How Hard Did the Winter Storm Slam the Economies in Texas, Other Areas? This Index, Designed to Track the Pandemic Recovery, Shows How Hard

Nationally, visits to “places of commerce” remained anemic. Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Nashville, which had been near the top, plunged to the bottom.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

The high-frequency index of people visiting “places of commerce,” designed to track the progress of the US consumer economy during the Pandemic, has inadvertently turned into a measure of just how hard Texas and other states in the south-western US were hit by the winter storm in mid-February.

The index by the American Enterprise Institute, released today, counts the number of people, based on cellphone GPS data, visiting “places of commerce,” such as offices, stores, malls, restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, airports, hospitals, other places of commerce and other points of interest in the 40 largest metro areas, and compares the number of visitors in the current week (Feb 15 – Feb 21) to the week ended January 15, 2020.

The index had been deteriorating in recent months into early January, with the individual indexes of the 40 metros dropping into a range between 71% and 38% of their foot traffic compared to January 2020. This was followed by some uptrends. And then came the historic winter storm that slashed visits to places of commerce in the affected areas. Austin, San Antonio, Nashville, Dallas, and Houston, which had been among the highest ranked cities in the index in recent months, plunged to the bottom of the list, with Austin’s visits to places of commerce in the week Feb 15 – Feb 21 at 34% of the level of January 2020. Other cities in winter-storm-hit states, such as Oklahoma City and Little Rock are not represented in the index (click on the chart to enlarge it):

For the current week, the top bold red line is Jacksonville (at 71% of the visits in January 2020). The bottom thin line is Austin (34% of visits in January 2020). The bold lines in between, from the top down, represent Charlotte (69%), Virginia Beach (59%), Las Vegas (55%), Seattle (49%), New York (44%), and San Antonio (39%). Source: AEI Housing Center, Safegraph.com

The infrequent winter storms in the southern part of the US essentially shut down cities a day or two until the storm settles down. During this time, people stay home. Businesses have trouble bringing in their employees because they can’t get there, etc. It’s normally not a big deal because it’s mild and short. And then the warm weather returns. But this storm was different: It was huge, harsh, and long and led to large-scale blackouts and heating failures that shut down commerce and transportation for days, and numerous serious disruptions continuing for several more days.

The storm hit many other aspects of these local economies that are not fully represented in the data here, including transportation of goods by truck and rail, ecommerce fulfillment and delivery operations, manufacturing, construction of all kinds, and oil & gas drilling and production. Partial data on these industries have already emerged.

Though the damage was huge, those types of hits to the economy are short-lived. They’re being followed by a surge in activity to repair the damage and get life back on track. And lawyers, it appears, are going to be extra busy.

Among the cities that weren’t hit by any winter storms that are near the bottom are San Jose (42%) and San Francisco (43%). Both of them have been seeing increased visits to places of commerce.

Work from home or work from anywhere appears to have stabilized in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, including San Jose. People are working, but they’re still not going to the office. A good number have moved to other parts of the Bay Area, or further afield in California, or have left California. San Francisco’s Financial District is still dead. Other central business districts are dead too.

Tourism is far from having recovered, and international tourism is still in collapse mode. This has hit the most touristy cities the hardest, such as San Francisco, New York City, Las Vegas, and Miami.

Going to shopping malls is a lost cause. Malls are in deep trouble, offering a way of shopping that has largely been obviated by ecommerce. This is a structural shift that has been going on for many years. The Pandemic merely sped up the process. Foot traffic to indoor shopping malls, anchored by department stores, will not recover to the already beaten-down pre-Pandemic levels.

Entertainment outside the home has gotten hit very hard, with many music venues, sports venues, theaters, and cinemas closed, others nearly empty. Many bars and restaurants are still restricted or are closed. People have spent tons of money to equip their homes for entertainment. But it’s not quite the same. Once it’s safe to do, people will surely try to get out of the house for entertainment, and those sectors will recover.

Movie theaters are the exception. The number of movie tickets sold has fallen since the peak in 2002, hammered by technology, including streaming and affordable big-screen TVs. Then the Pandemic reduced ticket sales to near-nothing. There will be a bounce off from near-nothing ticket sales. But the shift to home-viewing of movies that has been underway for years accelerated during the Pandemic, made increasingly attractive by technology. And movie theater chains will have to do some hard math.

