Email sign off etiquette

by Lemon Tree

I recently went down the rabbit hole of a Tweet about how to sign off an email. Many people indicated that “Regards”, “Best”, and “Best Wishes” are rude and “Thanks” is passive aggressive. There was a difference between Americans and British, with the tweets from England agreeing that “Sincerely” is most definitely rude and should not be used. One Canadian shared that he uses Sincerely to mean “please read what I wrote VERY carefully and have a think”.

Some suggestions to use were: Be Well; Stay Healthy; Til Then; Cheers;

I admit that 90% of the time I use “Thanks!”. The rest of the time I use “Cheers!”. Early in the pandemic I would use “Stay Healthy” but I rarely do that anymore. What do you use? What do you think is rude or passive aggressive?

221 thoughts on “Email sign off etiquette

  1. My go-to is “Regards,” Sometimes “Thanks,” or “Thanks!” if appropriate to the context. It seems to me that most people who email me use “Regards” or “Best”. I can’t for the life of me understand why someone would think those were rude. I guess I’ve never really given e-mail sign-offs much thought.

  2. To my ear, “Be Well” and “Stay Healthy” sound a little bossy, but I certainly wouldn’t think ill of someone who used them. I understand that the writers are just trying to end their email.

  3. “Regards” sounds a little abrupt to me. I usually use “With best regards” or “With kind regards”

    I also use “Thanks!” a lot

    Now-a-days, I am using “Stay warm”

  4. I use Thanks more than anything. That is for work. I would think it was a bit weird to use Cheers on a work email.

    I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about email sign offs from other people, but if pressed – I’d say “regards” sounds either passive aggressive or stiff.

    I do love the interpretations of common corporate-speak phrases too though. I definitely use these – and think of their interpretation.
    https://www.boredpanda.com/passive-aggressive-email-phrases-meaning/

  5. Work emails, and private “business”, emails get

    Thanks,
    Fred
    (mobile # maybe half the time)

    except there are lots of one liner emails for work, especially if there has been some back-and-forth on the topic, e.g:

    Colleague: “I thought that had been set up. Would you like me to have Chet set it up to begin this month?”

    Me: Yes, please.

  6. IMO, and maybe just because I think oddly, when I read just ‘regards’ I ask myself, ‘what kind of regards?’ Best, middlin’, perfunctory?

    And also, re ‘best’. Best what?

    I know, being too literal and not adapting to idiomatic USA english.

  7. My default is “regards”, but based on comments here I may change to “kind regards” although it seems a bit much. I use “thanks” a lot, but it seems a bit obsequious in some cases. Not sure if I can explain that, but somehow it does.

  8. I always use “kind regards.” I figure it can’t hurt to put the word kind into the world more.

  9. I use many of those passive aggressive email phrases Ivy posted. I just used Please Advise yesterday an email that I wrote, then deleted, then rewrote, edited, and finally just said please advise because I’m literally at my wits end with a problem. No amount of “coaching” is resolving it.

  10. “Many people indicated that “Regards”, “Best”, and “Best Wishes” are rude and “Thanks” is passive aggressive.”

    I think some people need a hobby. Nothing better to do than manufacture annoyance when someone wishes you well? If I were going to get annoyed at something, it would be the schmaltzy ones, like “be well,” or “have a blessed day.” But even things that inspire an internal eye-roll I take in the spirit in which they are intended.

    In business I use “thanks” all the time, because I am often asking for something (even if it’s just implicitly asking them to follow my advice). Sometimes just “Laura,” or “L” if it’s someone I am close with. Family I usually don’t use any standard closing at all — it would be something like “hope y’all are staying warm!” or something appropriate for the circumstances.

  11. I am sorry I missed so many interesting topics this week. We appear to have stable power, stable internet, and water. However, we are under a boil water notice and have been warned we could lose water as pipes unfreeze and reveal more broken pipes.

    On topic – I read that thanks should be used only if you are either actually thanking someone for what they did or a short hand for thanks in advance for something in the email. I am seeing more and more email with no sign off.

