When ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ happens today

Published 6:09 pm Friday, February 19, 2021

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In the film “The Day After Tomorrow,” America suffers a snowmageddon not too different from what Texas and the Plains states are going through as I write this.  As with the film, our first priority needs to be a full-scale rescue operation, while fixing the lessons of this disaster right away so we don’t experience this again, either in Texas or anywhere else in America.

In the film, American professor Jack Hall advises a British scientist “It’s time you got out of there.” Terry Rapson, his U.K. counterpart, admits “I’m afraid that time has come and gone, my friend.” Hall asks “What can we do?”  Rapson replies “Save as many as you can.”

That’s exactly what we need to do right now. The Houston Chronicle has a great article to share with others about shelters and where to go for food and clothing. It’s the same for the San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and the Texas Tribune, which reports the statewide options. Please share them with anyone you know in Texas or nearby.

My daughter is pretty upset that people are unloading online on the state of Texas. And that’s a good point, even as folks target Texas Senator Ted Cruz who once criticized California for rolling blackouts. But many folks in Texas need our help, not our scorn. I was raised in Texas. I went to Trinity in San Antonio, and spent a lot of that time across the state. My brother and his family live in Texas, as do colleagues at UNT and Rice, and friends from college. I read about a harrowing experience about a friend in Houston, where the heat has been shut off for days, and hotels weren’t an option, unless you want to risk COVID-19 stuck in the lobby, and her friends don’t have water from burst pipes. As a resident of West Georgia, I’ve been through our own ice storms and snowmageddons too that became nationally famous, so I know what this means.

Like the short-sighted VP of “The Day After Tomorrow,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott is going on Hannity, blaming renewable energy, even though it makes up less than a quarter of Texas energy needs. Colleagues have shared evidence from wind turbines working in Antarctica and Canada. NBC reports “Wind and solar, still fairly small slices of the state’s energy mix, played only a minimal role in the sudden power shortage, utility officials said — contrary to a wave of conservative critics who tried to falsely pin blame for the situation on renewable energy.”

NBC adds “[T]he state’s largest grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said the shortage was driven by a failure not of renewable sources but of traditional ‘thermal’ sources: coal, nuclear and especially natural gas. Energy experts said that gas lines supplying gas-fired plants may have frozen or that supplies to the plants may have been limited as gas was prioritized for homes that rely on gas for their heat.”

Don’t count me among those as supporting complete zero emissions from non-renewable sources, though, as those can help with backup generators, reserve fuel, and some production components for more renewable energy. But we need to see if Texas winterized their turbines as Canada does to keep them going, or decided to skip out on that step to save money.

And this isn’t just a Texas problem. What will happen when extreme heat bakes the Midwest, South, or West Coast this Summer, or another polar ice storm threatens the USA next month, or next winter?

As Jack Hall observes at “The Day After Tomorrow’s conclusion “Mankind survived the last Ice Age. We’re certainly capable of surviving this one. All it depends on is whether or not we’re able to learn from our mistakes.”