How's the weather? v. 1.1

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Highway
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Re: How's the weather? v. 1.1

Post by Highway »

It's not that this was unforeseen, or it was completely negligent, or it was a mistake. This is the consequences of the design decisions you make when you are planning around weather. Just like in my job, we make decisions about whether we want the inlets to pick up 85% of the 2-year storm, or do we want them to pick up the 10-year storm. Do we want that culvert to pass the 100-year storm? Or do we want to possibly save money and make it only pass the 50-year storm.

When I look at Southern California, and see the amount of roadway drainage infrastructure they install, I'm surprised because it's very little compared to states in the Mid-Atlantic. But that's what they've made their design decision for. Perhaps it's not worth paying a lot to convey a large amount of water for 10 days a year, but if it's 100 days per year, then it becomes much more cost effective.

Now, I think Ellie made a tremendous point above: People are stuck with the utilities and government services they get. And more resilient services cost more money. Resiliency is the huge buzzword in my industry and probably will be for the next 25 years. The question is always "what do we want to spend our productivity on." For some states that's cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, or conveying water off roads, or preventing damage to streams. For other states, it's "more lanes."
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fyodor
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Re: How's the weather? v. 1.1

Post by fyodor »

Sure, okay. Seems a summary of what you're saying is that this was something of a "worst possible scenario" result of decisions that all have their pros and cons and are not substantively different from trade offs inherent to decisions made by any state or governing body generally. The upshot of this as it relates to what I might be concerned about (and which might possibly intersect with what folks in my feed are raging about that I might possibly find worth paying attention to) is that this was just all public/government decision making with devils lurking in the details not so much big idea conceptual stuff like de-regulation or green(er?) technology....
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Highway
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Re: How's the weather? v. 1.1

Post by Highway »

fyodor wrote: 17 Feb 2021, 18:04 Sure, okay. Seems a summary of what you're saying is that this was something of a "worst possible scenario" result of decisions that all have their pros and cons and are not substantively different from trade offs inherent to decisions made by any state or governing body generally. The upshot of this as it relates to what I might be concerned about (and which might possibly intersect with what folks in my feed are raging about that I might possibly find worth paying attention to) is that this was just all public/government decision making with devils lurking in the details not so much big idea conceptual stuff like de-regulation or green(er?) technology....
Well, certainly all those things play into it. "Greener" technology costs more. Things like deicers on windmills or surface heaters on solar panels add cost. Deregulation is going to have effects throughout the industry, especially when you're talking public utilities which have a nominal public responsibility. For instance, maybe one of the regulations is that there are more fines for having plants unavailable. Or for having a lack of redundancy in transmission. Or for not having excess capacity, or for making sure that your plant can operate down to 0 degrees F. It also has effects on the next storm. Regulators tend to learn from the last storm, just like everyone in government. It's bad if something happens once. It's inexcusable if that same thing happens again. But if you don't have that regulation, maybe nothing improves. Or if your regulation is focused on something else, like in California where so much of the regulation was focused on keeping customer rates low that the transmission infrastructure is left to rot and causes devastating wildfires.

I don't know enough about Texas or even the electrical generation sector in general to know anything more than the basics here: Their infrastructure for supplying the current electricity demand is inadequate in the current situation. And there are a lot of people who are using this as a grinding wheel for their personal axe.
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fyodor
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Re: How's the weather? v. 1.1

Post by fyodor »

Somehow I wish your analysis had a higher forest to trees ratio, but hey, A) that's hardly your responsibility and B) maybe life is just like that sometimes....
Your optimism just confuses and enrages me. - Timothy
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Highway
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Re: How's the weather? v. 1.1

Post by Highway »

fyodor wrote: 17 Feb 2021, 20:18 Somehow I wish your analysis had a higher forest to trees ratio, but hey, A) that's hardly your responsibility and B) maybe life is just like that sometimes....
Well, you're right in that it's not "This one decision made this happen." It's that there were hundreds, thousands of individual decisions that led up to what is going on now. So casting about for one "If they'd only done X, this wouldn't have happened!" is futile and wrong. Likewise "They made us do Z! That's why everything's messed up!" is just as wrong. But that's me looking at it from 1) 2000 miles away and 2) the standpoint of an engineer who does a significant amount of work for state agencies, both on the applicant side and on the regulator side.

There's always the "Cadillac" option (yes, we still call it that, even if Cadillacs aren't nearly as aspirational anymore). And there's always the "do nothing" option. And there are times when each one of those is right, and the rest of the time somewhere in between is the right choice. Or is the good enough choice. There's almost nothing in the public sphere that is 100% agreed upon (maybe even absolutely nothing).
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Jennifer
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Re: How's the weather? v. 1.1

Post by Jennifer »

From what I've seen on Twitter, apparently Texas had the same problem in 2011, only 10 years ago. So everyone involved in their electrical grid damned well knows Texas can get that cold, and sometimes does.

