Tag Archives: Texas winter storm

Oops on the photo ops

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Ted Cruz seemingly cannot even pull off a “photo op” without drawing criticism.

The Texas Republican junior U.S. senator has earned all of it … but, really?

He jetted off to Cancun, Mexico while Texas shivered in the midst of a hideous and crippling winter storm. He came home early after news of it hit the fan. He apologized for messing up, but only after seeming to blame his daughters for talking him into going to Mexico just to get away for a few days.

Then came the picture of Cruz loading bottled water; and he cut some barbecue to serve for firefighters in Houston. That’s all fine, except that the pictures looked like “photo ops.” A Cruz staffer snapped the pictures and then he likely was gone.

Ted Cruz under fire for ‘photo ops’ in Houston following controversial Mexico trip (msn.com)

Hey, he’s not the only politician who stages these do-gooder events for the camera. Donald Trump thought he’d toss rolls of paper towels in Puerto Rico to those who needed the paper goods; he did that for the camera, too … but it looked stupid. Remember the time 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis slipped a helmet over his head and then he rode around in the tank? It didn’t work well at all.

So, now we have Mr. Sanctimonious — Ted Cruz — trying to make up for his major mistake by pretending to load bottled water and slice some BBQ for the real heroes of the Texas winter storm.

Not a good look, Sen. Cruz. His photo ops turned into photo oops.

Biden expands disaster list

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Someone must have gotten to President Biden, or perhaps to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Biden administration today added 31 Texas counties to the president’s list of 77 counties that fell within the major disaster declaration he issued over the weekend.

Gov. Greg Abbott had called the initial disaster declaration a good start. FEMA, though, added the counties that now are on track to receive greater federal assistance to help them recover from the monstrous winter storm that blanketed and ravaged much of the state.

We’re basking  today in 70-degree sunshine in North Texas. A week ago we were freezing our backsides off with temps plunging to near zero degrees. Our electrical grid failed; our water supply went kaput. Millions of Texans — my wife and I included — were suffering from the cold.

Counties included in this latest approval are Anderson, Austin, Bosque, Bowie, Burnet, Cherokee, Colorado, Erath, Fannin, Freestone, Gonzales, Grayson, Gregg, Harrison, Hill, Houston, Hunt, Jackson, Jim Wells, Jones, Limestone, Lubbock, Medina, Milam, Navarro, Rusk, Taylor, Tom Green, Val Verde, Washington, Wood.

I am particularly heartened to see Hunt and Fannin counties added to the disaster-listed jurisdictions. My joy, though, pales compared to what officials there and in the other counties are feeling.

The list of 77 counties now has grown to 108 out of a total of 254 Texas counties. As Gov. Abbott said: It’s a start.

Put on your ‘Comforter in Chief’ cape, Mr. POTUS

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Biden is coming to Texas to perform one of the unwritten tasks of the job he inherited just a bit more than a month ago.

He is coming as the nation’s Comforter in Chief. I hope he is up to the task that lays before him.

I spent a good deal of emotional capital over the past four years blasting to smithereens Biden’s immediate predecessor’s unwillingness to lend comfort to Americans in trouble. I will spare you any more tirades on that score.

Biden is coming here to survey the damage done by the nasty winter storm that paralyzed so much of the state. You know the drill by now: Power went out, darkening millions of homes; the water supply failed, too, forcing millions of Americans to boil their water before consuming it. Indeed, many Texas communities to this very day still do not have water or their residents are still forced to boil it.

What can the president do in a single visit to a ravaged area? Not much. I am acutely aware that such visits serve mainly to provide the head of state an up-close look at the damage and to enable him to speak to local officials and to their constituents about the path forward.

President Biden is known as a touchy-feely kind of guy. There likely won’t be much hugging or up-close chit-chat between the president and those who are still suffering. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to keep our distance, even from a president whose presence among us likely will become part of the man’s presidential legacy.

I fully expect President Biden — despite the restrictions he will face — will demonstrate fluency in the language he must use to tell Texans the things they need to get some level of comfort.

It goes with the job.

Biden declares 77 Texas counties to be in ‘major disaster’ mode

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wanted all 254 of Texas’s counties to qualify for “major disaster” relief from the U.S. government.

President Biden granted that status to 77 of them, or a just a bit less than one-third of what Abbott had sought in the wake of the terrible Texas snow and ice storm.

I saw the list of all the counties and, as a Collin County resident, I was heartened to see my county on the list of declared places, along with Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. Others in our immediate area received the designation. So did other major counties, such as Bexar, Travis, Harris and their immediate surrounding jurisdictions.

One of the regions where I once lived, the Golden Triangle, also got the disaster declaration, but the Texas Panhandle did not get that designation.

I was struck, though, by the absence of Hunt County from the list of counties to receive federal aid under the designation. Commerce’s water supply system went kaput. It came back, but the city has been on a boil-water advisory for several days; the advisory is expected to last a while longer.