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  97 comments for “How Hard Did the Winter Storm Slam the Economies in Texas, Other Areas? This Index, Designed to Track the Pandemic Recovery, Shows How Hard

  1. EJ says:

    Speaking from personal experience, even work-from-home (due to internet outages, even if one had power) was disrupted by the arctic blast. I suppose that doesn’t necessarily count as a regional thing, as work groups can have people from all over the country.

    And my Amazon package deliveries were, indeed, disrupted by the storm.

    • raxadian says:

      It was a regional thing in the sense Texas scams Texans in the name of”Freedom to charge you as much money as we want for your power bill.”

      Also you guys really should heaters and so on that are gas only, they are still being made even in 2021.

      Then again I live in a place were losing power, gas and even water happens a few times a year.

      • Nat says:

        Part of the outage in Texas was natural gas wells and distributionf failures. Nat gas in Texas reached limit-up in spot price on the open market with no bid outages durring this power failure. Thus gas heaters wouldn’t have helped in most of Texas (and would have resuled in like 5 didgit gas bills where they would have.) Wood stoves might have, but the number of easily acessable trees and lumber in Texas per Texan might have made that a pretty short stop gap too.

        • David in Texas says:

          I don’t know a single person who lost gas to their home during this disaster. The problem at the residential heating level was not gas failure, but due to the fact that the fans and blowers in the heating system are electric. No electric power, and the system will not switch on.

          On the other hand, I could still cook on my gas stove. Its lighter is electric, too, but I didn’t need that. I just turned on the gas and lit the burner with one of those little hand held lighters.

    • NBay says:

      Kind of a cool new index, with enough resolution to have some meaning.
      I assume one has to make a purchase on a smart phone to be a data point.

  2. Russell says:

    Been dying to get to San Diego. Our trip for February had to be postponed due to the COVID shutdown. Luckily, we were able to reschedule for October. If the city isn’t open for business by then we all have bigger problems.

    • Lance Manly says:

      San Diego is not open for business?

      • Russell says:

        It was shut down to tourists until recently. We missed the window.

      • sunny129 says:

        Brand new variant in Brazil:
        The new variant, known as P.1, is 1.4 to 2.2 times more contagious than versions of the virus previously found in Brazil, and 25% to 61% more capable of reinfecting people who had been infected by an earlier strain, according to a study released Tuesday. {..]
        wsj

        Just wait for spring fever liberating from ‘restrictions’ which kept it under control!

      • California Bob says:

        Gov. Abbott just turned Texas into a giant petri dish: “100% open; no mask mandate.” This should get interesting.

  3. Harrold says:

    ERCOT has said that already $2.1 billion in power company electrical bills are in arrears so far. They expect more power companies to reject payment and file bankruptcy in the coming month ( so far only one company has filed for bankruptcy).

    To give you an idea of the magnitude, Texas as a whole spends $35 billion per year on electrical power. During the 5 day snowapocalypse, bills of $25 billion were generated (mainly due to PUC setting the price at $9 per kilowatt-hour, up from the normal $0.25 per killowatt-hour).

    This of course, will be passed on to consumers in surcharges and higher prices for years to come.

    I sure hope next winter is a warm one.

    • Nat says:

      And next summer is a cool one — that AC uses a lot of power too.

      • Frasersgrove says:

        Something tells me they spend way more on AC than heating over the year, especially the farther south you go…

  4. Russell says:

    I am in Texas by the coast and we lost power for a total of ~24 hours due to rolling blackouts, but my wife finally said she has had enough and told me to buy a generator. Final pieces of the puzzle come in tomorrow. Looking forward to being more self-reliant. Between the freezes, hurricanes and flooding I’m sure it will get used eventually. Besides, I like when I get approval to purchase manly toys.

    • MarMar says:

      As East Coasters discovered during Superstorm Sandy, that only goes so far when gasoline supply chains are under stress and people have to queue for hours to fill up their cars. Consider solar + storage to always have some power during longer outages.

      • roddy6667 says:

        A generator can run on city gas, which seldom stops flowing. This is the most reliable kind of generator.

        • Jdog says:

          Actually, to cover all your bases, you should have your generator set up as a tri-fuel unit, so you can run natural gas, propane, or gasoline. Almost any mid sized to large generator can be set up this way with the addition of a couple of regulators.

    • Paulo says:

      A few gennie tips.