    I distinguish between formal and informal email. If I am writing to someone in lieu of a letter (like on letter head sort of letter), then I use formal greeting (Dear Dr. Pestle) and a formal sign-off (usually sincerely). If it is informal, there is a range that depends on the person and the length of the email chain already. Sometimes, like Fred said, Yes or No maybe a sufficient message. My boss often reminds or asks if something has been done or resolved. We tend to reply with “done” or “resolved” unless more information needs to be conveyed. I do tend to fall back on Thanks or Best Regards.

  12. The thing I was most annoyed at was when I was married and my mother would address mail to me Mrs. His First Name Our Common Last Name. I told her I hated it and preferred Mrs. Our Common Last Name or Mrs. My First Name Our Common Last Name.

  13. Plebe summer, you had to write these little daily notes to your upper class squad leader. It was on a tiny slip of paper ripped out of a spiral bound pocket notebook. You can say whatever you want. “I liked sailing today.” “I thought that lecture by the Vietnam POW was really inspiring.” And it’s a way for someone who might be ready to say “I can’t keep doing this, I see myself falling out of my fifth story window” to have an open path to communicate that.

    But they were also to be written in a basic but precise memo format and closed
    “Very respectfully,
    MIDN 4/C Milo”

    So when that whole year was over, a lot of us adopted, depending on the recipient, variations like
    V/r,
    Respectfully,

    And a lot of times today in a casual work email, I’ll write
    R/
    Milo

    I don’t exactly know how people interpret it. Respectfully? Regards? Either is fine. It’s whatever you prefer.

    I get a lot of Be Well, and I get a lot of Have a blessed day.

    Whatevs, neither is my choice. Be well is a little too Namaste for me,

  14. I always use “Thanks, TCM”. I once sent DH an email and signed off that way accidentally, and he made fun of me for signing a personal email that way.

  15. Kim — “Kind regards” seems a bit much to me, too. Maybe this is a regional thing? I’m hearing a lot of hate for plain old “Regards,” but I see it all the time in emails that I get.

  16. I use “Best” if I’m not asking for anything and “Thanks” if I’m asking for something. Or if I’m thanking my assistant for doing something I will just write “Thx!”

    I use a lot of exclamation marks in my super-short emails so as not to seem short. I never write “Thanks.” as a stand-alone!

  17. I have never received an email signed “Have a blessed day.” Again, probably a regional thing.

  18. NoB – same! And I also agree, “kind regards” is a bit much and makes me think like you’re trying to schmooze me. ;)

  19. I take the same approach as L. “Best” unless I’m asking for something (in which case, “Thanks”).

    98% of my colleagues sign off “Best”—simple, cordial, no additional thought needed. Obviously not perceived as rude internally!

  20. I used to have a client that was a religious organization. Lots of “blessings” and “have a blessed day” in the body of the email, as well as the sign off.

    I might start using R/. There is a bit of a mystery with it. Keeps people on their toes.

  21. I just did a quick scan through my work emails. Overwhelmingly lean toward “Thanks” including from most of the Europeans. My Italian coworker usually signs “Ciao” which I kind of love but would sound ridiculous coming from me. And the two people I most despise sign off “Best”. Maybe there is something to that. :)

  22. I’m from a red, southern state and I’ve never rec’d an e-mail with “blessings” or “Have a blessed day.”

  23. Austin, Yup. Boiling water. Low water pressure. Bathed for the first time in a few days yesterday. I refuse to wash my hair with contaminated water–luckily my hair is naturally dry and is loving this lack of washing.

  24. From Girl Scout leaders I’ve gotten “YIGS” which took me a couple times to figure out it meant “Yours in Girl Scouts.”

  25. I’m surprised at how many of you use “thanks”. At work I use “regards” or “kind regards”. For personal email “best” or “warm regards” and sometimes “thanks”.

    I agree that whomever is reading “sincerely” as rude needs a hobby.

  26. “Be well is a little too Namaste for me”

    I had a friend who signed off “Namaste, bitches” which is common now but was new and funny then. “Blessed be” is Wiccan.

    I usually just say “Thanks”. If I mean it, it’s “Thanks!” If I’m essentially saying “Why the fuck haven’t you done this yet”, it’s “Thanks — “.