What does it take, therefore, for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to declare a county a “major disaster” when that county is suffering through, um, a major disaster?

I cannot really know what goes into the decision-making processes within FEMA. I just am an observer of how various jurisdictions within my particular orbit are dealing with the mess that the storm has left behind. From my perch in Collin County, it looks for all the world like our neighbors to our east — in Hunt County — are going through precisely the same tragedy that Mother Nature brought to my neighbors and my family members.

Abbott called the disaster declaration from President Biden a “good first step” in helping our state recover. Perhaps a “good next step” would be to expand the list of counties that receive this disaster declaration.

Time to look ahead … post-Winter Storm of 2021

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

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.

2021 channels 2020?

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

— Roger Daltrey, singing, “We Won’t Get Fooled Again

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It seems like a lifetime ago. We said goodbye and good riddance to 2020. Remember that? I do!

Then we welcomed the new year with the hope that turning a calendar page meant we could turn the page on an era of tumult, turmoil, tempest … the works.

The pandemic had killed many thousands of Americans; we endured the nastiest presidential election campaign in memory; then we watched the outgoing president foment the Big Lie about the election outcome being the product of political thievery.

The pandemic muted many traditional celebrations. Times Square was not full of revelers on New Year’s Eve.

Then the new year arrived.

To be candid, 2021 seems to have just continued the misery we felt in 2020. The nation endured the insurrection at the Capitol Building; five people died. The House impeached the outgoing president for the second time; the Senate then “acquitted” him by failing to get enough votes to meet the high threshold required to convict him of inciting the riot.

That all happened within the first month of the new year.

Then came the Storm of 2021. We in Texas are suffering from this event.

I am merely venting. I mean, what else is there to do? I cannot make the weather change, other than wish it would as I desire. Perhaps a prayer or two will help.

That all said, I won’t dwell on the misery we are experiencing in this new year. I am going to look forward. For one thing, the weather is going to improve. Spring is on its way. The grass will turn green; flowers will bloom; the temperature will warm up; the ice will melt.

The pandemic infection rate is beginning to decline. I get that too many Americans are dying and my heart continues to break over it. More of us are getting vaccinated, protected against infection.

A new president will not lie incessantly. He is going to act the part of head of state and commander in chief. The POTUS will function the way the holder of that office is supposed to function. As we turn the corner from the pandemic, my sincere hope — and belief — is that our economy will rebound.

The new year looks a whole lot like the old year … so far. It is testing my patience, but my reservoir of hope is deep.

They earn their keep

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My many years working as a daily print journalist put me in touch with a boatload of public service officials, many of whom I learned to respect and some of them actually earned my affection.

I have been thinking of them over the past few days as we Texas residents have grappled with the ravages of Mother Nature’s wrath.

City managers, fire and police chiefs, utility officials, EMTs, paramedics, mayors and city council members all have been facing immense pressure to answer their constituents’ questions and tend to their needs. Yes, we pay their salaries and they are responsible to us first and foremost. Most of the public service officials I have known over many years have done their level best to fulfill their public responsibilities.

I knew a fire chief in Beaumont, Texas — his name is Pete Shelton — who jumped into a culvert to rassle a gator out of someone’s yard; I cannot recall the size of the beast Chief Shelton pulled out, but I think it was, um, sizable. That, I submit, is going above and beyond the call of duty.

We don’t have alligators lurking in people’s yards in Collin County, but we have plenty of officials here who do their jobs with dedication.

This winter storm has provided plenty of sleepless nights not only for those of us who have suffered through extended periods of time without heat or water. The nature-induced insomnia also has affected those upon whom we depend to solve those problems. Make no mistake that those ranks also include the utility employees who answer calls to restore water flow or work on power lines.

I just feel the need to salute them all. They have earned their salary.

Texas earns lumps it is taking

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It is no fun listening to media talking heads ripping Texas a new one over the mishandling of its response to the Arctic blast that blew in over the state.

It also is hard for me to admit this, given that I have lived in this state for nearly 37 years and have become quite acclimated to the state’s unique culture … but the state has earned the bludgeoning it is taking.

Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been quick to level criticism at officials from across the political aisle, has been singled out by many over the mismanagement and the resulting suffering that many Texans have endured from the winter blast.

Texas has sold itself to the rest of the nation as an energy-producing titan, with ample supplies of fuel to, um, keep the power plants operating. It turns out that all that energy hasn’t kept enough of those plants open. What’s more, some folks in high places made some bone-headed decisions about monitoring the production capacity; they have shut down too many plants at the very time the temperature was plummeting across the state.

There needs to be some answers about what has happened in this state, how it continues to flounder while so many Texans are suffering with no power, scarce water and next to zero confidence that anything will improve.

Oh, and we also have that pandemic that continues to sicken and kill us.

I have no regrets moving to Texas in 1984 to pursue a journalism career from which I drew great joy and excitement. It still saddens me to see so many others casting proverbial “side glances” at our state while we continue to suffer from nature’s wrath.

I am hoping we can get through this crisis … soon!