Friday, February 4, 2011

Is It Spring Yet?

I sure hope that groundhog knew what he was talking about when he said it would be spring soon. Or is that only in Pennsylvania? I don’t know how he doesn’t see his shadow, with all those TV camera lights there.

I thought that last winter I was more than ready for spring, but that was nothing compared to this year. The last few days have been … indescribable, but I’ll try to describe them anyway.

Wednesday morning the low temperature was predicted to be minus ten, so when it turned out to be minus six instead, it was a pleasant surprise. Of course the high on Wednesday was only six above, so it’s all relative. The predicted low for Thursday morning was minus 20, but I was hoping that once again, the prediction would be wrong. But I knew we were in trouble when it was already zero at 6:00 p.m. One of the joys of our home weather station is that we can always know exactly how miserable we are. And at 7:00 a.m. on Thursday I was plenty miserable. The temperature was minus 26! That’s temperature, folks, not wind chill. I didn’t even look at the wind chill; the temperature was enough.

I did what any sane person would do. I let the dogs out to do their business, which they finished in record time, and I let them back in. Even Wolfie didn’t want to be out there very long. Then I went back to bed for another hour (one of the benefits of not having a full time job at the moment, and one of the benefits of Ron being in Albuquerque for a couple of days).

Around lunchtime, when the temperature was a balmy 19, I attempted to do a few errands, but my Jeep wouldn’t cooperate. It started up fine, but as soon as I took my foot off the gas, the engine shut down completely. It wasn’t the battery; the car started up fine and the radio stayed on even when the engine shut down. I tried it a couple more times later in the afternoon when the temperature soared to the high of 23, but got the same result. Around 4:30 or 5:00, when Ron called to say he was leaving Albuquerque to head back home, I told him about the car problems. He had the solution in the garage, of course (he stocks the garage the way I stock the freezer and the pantry). It’s a wonderful product called Heet; it’s a gas-line antifreeze. Following his instructions, I poured the bottle into the gas tank, then started the car and kept my foot on the gas pedal for 20 minutes, so the product could circulate and dissolve any possible water in the gas-line. Of course I should have put the stuff in before it went below zero those two nights, but I didn’t know. Now I know and I’ll never forget.

It turns out it’s a good thing I didn’t go to the grocery store at noon. It was a madhouse, with people clearing the shelves. There’s more going on than cold temperatures. There’s a serious disruption with the pipeline delivery of natural gas to all of New Mexico, but especially Northern New Mexico. We don’t have natural gas, something we’ve been lamenting all the years we’ve been here, but today we’re extremely grateful. New Mexico gets its natural gas from Texas (insert your favorite derogatory comment about Texas here) and because of rolling blackouts in Texas, the flow of natural gas has come to a near standstill. It could be four days or more before the gas is flowing again, and once it does, technicians will need to go to each home and business to do a relight. How long will that take? According to the Taos News, “Between Taos, Red River and Questa alone, the company estimates some 10,800 customers will be affected, especially in the freezing temperatures.” So people crowded to hardware stores to buy space heaters, and the electric company expressed fears that the electric grid would overload and fail, so people crowded to the grocery stores to buy bottled water because for many (us included on this one), no electricity means no water because pumping water up out of a well requires electricity. People were also stocking up on food. So going to the store would have been a nightmare. We were pretty well stocked up on food; my parents trained me well on that one. I filled up a couple of empty gallon jugs with water in case we did lose electricity. And I started the roast chicken and vegetables earlier than I’d planned to so it would be finished before everyone started cranking up their space heaters, endangering the power grid. Plus having the oven on would help warm up the house (I used the same excuse to bake brownies on Wednesday).

I’m actually writing this at 3:00 in the morning at my hotel job. We never lost power at home (at least it was still on when I left at 10:45). We have power at the hotel, but no heat. Apparently this place uses gas, not electricity or propane. So for the three rooms that are occupied (yes 3, out of 115), the guests have space heaters. And there’s a small, warm space heater on the counter next to me, but I have to turn it off every so often because the blowing noise is driving me nuts.

The low on Friday morning is supposed to be minus 12, which sounds pretty warm after minus 26. There’s something really wrong when minus 12 sounds warm!


Anonymous said...

So glad to see a blog post from you! I can't imagine what -26 is like.

Much love and many hugs,

Beth said...

Once it gets down to about minus 5, I don't notice much difference when it gets colder. Of course I am glad I did't have to go outside when it was minus 26.

Barbara said...

Yow, I can hardly imagine trying to heat the house with space heaters at those temperatures! And the idea of having to go house to house to get people's gas back on--what an enormous pain and sounds time consuming. I hope they can get everybody's service back soon. I just read a report that said they hope to have it all restored by Sunday. I hope you haven't lost power at home. I know about cooking to help warm up the house, especially brownies.