  27. Reminds me that in high school, I used to sign notes to my friends “LYLAS” “love you like a sister”. Did anyone else do this?

  28. “I have never received an email signed “Have a blessed day.” ”

    I called Orvis the other day re an order and the customer svc rep closed with “and you have a blessed day.” (Their call center is in Norfolk, VA).

  29. I guess I’m from a decidedly “blue” area within the larger red state so maybe that’s why I don’t get as many blessings.

  30. “Have a blessed day.”

    Never received an email with this sign off, but have had plenty of people say this to me in person or over the phone.

  31. At my previous employer, the standard signoff seemed to be, ‘Regards,’ although the Asian cohort often used, ‘Kind Regards.’ It seemed to be the right combination of respect and friendliness without being too formal.

    Since I was working there when I started using email, that’s stuck as my default, especially when sending email to people I don’t know very well.

    My current employer has a similar culture with a standard signoff that anyone can use without raising any eyebrows.

    I use, ‘thanks,’ when I’m asking for something, or as short for, ‘thanks for having taken the time to read this.’

    In informal emails, I’ll often just end with, ‘-Finn.’ I also do that sometimes on long back and forth emails.

    If it’s to my kids, I’ll often end with, ‘Love, Daddy.’

  32. I’ve never received “Have a blessed day”, even from my southern friends. However, currently my FB has many “blessed” in the comments from Texas friends and relatives who got their heat or water back on.

    Most of the time in informal emails I sign off with just my name.

  33. Since we’re talking work email etiquette. Yesterday I asked a question to my boss “Sorry, why are we doing x?” followed by “Did I miss something?” and she read it as “confrontational”. Do you agree it was confrontational? (That was not my intention. I will confess to being less deferential and obsequious than my colleagues in the ordinary course, but we do have a very direct, to the point, work culture generally.)

  34. “warned we could lose water as pipes unfreeze and reveal more broken pipes.”

    If you haven’t already, I suggest you fill some buckets just in case.

    Other than the extreme cold, it seems like the preparations for a cold snap like this are very much like what we do every time we get a hurricane or tsunami warning.

  35. Kerri — I wouldn’t have read that as confrontational — I would have heard it as “wait, why — what did I miss?” Then again, I am infamous for being “direct” (in the words of a former lawyer here).

  36. for work, I have an autosig with my name, postion (Computer Science Program Director, thank you very much) and email. If I am sending out email asking people at work to do things, I usually end it with “Thanks”. If I am sending out a document, then “Enjoy” is one of my faves.
    For personal email, um, usually nothing?

    When I worked at the tech company, our head of development used to sign emails with
    “Your Grand Poobah”

  37. Many of my male academic colleagues sign off with “Cheers”. It has that tweedy Brit-feel that guys in academia seem to prefer

  38. “Many of my male academic colleagues sign off with “Cheers”. It has that tweedy Brit-feel that guys in academia seem to prefer”

    Yeah, that’s my problem with “Cheers”. Back atcha, mate.

    There used to be (and I guess there still is) a Usenet group for Brits and British ex-pats chatting about day-to-day British stuff. The name of the group was alt.2eggs.sausage.beans.tomatoes.2toast.largetea.cheerslove. So that helps me remember what a full British breakfast is, but it also causes me to read “Cheers” and “Cheers love”, as if talking to the waitress.

  39. I use “Thanks” as a sign off. As a greeting I will say Hi, So and so. I may drop the Hi at some point but I want to start on a polite note. One company I worked at read a lot into the actual email and the tone of voice in the email. That training is so ingrained.

  40. And of course students…. Typical student email has no subject header or the subject header just says “Help”. So I have no idea which class jlee2022 is in, or even in many cases, who the frick jlee2022 is. The greeting is usually “hey prof” or “miss”. This semester, in my CS2 class, I have asked students who they took their CS1 with, and most of them could not name the professor. They took an entire semester with Professor X, and had NO IDEA what the person’s name was.