      Make sure you swap out the gas and run it a few times per year. Nothing more irritating than a no start when the weather is crappy. Also, a disconnect needs to be installed so you don’t fry any linesman as your house power goes back out through the transformer which steps up the voltage and energizes the line out. Sometimes people with big generators plug them into the range outlet and forget to disconnect the panel. Believe it or not, automatic disconnects are cheaper than manual ones. You cannot believe the dumb things people do with generators. (My son is an electrician…..he has seen it all)

      You know what? We hardly ever use our generator anymore. With modern LED lighting and battery options, battery sirius radio, woodstove etc, when the power goes out, (which is does several times per year in storm country and with our big trees taking down lines) we just relax. The generator is always ready to go, but except for running the well pump once in a while we can’t be bothered. The noise is irritating.

      Buy a good one….like a Honda. The pissy little RV ones are a waste of money. Everyone has a generator around here….everyone. Most have Hondas. They start easy and run quiet. Don’t buy a cheap one.

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        Paulo-as usual you’re there before me. Take his advice seriously, folks, and fergawdsakes don’t kid yourself that you know what you’re doing with new and unfamiliar equipment if you don’t…

        may we all find a better day.

      • Lance Manly says:

        Put Stabil or Sea Foam in your gas. I have done that and have not had an issue. Now long term have a couple of 10kwh LI batteries with an inverter and a solar array can’t be beat.

      • Lynn says:

        Better to use pure gasoline if you can find it. Stabil just extends it for a period of time- the more you use the more time. But- no one I know can figure out exactly how MUCH time with more stabil.. . So- my genny is gummed up and didn’t work last outage we had (3 days). Major irritation.

        You can get pure gasoline at most Renner stations even without a membership, if you have one near you.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          Lynn-best, if slightly tedious practice: if your gen’s fuel tank has a tap, disconnect the running gen’s electric output, shut off the fuel, and let the gen’s carb run out of gas (if electric-start, shut off ignition after gen stops running). Best way to avoid carb clean/strip, or worse, replacement, due to evaporated fuel residues (oh, yeah-remember to turn the fuel back on upon next operation…). If using ethanol-added pump fuel, remember alcohol is hygroscopic-periods of storage will result in atmospheric H2O absorbtion/contamination. Keep a small glass container handy to check for this if your gas is suspect-there will be an obvious ‘lens’ of water that will appear below the fuel if the sample’s contaminated.

          may we all find a better day.

        • Dave says:

          Always run it dry till it quits after use. If I have too much fuel in tank I disconnect the line and drain tank, then run it dry.

          Will start every single time with this practice, plus regular maintenance of course.

          And absolutely Honda small engines are very very good.

      • VintageVNvet says:

        In FL P, the protocol is to be SURE to run the generator dry at the end of each use to insure gasoline does NOT clog up the fuel lines while sitting, THE most common fault with gennies here according to our local shade tree excellent mech a nick.
        On the other hand, a lot of new generators are coming out ”dual fuel” for use with either gasoline or propane, and it is fairly easy to set up a connection to a larger propane tank to be used only when power is out, as it was for 10 days here after a close call from Irma in September 2017.
        Propane is definitely much more expensive here, though not so everywhere, especially in August in flyover country.
        While I suppose not all places will lose their piped in natural gas as happened in TX recently, it is still a possibility everywhere.,,, so,
        IMO, a propane tank containing enough fuel to run for at least a week would be the most reliable situation.
        In our homestead situation in flyover, previous to returning to FL to care for elderly parents, we had a 1,000 gal. tank, the rental for which was $30/year, and that was enough, (with the main heat a large wood stove,) for an entire heating season and all the cooking for a year, so were not out of power when the ice brought down the lines and neighbors were out of electric for two weeks…
        Many did go far away and purchase generators asap, some just got by with wood heat, no lights, etc., definite impact on the birth rate 9 months or so later.

        • Brant Lee says:

          Usually, it’s a lot cheaper to fill a propane tank in the summer months. A 1000 gal tank should be enough to run a gen during downtimes in Winter. Modern gas heating stoves that don’t require electricity are a lot more clean-burning these days too.

      • Jos Oskam says:

        @Paulo,

        Good tips. I also have a genny here in France where the power might go out at any time and may take some time to come back since we’re at the end of the line, literally.

        I have specifically bought a genny with stabilized 50Hz real sinewave output. Cheaper gennies without this produce more “rogue” current which may fry computers and other sensitive electronics.

        My genny is hooked up permanently by means of a manually operated so-called 1-0-2 switch to the grid. Such a switch connects either the grid or the genny to the house installation but makes absolutely sure there never exists a direct connection between genny and grid. Which is nice to the linemen as you wrote, but also avoids the grid feeding the genny which usually leads to spectacular results.

