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Mitigating Damage in Texas

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  • Mitigating Damage in Texas

    Living in the Northeast , I try to be as prepared as I can for power outages . I have a portable generator, spare fuel , and other emergency equipment . I know that in extreme cold weather , there is a window of time in which to either get the heat up and running , or take action to drain my baseboard hot water system to prevent pipes from bursting ! Aside from no plan to deal with the loss of power , there seems to be no communication regarding preventative action to mitigate further property damage ! I feel so bad for these folks , lives lost , homes severely damaged , and more horror ahead ! Why was this not anticipated ? Will their power grid be improved going forward ?

  • #2
    Good questions Frankie! Some of the things I've seen and heard on the News are certainly sad. I hate to see anyone suffer through disasters and often wonder why weren't they better prepared. I think it's just a matter of living life, taking things day by day and with too many it's simply a matter of education and prioritizing of resources. Money just goes so far and unless you've suffered this kind of thing it probably a matter of fact that people generally aren't going to invest in something that they see as only a slim chance of ever needing.

    But, you look at News video like the one I saw in the last hour, where water is pouring through the ceiling of a really nice looking building. The ceiling was fancy wood trimming and the water was gushing around the recessed light fixtures. My first reaction was "What, nobody knows where the service shut off is?" Then I thought, maybe Texas doesn't have such plumbing regulations! Here in NY State we've got regulations for everything, but maybe down there in the land of conservative freedom, nobody is going to tell anybody what they have to adhere to. Of course they'll be quick to blame everyone else they can.

    Regarding the power grid, that's already turned into a matter of political accusations. But reports seem to be that the state-wide grid is independent from the rest of the country, so electricity can't just be switched in from adjoining grids. There are also reports that state regulator's do not require the power companies to weatherize their instrumentation or regulation equipment like valves or switching relays, etc. Seems it would impact their cost structure and cause rates to be increased, or so one onsite report was made.

    Of course none of us really know the facts of any of this yet. It's a shame though that such things exist and that there isn't better commonality of our water, sewage, and electrical and power infrastructure.

    CWS

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    • #3
      Excellent well thought out response ! I'm not looking to make this political , I'm simply amazed at what's happening !
      When I moved to my home here in Ct , thirty years ago , many of my neighbors were white collar folk who owned few if any tools , and didn't even have flashlights ! Things have changed for the better over the years , and I hope the folks in Texas learn from this tragedy .

      Comment


      • #4
        While CWS is correct that TX is an independent grid and not tied to neighboring grids; actually I believe there are two ties but their capacity is no where near enough to handle the whole state; remember that Texas is huge, about 286,000 sq. miles, which is like equal to 7 of the 13 colonies. NJ is only 8700 sq. miles. Texas has more water area than all of NJ. So while they are on their own which was their choice, it is unusual for the entire state to be impacted all at once. This choice was made to avoid having to abide by FERC (www.ferc.gov) regulations. So the Lone Star State goes it alone. But they will find a way to blame Washington no doubt. There have already been reports that their solar and wind power producers were the culprit, but ERCOT has stated otherwise. http://www.ercot.com/

        https://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/c...s-101126213657

        NRG Energy operates STP (South Texas Project) which is a pair of Westinghouse 4 loop PWRs (pressurized water reactors) each with a capacity of about 1280 MW and the only nuclear plants in Texas I believe. That's a lot of juice but not enough to keep the whole state lit up. 2.5 Gigawatts is probably enough to keep 1 to 2 million homes warm. I worked at a plant of the same design for many years, helped to build one of them too.

        From what I have heard the demand on NG (natural gas) has reduced pressure in the lines and that has impacted their gas fired power plants and they have had some issues with instrumentation freezing at their fossil and nuclear units because they were never designed for operation in low temperatures. Many instrument lines require steam tracing or electric heat tracing to keep them from freezing. Instruments like level and pressure transmitters that feed critical information back to the Control Room to let the Operators know the status of and control the plant. The same issues can occur at a nuclear plant too, they all use the same equipment for the most part. Only difference with nuclear is how you generate the steam, it's a little more complicated, the trade off is the fuel is dirt cheap per MW output compared to coal or oil. The secondary side where the electricity is generated is pretty much the same, especially for a PWR because of the way they generate their steam.
        Last edited by Bob D.; 02-18-2021, 10:09 PM. Reason: fixed a typo
        "It's a table saw, do you know where your fingers are?" Bob D. 2006
        "?ǝɹɐ sɹǝƃuıɟ ɹnoʎ ǝɹǝɥʍ ʍouʞ noʎ op `ʍɐs ǝlqɐʇ ɐ s,ʇı"

        https://www.youtube.com/user/PowerToolInstitute

        https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1p...qcZKHyrqKhikFA

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        • #5
          Well the blame game started almost immediately, apparently it's hard to admit that their (Texas) quest for independence in everything has not guarded against such disasters. The silliness of it is astounding, especially when the rest of the country can see the faults.