    I am on a mailing list for CS educators, and there was a recent long chain and discussion about hoe bad student emails are. They don’t seem to realize that they are not going to get timely help with an email that says “Hey prof my program doesn’t work and I don’t know what to do”. The reality is, asking good targeted questions is actually a career skill and they need to be taught how to do it. One suggestion, that I think I am going to try, is to create a template that students must fill in when asking questions about programs. Bug trackers have long had this kind of template for describing bugs. It might help students learn how to write effective emails

  41. I have never received an email with “Blessings” but have gotten a reasonable number that sign off with “Lifting you up in prayer”.

  42. I have always been in environments where no blessings, prayer etc are included anywhere in communication.
    The friendliest you get is “Best”. Cheers is too much.

    Mooshi – the template is a good idea. My kids always have their name, class, teacher name and date on every piece of work they submit. They also know to say Mr. Smith – I am in your English – C class. That said, I haven’t seen any emails that to teachers that my kids have written.

  43. Mooshi, my biggest pet peeve is when the subject is a full sentence. Just last week I got a pretty rude email from a client because I didn’t answer one of the many questions in her email. The question I forgot to answer was in the subject line, and not the body of the email.

    I’m known in my company for being direct and stating well thought out opinions. I often send my manager emails that sound just like what Kerri sent. And if I’m in a real snotty mode I’ll sign off the email with “Cheers!” Sometimes, I get creative and will sign of those emails with a #letsmakechangehappen or #customersmatter. Luckily my manager has a similar sense of humor.

  44. MM, you are doing your kids a real service if you can teach them how to write a good email. Kids don’t know what they don’t know. Just this week I’ve been texting with DD about all the paperwork that goes with her job offer, including pay stubs and drug tests and stuff. She didn’t get the drug test done this week (decent reasons – she’s been up until 4 doing lab reports and preparing for tests and such – but the employer isn’t going to know that), so I had to tell her to call her contact NOW and find out if next week was ok, or if she needed to drop everything and go today. It’s a big company, and they take paperwork seriously, and I’m sure she had no clue that something as simple as procrastinating on a drug test could get an offer revoked.

    Luckily, her teachers (both HS and college) have covered the basics on business letters, resumes, cover letters, and that sort of thing.

  45. ” My kids always have their name, class, teacher name and date on every piece of work they submit.”

    Yes this. DS lost points on assignments early in 6th grade when he didn’t follow the rubric, but he caught on.

  46. “she read it as “confrontational”. Do you agree it was confrontational?”

    It could be read in multiple ways, one of which is confrontational. But reading it as such probably is more a reflection of the reader than what you wrote.

    Reading emails before sending them can often reveal ways they could be read other than what you meant.

  47. Finn – There’s a history here. She’s tagged me as confrontational so that’s how she sees things, when that is not my intention and when others don’t see it as confrontational at all. My real issue is how to deal with it and how to get her to change her perspective. I’ve worked with her for over a decade and haven’t figured it out yet.

  48. Off-topic totally frivolous advice: it’s my birthday this weekend. My mom is taking DS overnight, so DH and I have all day Sat. and then Sunday morning to do stuff. I came up with the idea of the indoor go-kart racing tomorrow, followed by a trip to my favorite bar (where we haven’t gone much lately, and where they have installed lots of plastic dividers and such so I feel ok going there).

    Well, I just found out that DS is leaving NOW, so we actually have two nights! DH has suggested that we go to the bar tonight and then do a fancy dinner tomorrow night (at our favorite restaurant where we always go for my birthday). Now I’m torn. I am sort of really happy with my nothing-fancy afternoon/evening I have planned tomorrow. But I also really really like my favorite restaurant, and they certainly need our money. But I was kind of also looking forward to just flopping on the couch tonight instead of going out. But is that just me being super-lazy, and am I missing a great opportunity here?

  49. LfB,

    Go! Weren’t you just saying the other day that you were worried you were getting too comfortable at home? I’m pretty sure it’s just inertia and once you get yourself there you’ll be so happy you got out of the house.

  50. Kerri—if you’ve worked together for a decade and she’s labeled you as confrontational, you aren’t going to change her perspective. If you want to minimize the occasional misinterpretation, maybe workshop 1-2 ways to phrase pushback/please fill me in questions that you could pop in when emailing her. Or don’t worry about it and shake off as a style difference if not career limiting.

