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Winter storm called ‘once in a generation’


An arctic storm that swept through the state bringing low temperatures and high winds also affected roughly two-thirds of the country’s population, according to the National Weather Service, bringing the coldest Christmas in decades to parts of the country.

The Dallas Morning News  reported around 190 million people across the United States were under some type of winter weather advisory starting last Thursday. 

“This is quite the arctic cold air outbreak,” said Hunter Reeves, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. “This air has been bottled up in Canada and is letting loose, headed straight south.”

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages nearly all the state’s electric grid, reported Friday that grid conditions were adequate to handle current demand for power. ERCOT is providing a dashboard that monitors supply and demand across the state. Texas is coming up on the second anniversary of Winter Storm Uri, which resulted in power outages throughout much of the state and at least 137 deaths. The storm resulted in several measures to improve the grid’s reliability. 

Temperatures in the latest arctic storm were in single digits Friday throughout much of the state.


Study on antisemitism in Texas released

A committee established by the 2021 Texas Legislature has submitted its first study on antisemitism in Texas, laying out eight recommendations to the state’s leaders and lawmakers.

The Texas Holocaust, Genocide, and Antisemitism Advisory Commission (THGAAC) report concludes “antisemitic incidents have grown more frequent and extreme in Texas in recent years,” reflecting a national and global trend. Five of the recommendations can be implemented directly by the commission through its ongoing advisory role to universities, school districts, government agencies and law enforcement, largely through training and outreach.

Three of the commission’s recommendations require legislative action in the upcoming session:

  • Creating a state-funded security grant program to help religious organizations, schools and community centers harden their security infrastructures.
  • Prohibiting state-funded colleges from implementing academic boycotts, such as those promoted through the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
  • Scheduling “listening tours” for lawmakers to speak with THGAAC, local educators and museum officials to better understand their needs around Holocaust and antisemitism education.


Drunk-driving prevention program underway

Through New Year’s Day, the Texas Department of Transportation is teaming up with law enforcement across the state to target motorists driving under the influence of alcohol. Nearly  one-fourth of all traffic fatalities during last year’s monthlong holiday season involved drunk driving.

“With everything going on in the world these past few years, we want everyone to be able to celebrate this joyous time of year without the tragic consequences of drinking and driving,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams. “Get together with family and friends and have a great time, but please find an alternative way home if you choose to drink. You have many options available.”

The state has launched a series of public service announcements emphasizing its Drive Sober. No Regrets campaign.


Tips to prevent space heater fires

With the winter weather comes an increased risk of fires caused by space heaters, which have resulted in several fatalities in Texas during the last few years. The Texas Department of Insurance offers the following tips for keeping the household safe when using these popular heaters:

  • Inspect the heaters before using, making sure there are no cracked or broken plugs or loose connections.
  • Don’t place the heater too close to furniture, bedding or clothing, keeping at least 3 feet of space between the heater and anything that can burn.
  • Always plug heaters directly into wall outlets, not into extension cords or power strips.
  • Be aware that children or household pets can inadvertently knock over a heater or get too close and burn themselves. Keep heaters out of hallways and other spaces where either two-legged or four-legged critters pass by. Ideally, look for models that shut off automatically when tipped over.
  • Never store flammable liquids in the same room as a heater, and always turn space heaters off before leaving the room or going to bed. 


Sustainably dispose of Christmas trees

For those who chose to buy a live Christmas tree either from one of the state’s 175 Christmas tree farms or retail outlets, there are several sustainable ways to dispose of the tree once the holidays have passed. The Texas A&M Forest Service offers a number of alternatives to sending the trees to landfills. 

Real trees are biodegradable, and many communities have tree recycling programs. Contact your local waste management company for information. Another possibility is mulching the tree to provide insulation around trees and garden plants.

Christmas trees also can be used as pond and wildlife habitat, providing a place for aquatic species to flourish in ponds and lakes. Trees can also be placed in yards and turned into bird habitats by tying bird feed, orange slices or popcorn to the branches.


COVID-19 cases rise slightly

The number of new COVID-19 cases in Texas during the past week rose slightly to 31,169, with 120 deaths reported by the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University. The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 patient hospitalizations also rose slightly to 2,327, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress.com.


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