Kyle Troutman: Looking up after a trying week

Saturday, February 20, 2021

It has been a long couple of weeks in our area, and an even longer last week south to the Gulf.

After a week of battling icy conditions, with only the weekend reprieve, Sunday came in with one of the biggest flurries in years — the most snow since I have lived here.

In my yard, I measured 4 inches Monday morning, and by Wednesday, another 2 inches had been added. The snow itself was picturesque, half a foot of pristine, dry powdery flakes blanketing everything in sight.

The downside to the winter weather was the temperature. Single digits in the day and -11 at one point when I looked overnight Monday is far too cold to go outside for any significant period of time and enjoy the snow.

The frigid temperatures and school closures also led to another issue I have not experienced since coming to Missouri — rolling blackouts.

As I described last week in this column, I am no stranger to a loss of power in natural disasters, especially during ice storms. I was, however, surprised to see all our area electric companies threaten the need for rolling blackouts to conserve power supplies, which were running thin from overuse.

Companies first asked us to cut usage, simple steps like unplugging small appliances not in use or maybe waiting a few days to run the dishwasher or clothes washer or dryer.

A day later, the possibility of blackouts came. Fortunately, our area was largely spared. Even if we hadn’t been, going without power for an hour or two during a rolling blackout is nothing compared to what many have been experiencing in Texas and, to a lesser extent, Arkansas.

Texans are already poorly prepared for multiple inches of snow and temperatures hovering just above zero. The number of deaths over the last week there and people still without power are two heartbreaking outcomes to this week’s weather.

Social media quickly turned its attention to green energy’s failure as why Texas struggled so much, but frozen wind turbines are a minor part of the energy problem.

Texas relies largely, about 80 percent, on natural gas, coal or nuclear power generation, and nearly half of its normal production was halted due to equipment not being able to handle the cold temperatures. Only 7 percent of the total production is created by wind.

Whereas Texas’ power generation remains inside state lines, we did not have as many issues because our regional power generation spans multiple states and grids. The Southwest Power Pool and KAMO Power handled the situation well, and we had very few issues as a result.

The only local issue I know of came in Verona on Tuesday, when about 580 Liberty customers were impacted by a 45-minute scheduled blackout.

Considering how dire the situation seemed on Monday, and the fears among residents of possible blackouts throughout the bi-county area, that’s not too bad.

The last two weeks did likely play a role in turning the tide in another crisis area — COVID-19.

For the first time since July 2020, active cases in Barry County fell below 100. Cases dropped to 75 during the week of icy conditions, and this week, with the snow, cases fell even further to 27 active — the lowest number since June 17, 2020.

Case numbers over the next two weeks will be under my microscope. Is that drop simply because testing numbers dipped, as well? The Barry County Health Department only tested five people last week when it averages 30 per week.

Or, is the involuntary and unprecedented amount of social distancing over the last two weeks why cases have fallen?

Emergency Management officials have also credited vaccines, as the people who received the first round have all had their second doses, and fewer large gatherings overall compared to the summer, fall festival and holiday seasons.

Only time will truly tell.

The one thing I do know is that these last two weeks — as much as I have enjoyed the extra family time and working from home — have given me some serious flashbacks to the stay-at-home orders nearly a year ago.

I’m looking forward to the weather turning to spring, Opening Day at Roaring River coming up and some spring sports where I can soak in the sunshine.

Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of The Monett Times since 2014. In 2017, he was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers. He may be reached at 417-235-3135 or editor@monett-times.com.

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