          Reminds me of the lessons in Kindergarten (yeah, I can remember back that far) when Mrs. Gabriel showed us a film about the grasshopper and the ants, where the ants worked constantly to build a nest and stock it with food for the winter, while at the same time the grasshopper just fiddled his summer away. In the end the ants took in the grasshopper. The lesson was supposed to be that everyone should plan ahead; but, I'm sure many of us took away the fact that you could just have fun and those that planned will just take you in.

          Then of course there are those like the Texas mayor (Dallas ?) that simply came out and told his constituents that it wasn't the city government's place to take care of them. Sort of a statement about if you're strong you'll survive and if you're not, well that's your fault. I think he resigned later that day!

          I think many of us growing up had the experience of experienced one kind of disaster or another. Sometimes it could be flooding in our areas, or heavy snow, hurricanes, just plain old power outages, etc. We had such experiences and maybe we saw our parents deal with it and we remembered. Or, we saw it with our neighbors, our community. Whatever, most of us took something away from that experience and we at least in some small way planned, prepared, or just had a head for knowing what to do. And of course many of us knew and/or still think that we only have to deal with it for a limited time, because our government has plans and will come in and rescue us. Even if it's just the local volunteer fire department, we know someone will be there.

          But what if they are not? What if we move from our comfortable community and move to another state, what if we move to some shining city like Dallas or Houston and look at all the marvelous buildings, the upscale living, and the abundance of richness and just assume that everything is 'covered', only to be shockingly surprised when it's too late!


          CWS
          Last edited by CWSmith; 02-18-2021, 07:57 PM. Reason: Typos

          Comment


          • #6
            Texas does have a lone wolf mentality and that is fine. They will have to figure out their failures and adjust. My guess is that Texas will apply, "since this is such a rare occurrence" and things won't change where failures occurred. There will be a big blame game and will disappear in history for a while. When it happens again then, "I guess we should have done something back then".

            Comment


            • #7
              I wonder how many out of state contractors are going be coming into Texas to see what insurance repair contracts they can get? I was looking at a car wash industry forum and they have owners saying that their washes are all frozen up and have lots of split pipes in both the incoming water and then the pipes to the self serve bays / Automatic washes.

              I'm sure there will be number of restaurants etc with the same piping issues in their kitchens if the cold stays around

              Comment


              • #8
                There was supposed to be legislation passed “The Shield Act “, that would require all power grid operators to take measures to protect the 2000 stepdown tranformers from permanent damage in the event of a EMP event ! Each transformer is built to specific requirements, and takes a year to complete! All it takes is one high altitude detonation of a nuclear bomb. We are at risk from many things , and action should be taken .

                Comment


                • #9
                  I remember High-altitude Electro Magnetic Pulse discussions way back in the early 80's. HEMP, referred to in the military as High-altitude Electro Magnetic Pulse (later just shortened to EMP where more and more equipment was solid-state electronics. Tubed equipment was less vulnerable as I recall. As I remember it, all it would take is one EMP event at very high altitude over the mid-west to knock out radio, tv, computer, and even power transformer and electronic control systems over most of the U.S.. I haven't read much about it lately, but I imagine there are at least many studies being done, but I haven't heard much about any definitive protections.

                  But when we look at this event in Texas, it makes me wonder. We can't protect ourselves from frozen pipes? I think where there is latitude given, we'd prefer not too much of anything on a local government level because it might cost an industry money; and politically, too many will scream that such regulation is Federal overreach. It appears that we won't hesitate to reach out to the Fed for help, and then accuse them of dragging their feet, but darned if we will allow them to tell us what we need to do to protect our infrastructure.

                  One big question I see and obviously don't understand why, but I see so many scenes of water damage on ceilings, water rushing down stairways, etc. Are there no 'shut-off's' required in houses and other building in Texas? Of course I understand many regions of the country, buildings may not have basement.

                  Here where I live, even in this old 1887-built house, I have shutoffs for every incoming service, right at the entry point. Under every sink and toilet is also a shutoff so that I don't have to shut down the main entry service if I want to repair a faucet or toilet valve. We are also required to have buried water, gas, and sewer lines buried well below the area 'frost line" (here that is 14-inches, so such lines are down at least two or three feet, if I'm remembering right. We still read of an occasional water-main break, but that's almost always do to corrosion over decades.

                  The News is reporting lack of regulation in some of these industries and services. Even as these failures occur there is no regulation that keeps some utilities and services from then price gouging the victims of their failures. Seems like a totally fouled up system and of course no one's taking responsibility for it.