        Mine has a Yanmar diesel, very well known, and diesel fuel tends to “go over” less quickly than gasoline. And I always have plenty of diesel in stock for tractor, digger end 4×4.

      • Tom Pfotzer says:

        My solution to the generator reliability question is to convert from gasoline to propane. Propane doesn’t degrade the carburetor. Starts first time, every time. Propane doesn’t degrade in storage. Gen maintenance is change oil once a year, clean the air filter. 10 minutes.

        Propane has other uses: stove, hot water heater, furnace, so my propane infrastructure costs are spread over several systems.

        I have a big propane tank so I buy annually when prices dip (as you know, energy prices fluctuate a lot). I own the tank, so I can buy from whoever offers the most value. Big diff between vendors; some are predatory.

        Better yet get some solar panels.

      • SpencerG says:

        That is REALLY good advice for ANYONE who might need to use a generator at their home. A hundred bucks or so to an electrician to have it connected right in advance will save a LOT of aggravation when the time comes.

        PS: Make sure you and your electrician take into account placing the exhaust well away from the house windows and doors. I live in the hurricane strike zone and it shocking how many people die from Carbon Monoxide poisoning while running a generator after a storm. They run it at night with their windows open (since they don’t need AC then) in order to get hot water and a cold icebox… and like clockwork we get these stories on the local news.

      • Frasersgrove says:

        A friend lives outside Sooke and they have a big generator for those emergencies. She would love solar but her place is surrounded by big trees so…

    • RightNYer says:

      In addition to what MarMar and Paulo said, I’d recommend getting a propane tank adapter if you already have one for hot water or a pool heater or whatever.

      You’re just not going to get that many hours from the amount of gasoline you can reasonably and safely keep around.

      • Anthony A. says:

        Yes, propane storage is good where needed when only gasoline is considered for fuel as you say.

        Most of Texas residential housing has natural gas supplied to households so the majority of the installed base of existing whole house generators are fired with that fuel. Natural gas curtailments to households is not common here. Many use Generac or Cummins units (up to 20kw). These units cost $12 – $15 K to purchase and install.

        With respect to portable gasoline powered generators….yes, store gasoline safely and keep it treated (use Sta-Bil or equiv) for long term storage if you decide to keep significant quantities on hand.

        Like Paulo says, have a certified electrician install a transfer switch to make sure the house generator is safe to use.

        • WES says:

          Another simple option for limited short term emergency backup power, is to buy an inverter unit sized to run a few basic things like cell phones, tablets, hearing aids, or even say the fridge or freezer to keep food from going bad.

          Hook the inverter unit to the battery of your car (the generator you already have sitting in your driveway!) or even the cigarette lighter outlet. Plug one end of an extension cord into the inverter unit’s 120 vac outlet. Run the other end of the extension cord into the house. Plug in any device you want to run into the extension cord.

          Then run the car in idle for whatever length of time you need.

          Warning: After finishing be sure to unplug the inverter unit from your car or you will end up with a dead car battery!

          This spares you the costs and problems of having to deal with storing generators, fuels, etc.

      • Harrold says:

        Propane tanks froze in Texas.

        I guess you need to bury them underground??

        • roddy6667 says:

          I owned a home in CT that was heated with propane. We saw temperatures as low as 23 below zero. The propane didn’t freeze. I don’t know what Texans were doing wrong.

        • Anthony A. says:

          I live in Texas and have not heard about propane tanks freezing. Propane freezes at -306.4 F and we only got down to roughly +5 – +10 F.

          Some power generator (commercial plant) natural gas lines froze as water build up that was not drained as part of routine maintenance froze. Maybe that’s what Harrold was referring to?

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Anthony A.,

          The problem with an above-ground propane tank is that if the temperatures inside drops to a certain point, the pressure drops to where the liquid propane just sits there and doesn’t leave the tank and cannot power your equipment. This loss of pressure, not freezing, is the issue with propane tanks in cold weather.

        • VintageVNvet says:

          You need to make sure your propane supplier is adding anti-freeze, even if you are prescient enough to buy all your propane in the usual August low cost period. Last I heard, all the local suppliers we worked with in flyover did so all the time, though, of course, I don’t know about everywhere. And it worked just fine with the temperatures near zero F when we had that set up in our flyover area farmstead situation.
          Of course, to answer another question re freedoms in TX, we can assumed Texans are free NOT to get antifreeze in their propane…

        • Anthony A. says:

          Wolf, On the issue with the propane tank temperature….my sister-in-law lives in Tomahawk, WI and it dropped to -27 F during this cold spell. They heat with an aboveground propane tank supply and did not experience any problems. So what is that temperature that would affect propane gas from losing enough pressure to not flow?