  51. Its your effing birthday. You choose!!

    Personally, flopping at the bar on a Friday after a long work week, tomorrow go kart racing, home fir a shower and getting fancied up for dinner works for me, assuming you can get a sat nite dinner res as this late date,

  52. Thanks Minca. This one caught me by surprise. I really didn’t think it was any big deal until it turned into one. I’m going to brush this one off and move on but will be a bit more careful with communications going forward.

  53. Lately I sign, Hugs. In the past warm wishes felt like a good choice. Today, well people are sensitive and it is extremely difficult to have confidence in much . . . just saying, Claudia

  54. All right, y’all changed my mind — made a reservation for tomorrow night, will hit the bar tonight. I’ll double-mask and try not to die. . . .

  55. I think, “Sorry” is often confrontational unless it is truly part of an apology. My opinion may be colored by my kids – they are currently in the stage of insincere apologies. I have often required the phrasing “I regret that [x] happened and I would like to know what I can do to make it better” because I’m tired of the flippant “sorry”s. But, the phrase I hear frequently is along the lines of, “I’m sorry, but that’s just stupid.” Somehow, buffering something with “sorry” allows you to follow with rudeness. I always want to challenge that “sorry” with, “What exactly are you sorry about? What are you working on changing? What future mistake are you hoping to avoid?”

    The asshole-ness of #sorrynotsorry plays exactly into this – trying to make a disagreeable statement “I’m not sorry” somehow agreeable by starting with “sorry”.

    So, that’s a lot of personal baggage. Most of it doesn’t apply to your work email at all, I suspect. However, I do I read “sorry” as confrontational unless someone is actually apologizing.

  56. Happy Birthday LfB. Have a good birthday weekend.

    What I don’t understand is when people started putting an exclamation mark after Thanks !. It’s crept up lately.

  57. LfB — Enjoy your birthday weekend! It sounds like fun.

    Good point about prefacing a sentence with “I’m sorry”. It could be taken as confrontational. I have tried to break the habit of apologizing as a way of smoothing any questions or requests, and it’s one of those things that can backfire whatever you do!

  58. LfB – happy birthday! I hope you enjoy your bday weekend.

    The snow finally stopped here after two days of snow. I went out last night to run a couple of errands and pick up dinner. The roads were fine all day even though it was snowing. I was fine until I got to the small street that leads to our road. These are hills so maybe it was a little colder in my neighborhood because everything was icy. I navigated the two icy turns and and made it home. I hate driving on ice so I was very happy to see all blacktop this morning.

  59. I hope the situation is a little better today in Texas, but I thought of you this morning because I never heard of H-E-B until several of you wrote about the store in prior totebag posts.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/02/19/texas-heb-lost-power/
    A Texas grocery store lost power and let people leave without paying. Shoppers paid it forward

    By
    Hannah Knowles
    Feb. 19, 2021 at 10:59 p.m. EST

    Tim Hennessy remembers a “collective groan” on Tuesday as the lights went out in his local grocery store in Texas. He and his wife quickly grabbed their last items and pulled up to a checkout line 20 carts deep.
    Around him were a couple hundred shoppers, some with only credit cards, trying to stock up during a statewide emergency. The power had been going on and off in this Austin suburb as cold weather overwhelmed the Texas grid. But no one told shoppers to put their items back if they couldn’t pay cash.
    When Hennessy got to the cashier, he said, she just waved him on, thanked him and told him to drive home safely.
    “And it hit us — like, wow, they’re just letting us walk out the door,” the 60-year-old man recounted. Ahead of him, shoppers were pushing carts piled high with diapers, milk, jumbo boxes of crackers — all free. He began to tear up.

