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OPINION: A CALL TO ACTION: WEATHERING ANOTHER DEEP FREEZE (1/12/2024)

As Mother Nature tightens her grip on the Lone Star State, Texans prepare for yet another deep freeze. I am calling on Governor Abbott and my fellow Texas elected leaders to learn from the state’s past experiences and to join me in helping ensure every Texan is well-equipped to face the challenges of the weekend’s forecasted severe winter storm.

Many Texans still have a lingering case of “Post Traumatic Ice Event” from the unprecedented freeze of 2021, which highlighted the vulnerability of our citizens and communities, exposed our state's lack of winter preparedness, and put Texas’s power grid to the test—a test that failed! Remember that? Multiple winter storms swept across the state, dropping over 29 million Texans in the deep freeze. Millions endured a "white out", with historic, blistering cold, record snowfall, dangerous ice, closed schools, shuttered businesses, and even closed churches.

Many people don't know this, but that freeze was one of history's costliest US natural disasters. Some estimates show that the total damage of the storm surpassed that of Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey and, sadly, took the lives of over 700 Texans.

The agriculture sector—the backbone of the Texas economy— faced over $608 million in agricultural losses from that winter storm alone. Ranchers lost livestock to the extreme cold, dairy operators were forced to dump milk due to transportation difficulties, and some Rio Grande Valley producers lost more than 60 percent of their crops.

Education is key and preparing for a brutal winter ice storm in Texas requires proactive measures. Here's a few helpful ways Texans can prepare for the upcoming winter weather:

Create an Emergency Kit

• Assemble a well-stocked emergency kit that includes essentials such as non-perishable food, water, medications, first aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, blankets, and warm clothing.

Prepare for Power Outages

• Charge electronic devices in advance and have portable chargers ready.
• Consider investing in a generator for backup power, ensuring it is used safely and in a well-ventilated area.
• Stock up on candles, lanterns, or flashlights with extra batteries.

Stay Informed

• Monitor weather forecasts and updates regularly.
• Stay tuned to local news and official sources for the latest information. Sign up for emergency alerts provided by local authorities.

Safe Transportation

• Avoid unnecessary travel during icy conditions.
• If travel is essential, inform someone of your destination and expected arrival time.
• Keep your vehicle winter-ready with antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, and snow tires if possible.

Community Connection

• Check on neighbors, especially those who may need assistance during severe weather.
• Severe winter conditions can wreak havoc on farms and ranches, jeopardizing the health and well-being of animals.

Food and Water Supply

• Stock up on non-perishable food items that require minimal preparation.
• Ensure an ample supply of bottled water in case of disruptions to water sources.

Protecting Livestock

• Provide adequate shelter from the biting cold and unforgiving winds, minimizing the risk of frostbite and hypothermia.
• Ensure there is plentiful access to unfrozen water.
• Adjust feeding regimens accordingly to meet nutritional needs.

The 2021 winter freeze is a stark reminder of our collective responsibility to be prepared. By staying informed, being proactive, and supporting one another, the resilient spirit of Texas will undoubtedly shine through winter's icy grip.
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An eighth-generation Texas farmer and rancher, Sid Miller is the 12th Commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA). A twenty-four-time world champion rodeo cowboy, he has devoted his life to promoting Texas agriculture, rural communities and the western heritage of Texas.



 
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