          Down here we use NG exclusively unless one lives where no pipeline gas is available. In those locations, propane is the fuel of choice.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Anthony A.,

          Yes, makes sense. Scanned the internet (because I can’t remember all this stuff from decades ago). Says loss of pressure occurs at -44 F.

    • Cas127 says:

      How much did the generator cost?

  5. Dan Romig says:

    Released or relapsed?

    • Dan Romig says:

      Typo, beginning of second paragraph?

      Winter wheat in Texas and Oklahoma may get hit up to 25% as much of it was already coming out of dormancy. I would hope that the growers won’t get hit too hard, but time will tell.

      We had our main nursery just north of Castroville, TX, and there is very good land in that region.

      • Russell says:

        Visited my dad this weekend near Seguin. Wheat looked sick but was coming back out, definitely stunted. This freeze is going to be felt in many ways in the coming months. Farm profits are typically flat though as price and volume are largely inverse unless there is a total loss and then the government steps in. Worst cases usually hit farmers when there is only a regional issue and some areas lose both price and volume.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      “Released or relapsed?”

      Both, it seems :-]

  6. CreditGB says:

    “Visits to places of commerce” should include all on line visits to places of commerce.

    When the telephone came into being, did they only count face to face conversations as “communications”?

    Mall or commercial landlords, and businesses closed by dictate are no doubt suffering or already gone.

    • BuySome says:

      Interesting in that what is the place of commerce for online retail…the call center…the fullfilment warehouse…the ship in port offloading…or just your front door where the product crosses the counter? What if the storm stops that last part for a week…are data then shifted outward 7 days? Might that cross beyond a monthly reporting cutoff and skew? Does that just unwind and level off in the long run?

      • Wolf Richter says:

        These are consumers with their smartphones going to places of commerce. The measure tracks the extent to which consumers are returning to their normal commercial activity that they had before the pandemic. Nothing to do with delivery, shipping, warehouses, port activities, etc.

        • BuySome says:

          Got it, but I think CreditGB was trying to raise the issue of substitution of new contact for the old ways. Has no place within the graphs of course, but might be a big modifier of the interpretation of longer term effects.

  7. Lance Manly says:

    The weird thing is the winter storm in Texas is not a big anomaly. Rates in a 15 year event. The problem is when you have people not planning at all for disruptions and scraping by at the lowest possible price things like this will blow them out of the water.

    • BuySome says:

      I’m sure many have seen the famous Depression photo of the human economic carnage sitting along a highway in front of the billboard that reads “Next time, try the train.”. Those were originally placed strategically so auto drivers would get ample warning that their vehicles weren’t an “all weather” transport system. Some other photos show massive snow banks with nothing but those signs sitting above…Southern Pacific was not joking around and taunting the poor, they had plenty of long experience. Average humans seek improper preparation until the wind howls and it’s too late to buy a ticket, shovel, fuel, food, etcetera…….always been that way, always will be.

    • Thomas Roberts says:

      Lance Manly,

      True,

      And it could easily happen again in the next winter. Unlikely, but certainly possible. May even be worse, in the upcoming winter.

      • Cas127 says:

        Whoa, whoa, whoa.

        I have been informed that global *warming* is an imminent extinction level event necessitating the wholesale reordering of human existence on this planet.

        You know…science.

        So what’s this annual Texas state wide blizzard business?

        • Anthony A. says:

          As those who are in the “know” would say….it was an anomaly. (LOL)

        • Thomas Roberts says:

          Cas127,

          The climate does change over time and whether you believe there is a human component or not, it’s definitely happening. No its not an extinction event. Climatte change could cause worse famine and worse water shortages and thus also wars though, among many other problems.

          As for Texas, while this LIGHT snow storm, may have been a rare occurrence, it’s entirely possible that it could happen next year and the year after that, and then maybe not for a hundred years. Nobody knows. Next storm could be worse.

          It’s better to prepare for a storm that doesn’t come, then to be unprepared for one that does.

    • JonTX says:

      Strangely, our local weather guy made a big deal out of how -6 was the lowest temperature ever recorded here in Tyler. As in, we’ve recorded the temps for 100 years and it’s never been that low.

      We had less than 1 hour of electricity in the preceding 24 hours and we could see our breath indoors. The sad part is that we didn’t have enough juice to power our gas fired but central heat.

