 

Tredman

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SA in particular is known for being relatively uneducated. In fact everywhere in Texas (except Austin) and the South in general.
Good luck!
This will come over as incredibly arrogant, but having worked with water operators from all over the world those in the US are the least well educated, not just Texas. There are some very smart people in the level above, but in general those further down struggle with the most basic concepts.
 

t3ch

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utility work like that has issues with being a heavily unionized boys-clubs, so you get a lot of nepotism and other insular behavior. it's unfortunate but the industry isn't immune to these general societal problems, same as many others.

I actually had a good friend (who is quite intelligent) try to become a water treatment operator and after spending a few years and thousands of dollars, suddenly realized he couldn't get hired on anywhere without years-long internships at free or poverty wages, and couldn't make way with the union bosses. he knew it was a tough industry but thought his credentials and know-how would push him through... not so much. he works for a law firm now.
 

t3ch

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as for Texas I feel no sadness. one of the reasons I'll never move back, they think they have some special calling of god at times. want to manage your own grid? fine, Texans who continually vote against their own self-interests can be without power for weeks, and pay out the ass when they do. governors and private sector CEO's who want to have their own special system, but then demand emergency help from the government when their shit fails? fuck off.
 

Dennisons Wrong Foot

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Voting against your own self-interest is not limited to Texas. White auto workers in Alabama vote against union membership just because black ones vote in favour.
 

Dennisons Wrong Foot

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It is accepted that Texas power generators overcharged during the freeze, but there is no agreement on the size of the ripoff. And it looks as though nothing can or will be done about it. The Austin utility made at least $1 billion from generating extra electricity, whereas the San Antonio utility lost $1 billion. Several providers have or will file for bankruptcy.
Biggest losers - Joe Public.
 

darlowolf64

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Always good to hear of the virtues of Texas...

 

t3ch

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Voting against your own self-interest is not limited to Texas.

Obviously not. But I know Texans who proudly proclaim they'll take another week without power if it means keeping their energy independence, whatever the fuck that means. Texas more than any other state has this weird pride about itself.

I'm just so tired of the south. All of it can secede for all I care, fuck em. Texas just has a special place of aggravation in my heart since that's where I spent over a decade of my youth. Every time I go back I hate it more (anywhere not Austin, anyway).
 
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Alan

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Let's not pretend that the country suddenly becomes enlightened when you move north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
 

t3ch

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it's a hell of a lot better in comparison, so far as my preference goes. they're a different kind of asshole, but they're my kind of asshole.

nowhere on the planet is perfect, more news at 9.
 
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Dennisons Wrong Foot

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San Antonio utility suing ERCOT:

"CPS is suing ERCOT for breach of contract, negligence and violation of the Texas Constitution. The suit comes after ERCOT forced energy companies to conduct 15-mintue rolling outages during the devastating February snowstorm. The action left many Texans without heat and power for days.
"The injustice of imposing an erroneous, excessive and unlawful cost on San Antonians who suffered during a storm cannot be allowed," Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a press conference with CPS on Friday. "ERCOT botched the storm response, and the regulators should be held accountable for their own mistakes."
As part of its investigation into the February Storm, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas' Independent Market Monitor concluded that ERCOT made critical mistakes that resulted in erroneous electricity overcharges, and recommended the charges be reversed. The Independent Market Monitor also said ERCOT exceeded the mandate of the PUC by continuing to set high prices long after the load shed.
In the press conference, CPS Energy CEO Paula Gold-Williams said they are currently working through an "affordability tsunami." In that five-day snowstorm, she said they occurred about $1 billion on incremental costs. She noted they don't spend that much in a year.
"We are fighting to protect our customers from the financial impacts of the systemic failure of the ERCOT market and the outrageous and unlawful costs associated with that failure," Gold-Williams said. "... That is a huge amount of money and it’s incredibly important we continue to fight for our customers to bring those bills down."
CPS Energy said it will pay all lawful and legitimate charges for electricity. However, the company said it is also an energy supplier to ERCOT, which has failed to pay the community utility what it is owed under its market agreement.
The utility has already told customers that the cost of the storm would not be reflected in their February utility bills."
 

Dennisons Wrong Foot

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This could have been Texas, or anywhere in the South - but it's actually Pennsylvania. A man was released last month after serving 68 years in jail. SIXTY EIGHT YEARS. Was part of a gang that stabbed some people, killing two. He admits to stabbing (under the influence of alcohol) but not to murder. Sentenced at age 15 to life in prison with no chance of parole. Finally released after such punishment determined to be unconstitutional.
 

Alan

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it's a hell of a lot better in comparison, so far as my preference goes. they're a different kind of asshole, but they're my kind of asshole.

nowhere on the planet is perfect, more news at 9.
As a born and raised Southern Liberal, I just always have to stick up for those few of us down here who aren't complete blathering idiots.
 
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