“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” – Genesis 8:22
In the song lyrics of the rock music group Foo Fighters, “It’s times like these you learn to live again, it’s times like these time and time again,” we find an apt description of this past week. And, at least in the last four years, when it comes to natural disasters and pandemics, it really does seem as if we do this time and time again; a never-ending Irwin Allen disaster movie trailer. But these last two winter storm disasters have names courtesy of The Weather Channel: Uri and Viola. When is intermission?
As I pen this column, much of Texas is still without power and water. Travel is made on a needs-only basis, and as I stare out my window at the dark clouds, rain, ice and winter gloom, my brother-in-law from Pittsburgh is quick to remind me that, “Hey, it looks like this back home for three straight months.” Somehow, that does make my fingers feel slightly warmer as I hit the keyboard.
But as the sun reappears this weekend and by the time you read this, hopefully the events and memories of this past week are beginning to melt away like the remnants of ice hiding in the shaded areas of your yard. But what hasn’t melted away is the ever-resilient character of grassroots individualism. Notably, I have witnessed amazing acts of random kindness and benevolence on social media as folks work with their churches to set up soup kitchens, drive their four-wheel-drive vehicles out on the roads to help stranded motorists, or make wellness checks on seniors that are homebound. It is worth noting that the worst natural disasters always seem to bring out the most noble of reactions from the human condition.
I grew up here on the near coast and at least for my generation, I’m reminded of the winter storm of 1983. DeWitt County is certainly no stranger to weather disasters: Hurricane Harvey of recent memory and the 1930 tornado that took the lives of 36 DeWitt County residents. Of course, there have been many other Texas winter storms over the last century that were not unlike this week, sans incredible population growth and demands on the power grid. Beginning just a few days before Christmas in 1983, the temperature dropped to 15 degrees and stayed below freezing for seven consecutive days. I remember driving down to Tres Palacios Bay with a friend of mine. The bay had frozen over at Oyster Lake, and we watched people load their vehicles with fish by the wheelbarrow. It is estimated that 20 million fish perished along the Texas bays and estuaries. Not even the old timers could recall a time that the bay had frozen over as one would have to go back to 1899 for that.
Even Gov. Greg Abbott called the winter storms, “the winter version of Hurricane Harvey.” And it is at a time such as this that we rely on the wherewithal of our elected leaders to gather information and rectify mistakes that ultimately hinder commerce and economic development in our communities.
In a social media post by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, she noted that the power outages are due to “a complete breakdown of the grid.”
Both the Texas House and Senate have called for hearings in the next two weeks.
As we are beginning to learn more about the difference between “rolling blackouts” and just your plain, run-of-the-mill “blackouts,” the importance of communication and expanding rural broadband has never been more accentuated. As the region gathers more information on the need for expanded broadband, I encourage you to participate in a survey. A link to the survey can be found at cuerodc.com.
We are thankful to the first responders out there on the front lines doing their best to protect us. Please pray for those who continue to struggle without power and water, pray for our local leaders, pray for the families that have lost loved ones, and pray for the protection of our state and our communities.