      FWIW, Wolf’s going to have to take Texas off that chart since our governor just lifted the lockdown. No more masks.

      • Anthony A. says:

        I saw that today (I live near Houston). I have had both vaccine shots but will still wear a mask in a public area like Walmart as I can still carry and transmit the virus.

        Heck, even before the announcement today, our area has been pretty much 75% occupancy and everyone appears to be back to work.

    • Jdog says:

      People have incredibly short memories, and a very serious tendency towards normalcy bias.

      Weather events happen, some are very serious. Simply look at history.

      In 1861 it rained in CA for 43 days straight. the entire central valley turned into a 300 mile long inland sea and Sacramento was under water. Geologist have records of even bigger events in the past.

  8. Billy says:

    “They’re being followed by a surge in activity to repair the damage and get life back on track. ”

    New York Times story on massive plumbing supply shortages in Texas. Plumbers are making $200 an hour in Houston per a friend, if you can find one. Bet they’re glad they didn’t learn to code.

    “Obtaining the materials to get even the simple jobs done is a growing problem, Mr. Calazans said: Waiting in line at a supply house could tie him up for hours, but when he tried picking up a few things at Home Depot, the shelves were bare. ‘I’m literally just burning through supplies,’ he said.”

    Yet again, the reason everyone with money in the bank should frontload a couple years non-perishable food and all manner of household supplies they will have to buy in the future. If prices double for things, you just made 50%, tax free, on your money spent, add the sales tax on higher prices to your savings, as well.

  9. Seneca's cliff says:

    Things will rebound soon as Texas adjusts to its new reality as a quaint third world country. Then people will travel there to experience the authentic culture with wood fired street food, donkey pulled taxis and open air vendor markets.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Seneca’s cliff

      “wood fired street food…”
      You can already get wood-fired barbecue and steaks. Highly recommended. Not sure if available on the street though.

      “…open air vendor markets”
      Open air farmers markets are thriving in many places. Also highly recommended.

      “donkey pulled taxis…”
      Maybe at some kind of camp for kids. Texans love their trucks, and if push comes to shove, and you need help, they’re happy to give you a ride.

      • VintageVNvet says:

        Your last sentence is exactly Right On Wolf.
        Driving cross country early January of ’85, I pulled off the road in TX to nap about 0200, and woke up to find everything covered in fresh snow.
        Pulling a U-Haul, and no traction at all…
        FIRST vehicle, a large pick up truck stopped and guy asked if I needed a pull, toss me his tow strap, and pulled us right out,,, and wouldn’t take the $20 bill I offered!
        Not so sure about now a days, since everyone seems always to be in such a hurry???

      • Brant Lee says:

        Back in the 70s I was helping someone move from Texas to Oklahoma. Going down, we pulled over in Paris, Tx on Friday night asking for directions. Two fellas in a pickup told us they can’t, “We’re too drunk”. One opened a door then Lone Star bottles fell out everywhere.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Yeah, that’s the other side. I had guys in pickups throw beer bottles at me when I was cycling along the road (in TX and OK). Happened many times. They always missed, maybe because they were too drunk. Seems to be kind of a fun thing to do in these parts, along with shooting at traffic signs.

        • The old adage used to be “You can’t get there from here..”

  10. David Hall says:

    The Texas AG is suing Griddy after some customers were billed thousands of dollars for electricity usage. This happened due to the deregulation of the power grid.

    • Seneca's cliff says:

      The Griddy customers got huge bills because of deregulation but also because they were too naive to understand they had become commodity speculators with very high loss limits instead of utility customers.

    • Harrold says:

      Showboating as usual.

      Griddy was banned from the Texas power market and all of its customers moved to POLR.

      It is now defunct.

  11. 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

    Again, some baseball analogies.

    Nature. Bats. Last. …and can always hit a walkoff.

    The greatest civilizations arise and endure from having the best general management/scouting/teamwork among a majority of their citizens. When the management/scouting/teamwork declines, so does a civilization…

    Star players achieve a high salary, but few championships without a significant depth of smart position/utility players on the team (of course, achieving a high salary/fame may offset, more or less, a burning desire for a team championship…). Farm clubs are neglected at peril of a team’s future decline.

    Our global leagues are big/numerous, and a team, no matter its present excellence, must always look forward if success is to be maintained. Recalling the glory days of the past, is an entertaining way to drain a few mugs or shot/wineglasses, but wins no future championships (okay then, 91, how do you explain the legions of Cubs fans???-nothing personal, Cubs fans!-my wife and her family are from Southside Chicago, and even though most are diehard Sox fans, a few have crossed over to the ‘other’ side…).

