Everyone ought to get the chance to be mayor. You've probably heard me say that over the past couple years. It changes your perspective on life, right? A wall cloud moving toward town is an impressive and beautiful sight when you're not mayor. The prospect of a few snow days with soup and old movies hits that nostalgic spot - when you're not mayor.
Aren't you impressed with the accuracy of modern meteorology? Those guys are getting good. We knew what we were in for. You pray for the weathermen to be wrong and you prepare for the forecast. Sand in stock? Equipment working? Staffing lined out? Our crews have worked more than one storm; they know how to prepare.
Then Friday morning, Police Chief Nate King calls. With COVID-19, the usual groups that open temporary shelters aren't doing so. We need a warming shelter, we need one fast, and Chief King has a solution in mind. A few phone calls later, he and his team are scrambling to pull the details together and get the word out. Our community stepped in with an outpouring of support. Thank you!
Friday afternoon as I'm headed home, I get a different kind of phone call. The market price for natural gas has spiked, closed high, and is locked in for the super-cold weekend until the markets reopened on Tuesday. That's pretty alarming; exactly how does it affect us? But then there's the mention that if all the pieces fall into place, we might run out of gas. That catches your attention fast.
Later Friday evening, I received another phone call. While we have a lot of hydro-generated electricity around here, other electric facilities in our region require natural gas to operate. There's the mention that if all the pieces fall into place, we might have power outages. Suddenly there's a chance we may have a week of sub-freezing weather, with multiple snow events, without gas or electricity? Now there's something that will keep a mayor awake at night.
Luckily, we have an Emergency Management guy and I know his phone number. Did you know almost all the generators in place for backup power on larger facilities in Tahlequah require natural gas to run? Mike Underwood knows which facilities have diesel generators.
You know the rest of the overarching story. Some southern natural gas production couldn't continue in the extreme cold. The regional organization that controls the power grid required rolling blackouts to ensure most people in the region would have power most of the time. It worked the way it is supposed to work.
And here in Tahlequah, America, our street crews did a great job keeping our major streets drivable. They ran 12-hour shifts blading the snow, then following with sand. In the short break between snow events, they restocked, regrouped, and prepared for another long night working our roads.
Our Solid Waste crews scrambled to try to provide service. With the extreme temperatures, filling our trucks that run natural gas was a problem. NOPFA stepped in to help. Turns out the hydraulics on some of our equipment can't work below a certain temperature, either. Good to know.
Chris Armstrong and his team are running trucks and picking up trash when they can this week. Next week, they'll catch up, if you missed getting your trash out, or if they didn't make it to your house.
Living in interesting times? Remember one day you get to tell your children and your grands about living through this historical event. In the meanwhile, spring is right around the corner.
Sue Catron, former assistant vice president of Business and Finance at Northeastern State University, is mayor of Tahlequah.