    The show of kindness this week at the H-E-B grocery store in Leander, Tex., has gone viral, a bright spot in a crushing week for Americans weathering a deadly winter storm that left people scrambling for food and clean water after mass power outages. Hennessy’s Facebook post about the episode exploded, and a Friday op-ed in the Houston Chronicle contrasted the generosity in Leander with authorities’ failures: “Why H-E-B comes through in a crisis when Texas government doesn’t,” the headline read.
    Hennessy attributes his post’s unexpected resonance to a hunger for good news at a time when Americans are bombarded with the bad. By Tuesday, the snowstorm pummeling much of the country had left more than a dozen dead, and power outages in Texas had peaked, plunging several million homes into darkness.
    “The country’s been through a lot in this last year and a half or so, right? Since last March, I guess, really. A lot of division, a lot of stuff going on, and on top of this, in Texas here, we’ve got this weather … They’re not ready for this,” Hennessy told The Washington Post.

    But it wasn’t all terrible, and here was proof.
    “People are really good, and you see it in the tougher times,” he said

    He was going to title his Facebook post “the America I know,” he said, until his wife suggested just “The Heart of America.”
    Out in the H-E-B parking lot on Tuesday, he could tell that other shoppers were touched, too. Carts were getting stuck in the ice and snow. Groceries were tumbling out. But people started holding on to other people’s bags, Hennessy said.
    Watching an elderly woman nervously struggle to get her car moving — the wheels were spinning on ice — Hennessy says he and a couple other men pushed the vehicle ahead.
    “Everybody started helping each other,” he said.
    Hennessy, who works in information technology, said he called H-E-B on Friday to ask if they had preferred charities. He wanted to pass on the good deed by donating whatever he would have paid for his milk, produce and power bars.
    AD

    H-E-B did not respond to The Post’s inquiries Friday evening, and a man who answered the phone at its Leander location said staff there could not comment. But the company confirmed shoppers’ accounts on Twitter: “yes, this is a true story,” it commented below pictures of Hennessy’s post.
    Others customers were also moved. Shelby Lasker told the Austin American-Statesman that she was anxious to get supplies and in the checkout line when the power stopped, taking out the store’s payment terminals. She still left with staples and Lunchables for her four-year-old son.
    “I think they could tell how upset people were,” she told the American-Statesman.
    Power is returning to Austin after days of freezing temperatures, but supermarket shelves are empty and basic supplies are hard to come by. (Lindsey Sitz, Alex Penrose/The Washington Post)
    Texas’s situation was dire and would only escalate for Hennessy, who said his home lost running water the next day. He says the water is back now, but the storms have wreaked costly havoc on public infrastructure, and much of the state is still under advisories to boil their water before drinking — if they can even get it from the tap.
    AD
    But Tuesday afternoon at H-E-B, Hennessy felt hopeful and even cracked some jokes on his way out of the store.
    “I could use one right now,” he recalled telling an employee who asked if he had any alcoholic drinks.
    “Wait a minute, I forgot the filet mignon,” he told staff later before heading out the door.
    No one told him exactly why they were doing it. But the message to him was clear.
    The mind-set, he said, seemed to be: “You’re our customers. You probably need this stuff. Go ahead and have a nice day.”

  60. Today is my step-granddaughter’s first birthday! And her maternal grandparents are there, and I’m sad because we can’t be. Yes, there are many people who are far worse off than we are. I understand that.

  61. “I’m sad because we can’t be. Yes, there are many people who are far worse off than we are. I understand that.”

    You have every right to be sad even when others are worse off. Comparative loss doesn’t help anyone. Your loss is your loss and it sucks to miss milestones you would like to see. I’m hoping you will be able to travel soon.

  62. Thanks, HfN. We will join a Zoom meeting this afternoon to watch her open presents. Then they’re all driving to New Hampshire to ski and snowshoe. I am glad they are getting a break because it’s been one hell of a year, boy howdy.

  63. @RMS – Agree with HFN that it is okay to feel sad and maybe a little jealous about missing the 1st BD. No, she won’t remember, but YOU would have.

  64. My DIL is doing okay as far as we can tell. They’ve started her on the maintenance medication, and when we ask the kids how she’s doing, they talk in that false-cheerful way about things being pretty good, less pain, her legs are back under her, maybe still some numbness and burning here and there. I’ve been reading a bunch of MS support groups and I know she’s probably very fatigued, probably has some symptoms that she doesn’t want to talk about. But I guess she’s doing as well as can be expected. That’s another reason we’d love to be there in person, so we can corner my stepson and get a fuller picture. And of course it would be great to be there to help out!