    A couple of different takes-

    paraphrasing an R.A. Heinlein aphorism: “…i once knew a sad little lizard who never missed an opportunity to say that a Tyrannosaurus Rex (on his mother’s side) was his ancestor…”.

    and a lyric from the late, great Guy Clark: “…i used to be an ex-bull rider…”.

    may we all find a better day.

  12. Largest Texas utility coop filed for 2B bankruptcy. The bills keep piling up. When the consumer gets a rate shock and the company charging him shuts down, then what happens after the company has already debited the customers account for half a years salary?

    • Francis says:

      Never, ever, use autopay for utilities. If you dispute it, you don’t send them a check. Credit cards have mechanisms where you can dispute charges.
      Your utility meter? Forget it.

      • David in Texas says:

        I’ll second that advice, Francis. When I got out of school (back before auto-pay existed), I lived in an apartment where my typical summer electric bill was about $40.

        One month, I got a bill for $4,000. I called the company and said there must be an error on my bill. I could sense the skepticism in the voice of the customer service rep until she pulled up my account and saw the obvious mistake.

        Had I opened all the doors and windows, set the AC on 50, and run the stove and oven continuously, I could not have generated that bill.

        They corrected it, but if I had been on auto-pay, it would have drained my account and caused all kinds of cascading failures, late charges, etc. Never, never, never allow variable charges to be set on autopay.

  13. JRHill says:

    Recall the craziness of Y2K? Everything was going to crash and burn. While it ended up being a non issue it did cause some people to prepare. This was not a bad thing.

    But in these modern times it seems that everything is a right. Food. Utilities. Law enforcement. On and on…. And of course from a certain perspective you pay for it. But things break and then your life sucks. Or you think it does. Oh No, you were inconvenienced. From where did you deserve the Golden Brick Road?

    This stuff really makes me grit my teeth. Bizzion dollar incomes and RE holdings and when it isn’t convenient its a foul. I have some other harsh statements but I will sit on them.

    Many folks aren’t royalty and deserving of titles.

    • Paulo says:

      JR,

      As my wife always says….the phrase is “Rights and Responsibilities”. I agree with you that people need to be prepared for reasonable disruptions. My sister had nothing put away until I browbeat her into finally getting a small camp stove and some instant coffee. This is in earthquake country for God’s sake.

      We have every prep under the sun in our house…everything, including some cash in twenties and fifties. We actually gain weight when the power goes out. Seriously. Barbecuing terriaki tonight. Maybe the power will ……. :-)

  14. Randy Oldman says:

    Up north here we have this under appreciated heating system- wood pellet stoves, made from waste wood and bark, stoves can be automated and run with a thermostat. It’s a high density fuel that you buy in 50 lb. sacks, cheaper to use than propane and leaves only white ash powder that is great for the garden. Yes you need a small amount of electric power, a small battery pack keeps it going for days.

    • Anthony A. says:

      I had a pellet stove when I lived in Connecticut. Down this way in Texas, I doubt I would need to use one for more than a few days per winter.

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      Some parts of flyover country use dried corn as a fuel. Commercial stoves are available with auto-feeders.

  15. rich says:

    “Among the cities that weren’t hit by any winter storms that are near the bottom are San Jose (42%) and San Francisco (43%). Both of them have been seeing increased visits to places of commerce.”

    And according to Zumper, San Jose has also seen an increase in rents for the firs time in about a year.

    “Why has this gap (between expensive and cheaper cities) started to widen again? It likely reflects a slowdown in renters abandoning expensive markets and an increase in new renters moving in. This can be seen in the growth rates of expensive cities in the most recent data. 1-bedroom median prices grew last month in three of the country’s most expensive cities: New York City (+4.7%); San Jose (+2.3%); and Boston (1.5%). This is the first time we’ve seen prices grow at a monthly rate in New York City since February, 2020- a full year ago. Similarly, prices have not grown in Boston or San Jose since early 2020 or before. Meanwhile, cities that became destinations in 2020 due to their relatively lower costs, have started to wane in price growth.”

    Is the trend in migration starting to reverse itself?

  16. Mark says:

    Climate change is real and rapidly getting worse. We will have these types of extreme events like this in increasing frequency. Businesses should bake these types of events into their modeling and make concrete plans to deal with them – in addition to increasing business coverage.