Something that surprises me about -- not the big-picture electrical grid, but individual people's homes -- I'm surprised they don't have more insulation than they do. (I include my own current suburban Atlanta apartment in my complaint; this is not a slam against "hur hur stupid southerners" or anything.)

I mean, yeah, "the south needn't worry about deep cold as northern cities do," but the south DOES have to worry about extreme heat far more often than northerners, and a well-insulated building offers protection against that, too. And most/all of the homes, condos and apartments I have seen in Texas and north Georgia are built in such a way that they require air-conditioning (and therefore electricity) to stay habitable in very hot weather, just as sure as they need heat to be habitable in winter. It's not like modern Texans live in thick adobe homes, as did the people who lived there before Europeans came in; most don't even use the Euro-American pre-electricity tricks like "don't have gigantic fucking glass windows facing due south" and "DO arrange doors and windows to allow for internal air circulation sans electric fans." In fact, the only architectural sop I've seen to the hot weather is, southern condos, houses and apartments are likely to have higher ceilings than their northern counterparts.

Tl;dr: since insulation protects against extreme heat as well as extreme cold, I'm surprised by how rare significant insulation is in Deep South residential buildings, especially modern ones with no other built-in protections from the heat.
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Eric the .5b
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Re: How's the weather? v. 1.1

Post by Eric the .5b »

Jennifer wrote: 17 Feb 2021, 16:05 I hope Eric and his mom are okay.
We're good, thanks. We all have power. My water pressure is variable and we're under a boil order, but I've got plenty of bottled water from last hurricane season that I need to drink anyway.
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Jennifer
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Re: How's the weather? v. 1.1

Post by Jennifer »

I've seen some really horrifying pictures and videos from within people's homes, where the pipes froze and burst so they basically had indoor waterfalls coming out of all the ceilings, and the homes are now completely uninhabitable regardless of temperature; I remember one where the woman's bedroom ceiling was now in gigantic soggy chunks on her bed. Even if they all have excellent renters' or homeowners' insurance, that must be absolutely heartbreaking.

If I lived in one of those high-rises, I'd worry abut building collapse. But where the hell would I go, when the hotels in the immediate vicinity are in the same shape? I'd probably just cram as much important/valuable stuff as could fit in my car, and go sleep in that. (Assuming my car was parked someplace outdoors, where structure collapse isn't a problem.)
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Mo
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Re: How's the weather? v. 1.1

Post by Mo »

I appreciate Ted Cruz going to Cancun so that people can dunk on him without having to be dicks about innocent people suffering. He is truly a humanitarian.
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D.A. Ridgely
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Re: How's the weather? v. 1.1

Post by D.A. Ridgely »

Mo wrote: 18 Feb 2021, 02:10 I appreciate Ted Cruz going to Cancun so that people can dunk on him without having to be dicks about innocent people suffering. He is truly a humanitarian.
Honestly, I was just looking at airfares for St.Thomas before I read this.
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Highway
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Re: How's the weather? v. 1.1

Post by Highway »

As usual for this winter, our "6-8 inches of snow" today is more like 2 inches of sleet. It'll probably get worse with some rain to freeze it all together or snow to pack it down more.
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dhex
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Re: How's the weather? v. 1.1

Post by dhex »

And melt tomorrow in the mid 30s.
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Highway
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Re: How's the weather? v. 1.1

Post by Highway »

dhex wrote: 18 Feb 2021, 16:02 And melt tomorrow in the mid 30s.
If I want this to melt tomorrow, I'm gonna have to shovel it off the driveway. Even facing SW with no shade, if it's just ice / snow / sleet covered, it doesn't melt due to too much reflection. So tomorrow morning I'll be shoveling it off, whatever we end up with.
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Jennifer
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Re: How's the weather? v. 1.1

Post by Jennifer »

We had torrential rain last night; it would've been a brutally cold rain if you got caught in it, but luckily it was nowhere near the freezing point so the roads weren't icy.

However, one of the gutter pipes on my apartment building has come loose (not last night; it's been like that for awhile): there's the rain gutters all along the roof, and here and there some long pipes going down from the gutters along the outside pillars of the patio/balconies, before spitting their contents on the ground a few inches away from the building foundation. But the pipe came loose just outside my downstairs neighbor's balcony, and the sound of all that heavy rainwater pouring out of one pipe section and pounding down on the metal section beneath it was VERY LOUD.
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Solitudinarian
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Re: How's the weather? v. 1.1

Post by Solitudinarian »

I wish I had known that there is such a thing as winterized diesel last week. It would have kept me from driving Household 6’s car all this week, but apparently none is to be had in Kansas anyway.
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