  65. There is this sweet spot, I think, for helping with child care. When my stepson was little of course DH and I were both working so we had the usual juggle issues and always felt like we were stretched too thin. It’s a feeling I’m sure everyone here knows.

    Now we’re both healthy 60-year-olds, both retired, we’d love to hang out with the baby, take her to the park, cheer her on as she pushes the shapes through the shape-sorter for the billionth time that day, etc. And naturally we live far away and there’s a plague. But as soon as we get our vaccines, we’re going out there to clean the kids’ bathroom, bring dinner over (although they have Door Dash and Grubhub on speed dial), give them a few hours of peace and quiet, get to know the little girl.

    My own grandmothers were both pushing 80 when I was born, and anyway they were both awful. So I never spent any time alone with either of them.

  66. So many birthdays…happy birthday to everyone that is celebrating. I just got back from the bakery because it is my dad’s bday tomorrow. He has the same bday as my aunt so we are going to a driveway thing later today. I was wondering if we would finally be able to go inside today since my dad/stepmom, aunt/uncle are all vaccinated, but they said they want to stay outside.

  67. RMS, I fervently hope you can spend extended time with your granddaughter in the future. My kids have collectively spent a single digit number of hours with a grandparent and I wish that were different. I hope everything works out for your family soon.

  68. I was wondering if we would finally be able to go inside today since my dad/stepmom, aunt/uncle are all vaccinated, but they said they want to stay outside.

    I have to tell my Mom repeatedly to feel free to go to the grocery store, book store, get a hair cut and generally venture out when the weather is good. No point in getting the vaccine if you won’t go back to a semblance of the before times. Mask wearing is still firmly in place.

  69. My parents will be fully vaccinated next week, plus the waiting period. We are planning for them to visit this spring. I am very excited – we have not been able to see them since early fall. No holidays together (even the brief outdoor visits we’ve had with IL’s), and they haven’t seen our new house. I’m sure by hour 25 together I’ll be annoyed by their quirks, but I welcome that but of normality. ;)

    @RMS – that sounds like ideal grand parenthood. One of my joys is seeing the relations DS has with our parents. He has a great relationship with all of them & knows them well. I only really had that with one grandparent. One died before I was born and the other two died before I turned 10. So I have some memories of them, but they are fuzzier than those with my grandma who I knew as an adult.

  70. Lauren, yes – since the pandemic started there have been so many stories like that with H‑E‑B. They spent $150k at local restaurants and fed employees the meals to try to help keep the restaurants going and delivered groceries to elderly for free so they wouldn’t have to go out. After hurricanes they show up with trucks equipped with showers and washing machines. They invest a lot in education in local communities. They are truly community-minded, so it’s great that they have great stores. It’s a pleasure to support them. I have not been to Wegmans, but I gather they are similar, but maybe better priced. And they make awesome fresh tortillas in the store, which are still warm as I am typing this.

  71. Wow, Ada that is a lot to read into “Sorry”. I meant it as “I’m sorry for not paying attention or understanding, what did I miss?”

    And yet, I completely understand where you are coming from with the “sorry, not sorry” take and annoyance at fake apologies.

    Will definitely re-think whether I ever use sorry in emails going forward.

    I did share the exchange with a work buddy and he had the same take I did – my boss way over-reacted. He pointed out that the subject was something she was annoyed by, so anything not supportive of her position or questioning it she would take as annoying. I saw this as a trivial matter and didn’t realize how invested she was in it.

  72. Houston – so glad you were able to bathe! Which sounds ridiculous to congratulate you for, but I’m sure it was something you were looking forward to and made you feel better when done.

    So crazy all that’s happening in Texas. Wasn’t 2021 supposed to be vastly better than 2020?

  73. I sign off nearly every email with Thanks. The only person to use Cheers was an annoying guy that used to work where I did. I’m in the Midwest, and have never (personal or professional) received an email with a sign off that included blessings or prayers. Those would seem very strange to me. Plenty of people just sign their name at the bottom and I don’t mind that at all.