    But they won’t. They will wait for disaster to strike and rely on govt emergency funding. Which – as we know – is endless and will always be there for you.

    • Jdog says:

      Yes, climate change is real. The climate always changes, always has. Nothing has changed…..

      • sunny129 says:

        When was the last time in the last century,Texans went without HEAT for over 3 days?
        THank you!

        • Anthony A. says:

          I believe that happened in Houston (and a good bit of Texas) in 1989. It was way worse then this event.

          I wasn’t living here in the Houston are then, but my future wife was.

      • Tom Pfotzer says:

        The velocity of environmental change has out-run the biosphere’s adaptive velocity.

        If you think that’s OK, why don’t you ask all the dinosaurs you meet today how that worked out for them.

        :)

        As 91B20 1stCav (AUS) points out above, one of the qualifications of successful civilizations is to notice change and adapt to it.

        I agree with your assertion that environmental change has always happened. That’s certainly true, there’s abundant geologic to support that view.

        But then you asserted that “nothing’s changed”.

        I say that the velocity and scale of change have most definitely changed, and those two variables are key independent vars of the biosphere stability equation.

        So, something quite important has changed.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          TomP. regrettably, no amount of environmental/biosphere-ignoring MMT, or lack of environmental/biosphere GAAP, will defer the ultimate and unavoidable results of environment/biosphere price discovery.

          may we all find a better day.

      • Lisa_Hooker says:

        It’s going to be hard to adapt when Wisconsin is under a mile or two of ice – again. “Climate” is just long-term “weather.” Perhaps we may have vineyards in England again, local wine would be nice.

        • Frank says:

          There have been vineyards planted in England since the Romans introduced them over 2000 years ago. There has been tremendous growth in new plantings in the last 20 years. There were 360 separate vineyards planted in the UK in 2006 and now there are over 500.
          The greatest growth and potential are in sparkling wines. Pretty much anybody in England will tell you the reason they can produce top-quality grapes these days is directly linked to global warming. The average temperature in the south east of England where most grapes are grown has risen by 1.8°F in the last 50 years.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          Lisa-to borrow a lyric from the old soul number viz ‘…hard to adapt’: “…people get ready…”.

          may we all find a better day.

    • Happy1 says:

      There is no consensus in climate modeling that there will be more extremes of cold, or really anything except that there is a likelihood that the overall global temperatures will increase by 0.5 to 1.5 degrees. All the rest is almost pure conjecture based on computer modeling and people who sug otherwise are either looking to fund their research or looking to take more money for taxes.

  17. MonkeyBusiness says:

    What’s happening in Texas will be coming to the rest of the country in the future IMO.

    Think about any service, and you can bet that it will eventually introduce the concept of surge pricing.

    The Uberification of America. Surge pricing and temp workers.

  18. MonkeyBusiness says:

    I think Governor Abbott must have been reading Wolf Street all along, because he’s declared Texas 100% open for business!!!

    He must be concerned for the well being of the malls in the Great State of Texas!!!

  19. DanS86 says:

    Maybe TX should do a public announcement: if your home loses power and it’s below freezing outside, turn off water supply and open faucet valves.

  20. RWOPK says:

    I grew up in the Chicago area but lived in Austin in the late 80s and early 90s. Even back then, they closed the entire metro down based on the mere forecast of a light dusting of snow. I found the over-reaction a bit amusing. Today I imagine the population is more risk averse to weather than it was back then. I’m surprised the year to year commerce comparison didn’t fall to under 10%, given that this was probably the coldest weather Austin has been since it’s been more than a dot on the map.

    • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

      RWOPK-i think you might consider that most of Austin’s locals didn’t have the winter background you did-the closedown was probably a good-faith effort to keep traffic carnage to a minimum given a general lack of local driving experience in even light snow. At Ft. Hood (between Austin and Waco) in the winter of ’73 an ice storm caused so many accidents among offbase personnel attempting to get to duty that operations were curtailed to a minimum for two days until things warmed up enough to make driving less hazardous.

      (4WD was much less prevalent then, as well, although i recall from my years in the Spokane/Cd’A area a saying about the wealthy newbies from more southern climes and probably still true today: “…all their 4WD does is get them in to trouble four times faster…”.

      may we all find a better day.

  21. PIETER says:

    Normal is now not going out or going into an office. if we do go out… it’s to do an outdoor activity or to get food to go. Work has closed two floors of the building. Travel …. we will drive to Florida. Next four years will be saving and investing.

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