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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Opinion

Houston braced itself considerably well against the winter storm


Some states have snow days when the snow is piled on top of cars, barricading doors and completely stopping traffic. Some of those giant piles of frozen water are known to reach up to seven feet. Here in the southeastern part of the good ol’ state of Texas, we are much luckier. We get the most dangerous, traffic-stopping weather of all — ice.

It sounds like something out of the new hit film “Frozen,” with an arctic blast hitting the majority of the continental United States with such vengeance that places like Pittsburgh were reported by weather.com to have fallen 35 degrees in a period of only four hours on Jan. 26. Houston was in its own state of cold — perhaps not a cold felt by the north, where temperatures in some places reached the 40s below zero on Tuesday, but Houston was still in its own state of disarray.

Some students could be heard muttering the famous line “winter is coming” from the HBO hit “Game of Thrones” when classes were cancelled twice in less than a week. Hundreds of accidents are being blamed on the arctic blast. KHOU.com reported that the Houston Fire Department responded to more than 100 occurring on Jan. 24 alone, all between 6 and 8 a.m. Some may criticize the South and UH for closing its doors and postponing classes, but in reality, it may have been for the best.

With our subtropical weather, we rarely see such harsh freezes with intense ice on freeways and feeder roads. Many citizens, including UH students, don’t know how to appropriately handle the frozen roads and might be more of a hazard on the road than anything else. In the event of ice, many cities put out magnesium chloride. In many parts of Houston, including UH, there wasn’t just magnesium chloride; there was sand. Unlike sand, magnesium chloride will lower the freezing point of water. And the Texas Department of Transportation put out all its best defenses.

TxDOT was reported by the Chronicle as having put the chemical on Houston bridges and overpasses, as well as on major roadways in the Houston area. They also reported putting out a rock-sand mixture on “trouble spots.” Houston really wanted its drivers to be safe, and even though all of the city’s efforts went into creating a safer driving experience, TxDOT spokesman Danny Perez told the Chronicle that the city “(wanted) folks to only be on the roadways if they have to.”

If students did have to find themselves on the road despite classes being cancelled, then some of the best advice from weather.com was to slow down, brake gently and keep significant space between you and the car in front of you. If your rear tires spin out, steer in the direction of the spin. If you have standard brakes, pump them slowly; otherwise, press the brakes slowly — pulsing is normal. If your front tires spin out, get off the accelerator and put the car in neutral; don’t try to steer right away. You’ll get traction and soon be on your merry way.

In the end, Houston isn’t Pittsburgh, and we aren’t always prepared for extreme winter weather. Cancelling classes was a smart choice. It is to be hoped that students stayed indoors working on homework and stayed off the roads.

If northerners have anything they would like to make fun of, just remind them how lovely you think 99-degree weather is when they get an extremely hot summer and cry about the temperature reaching 89 or 90 with no humidity. What goes around comes around. Or, should I say, “summer is coming.”

 Opinion columnist Rachel Lee is an English sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]

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