The Weather 4: Texas Frozen

Part 1: The Weather
Part 2: Texas Rain
Part 3: Compare and Contrast

When extreme weather hits anywhere, the shit hits the fan. No where can be prepared for the normal weather and at the same time be economically prepared for the disastrous weather that can happen. In the industry we call it an 100-year event, or one that ‘is likely to happen once in 100 years’. This is a method of ‘ALARP’ or, As Low As Reasonably Practicable – or, lower the risks and mitigate the consequences of such an event to a point where anything more would be unfeasible. It’s quite widely understood.

So during the winter I was affected by heavy snow fall in the UK and as such my flight home was cancelled and I had to jump on a train. It cost me a fair bit, but this should be reimbursed by my company and their travel insurance policy. I was, at the time, annoyed not at the actual weather or the closure of the airport, but annoyed at the lack of organisation and mitigation – surely there is some contingency for when the whole airport is closed at once? At any rate, Terminal 5 was destroyed by something that could conceivably happen every year, and several times. Something needs to be looked at.

Recently, in Houston, there has been a cold snap. The temperature has dropped last week into the negatives meaning that there would be a hard freeze. The temperature was around -4 at the lowest, so it wasn’t ridiculously cold and in my area there was no snow, or even much ice really, but they still shut almost every school in the surrounding area and people were told not to come into work. I was shocked as there wasn’t even that much frost on the ground – admittedly my car took 45 minutes to defrost having no de-icer or a scraper. The reason was plainly obvious the moment I took to the road.

Houston doesn’t do salting of the road. The just don’t and mix that with a strange propensity to use concrete instead of tarmac we suddenly have sheets of solid ice almost everywhere on all section of highway and roadway. Pretty dangerous? Not really. If you know how to drive on ice, or around ice, then you can control the car in a way that makes it safe to drive on slippery surfaces. Low gear, in snow, or on ice, sometimes works, but the car that I drive is so big a heavy I expected it to seal to the road like nothing else. Also, the sheer number of pickups around and 4x4 SUVs you’d expect everyone to understand how to drive! Or, at least have been taught!

Nope. My colleague Joe saw a 4x4 pick up drive the wrong way on a highway just because of ice and I almost was wiped out by a SUV due to sudden aversion to ice on the road. Most annoyingly though was the fact that the whole shut at 6pm due to ice when there wasn’t any. It had burned off during the day.

It was a stunning realisation that the drivers here are shockingly lacking ina general skill what you need to drive on ice roads and that I might take that for granted by the fact it happens daily in the UK, and that we are more prepared for it.