                  CWS
                  Last edited by CWSmith; 02-22-2021, 12:01 PM. Reason: minor phrasing

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My family used to have a house on one of the barrier islands in NJ, Ocean City, all the way at the south end. In the Winter is was a ghost town down there but packed to the gills for 9 months of the year. In the Winter their house was the furthest south that was occupied year round. The next home occupied was three blocks north. All the utilities fed from the north end of the island so our house was at the very end. That meant that the water mains which were not as deep as the should have been would freeze up on occasion. When that happened the water company would tell us to open a faucet and let it run...ALL WINTER LONG. They would not charge us for water once we started doing that. It worked and was the only way to keep the main open when the temps went below freezing. I wish we had hung on to that place. Had a 3 bedroom apartment upstairs that we rented out by the week from Memorial Day until Labor Day. It was always booked up two years in advance. Paid the mortgage and taxes for the whole year just on the rentals. But when all the kids were out of the house it was too big for my Mom so she sold it decades ago. That lot would be worth a million now if you built a triplex on it.

                    But yes the companies in TX didn't want to have to deal with all the regs telling them to maintain equipment, what they could and could not pass on to customers, and so forth, which is part of the reason they went their own way. Now they have no one to blame (IF they were being truthful) except themselves.
                    "It's a table saw, do you know where your fingers are?" Bob D. 2006
                    "?ǝɹɐ sɹǝƃuıɟ ɹnoʎ ǝɹǝɥʍ ʍouʞ noʎ op `ʍɐs ǝlqɐʇ ɐ s,ʇı"

                    https://www.youtube.com/user/PowerToolInstitute

                    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1p...qcZKHyrqKhikFA

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                    • #11
                      There is plenty of blame to go around. . Did service to homes freeze because there is no code regarding frostline depth?
                      DID homeowners simply not know where to access shutoffs. , or that pipes needed to be drained before they got cold enough to burst ?https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-.../2417?s=1&r=19
                      Last edited by Frankiarmz; 02-20-2021, 02:41 AM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Franki,

                        Good discussion. From what I'm seeing, it just appears that there is very little regulation on any construction. Take note of some of the televised damage we see, ceiling falling in and the spacing of the ceiling beams are undersized and two or more feet apart; wall studs about the same. I saw a crumbled brick wall in one scene and there was no metal lathe. LIkewise, you look at the amount of plastic pipe and it's leaking around every fitting, with no shut offs at what looks to me like a water softener.

                        It's pretty obvious that they don't bury their plumbing very far, but then again maybe they don't have any kind of depth to what we refer to as a "frost line".

                        CWS

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          https://www.reuters.com/article/us-u...-idUSKBN2AL0J7
                          "It's a table saw, do you know where your fingers are?" Bob D. 2006
                          "?ǝɹɐ sɹǝƃuıɟ ɹnoʎ ǝɹǝɥʍ ʍouʞ noʎ op `ʍɐs ǝlqɐʇ ɐ s,ʇı"

                          https://www.youtube.com/user/PowerToolInstitute

                          https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1p...qcZKHyrqKhikFA

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                          • #14
                            Is this true? Did they actually go through with this?

                            Texas Plumbers Soon Won’t Need a License; What it Means for You – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth (nbcdfw.com)

                            Texas Legislature Accidentally Repeals Plumbing Code – Lowering the Bar
                            Last edited by Bob D.; 02-22-2021, 10:12 AM.
                            "It's a table saw, do you know where your fingers are?" Bob D. 2006
                            "?ǝɹɐ sɹǝƃuıɟ ɹnoʎ ǝɹǝɥʍ ʍouʞ noʎ op `ʍɐs ǝlqɐʇ ɐ s,ʇı"

                            https://www.youtube.com/user/PowerToolInstitute

                            https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1p...qcZKHyrqKhikFA

                            ----

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by CWSmith View Post
                              Franki,

                              Good discussion. From what I'm seeing, it just appears that there is very little regulation on any construction. Take note of some of the televised damage we see, ceiling falling in and the spacing of the ceiling beams are undersized and two or more feet apart; wall studs about the same. I saw a crumbled brick wall in one scene and there was no metal lathe. Likewise, you look at the amount of plastic pipe and it's leaking around every fitting, with no shut offs at what looks to me like a water softener.

                              It's pretty obvious that they don't bury their plumbing very far, but then again maybe they don't have any kind of depth to what we refer to as a "frost line".

                              CWS
                              12 inches was the minimum, or 6 inches below the frost line. That's all they had to go when they had a plumbing code.
                              This is from the 2008 IPC.

                              Click image for larger version  Name:	TX IPC frost line.png Views:	0 Size:	48.2 KB ID:	748051
                              Last edited by Bob D.; 02-22-2021, 10:12 AM.
                              "It's a table saw, do you know where your fingers are?" Bob D. 2006
                              "?ǝɹɐ sɹǝƃuıɟ ɹnoʎ ǝɹǝɥʍ ʍouʞ noʎ op `ʍɐs ǝlqɐʇ ɐ s,ʇı"

                              https://www.youtube.com/user/PowerToolInstitute

                              https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1p...qcZKHyrqKhikFA

                              ----

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