  74. OK, I know we have already discussed the surge in applications to elite colleges. NY Times has a good article on this

    Cornell is swimming in applications while the SUNY system is down by 14%, probably because of the test optional policies.But it is going to be very difficult to stand out in the sea of Cornell applicants without SATs. Anyone who is going to be successful at one of these top flight schools better have straight A’s, all AP’s, and extracurriculars up the wazoo. You better have founded a successful charity, captained a winning sport, and be an Eagle Scout. What is going to happen to the many aspirational kids who get rejected everywhere?

  75. From Ask Amy yesterday:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/advice/ask-amy-small-wedding-becomes-a-virtual-nightmare-for-bride/2021/02/17/d387ec34-6766-11eb-8468-21bc48f07fe5_story.html

    Dear Amy: Our son was recently accepted early-decision into an Ivy League school.
    My pride in him is a bit offset by the embarrassment I feel for my husband.
    He insists on wearing T-shirts and sweatshirts with the school’s logo (a lot!), including at (social-distanced) gatherings with neighbors and on Zoom calls with friends and family.
    I think this is boastful and obnoxious, and occasionally insensitive, as we know that some of those people are still going through the college admissions process.
    He doesn’t see anything wrong with it.
    Am I in the wrong here?

    — Irked by the Ivy

    Irked by the Ivy: The most socially sensitive response to your child’s early-decision result is to wait to do your victory dance about it in front of other anxious parents until the regular admissions season has concluded (usually April 1).
    You should absolutely mention your son’s acceptance with pride and also relief that the whole thing is over. No doubt, he worked hard to gain his early-decision, and there is no need to hide his accomplishment under a bushel.
    Dad parading in a T-shirt, however, is a bit much.
    With friends and family members on Zoom calls — if none of them are going through this particular Dante’s ring — go ahead and break out the T-shirt and hoot and holler.
    It is important for you to recognize that your husband’s behavior is his own responsibility, not yours.

  76. Screw that. If my kid gets into his school of choice I will wear the t shirt as much as I damn well please.

  77. I have a weird relationship with college tee-shirts. I tend to feel that I’m only entitled to wear the t-shirts from schools I attended or taught at. (That’s several right there). I don’t wear Purdue t-shirts even though both DH and DSS went there. I’m not entitled to it. Maybe I could have gotten into Purdue in 1978; it never occurred to me to apply (and what a weird alternate universe that would have been). My husband’s ex, who’s an idiot, got in. But still.

  78. Other posters kids have probably experienced this but DS has started to get college emails, packets and swag. The funniest thing was my FIL eyeing a drawstring bag, that DS received. I am sure before the end of this Grandpa will be sporting something college related from a random college.

  79. I have never owned a Tshirt or sweatshirt or any other swag for any school I have attended. But I do have a bumpersticker for my oldest kid’s school on my car. DD told me it was my parental duty

  80. Well, this has been quite a day in Mémé world. This morning, as we were having miserable session at the online bridge table, I got an ancestry notification of a new close relative I clicked through when dummy and found someone had submitted my biological moms DNA. As soon as the game was over I tracked down my half sisters phone in WI and left her a VM. I thought maybe one of the 20something grandkids had done it and wanted to get in front of it. No it was sis. Biomom is 88, in great health except for increasing dementia. Oops. But now I have sibs. Sis is adjusting to the news fast. Texting me photos. Has to decide whether to discuss with Mom.

  81. “Screw that. If my kid gets into his school of choice I will wear the t shirt as much as I damn well please.”

    Yeah, we have PLENTY of gear (including DH’s very obnoxious maroon golf bag) from DS1’s school. When DS2 settled on his college, we ran out and bought a ton of burnt orange gear, as well.

  82. Screw that. If my kid gets into his school of choice I will wear the t shirt as much as I damn well please.

    You obviously haven’t read what Finn has posted previously about it being a huge faux-pas to flaunt your kids’ college acceptances. :)

  83. When DS2 settled on his college, we ran out and bought a ton of burnt orange gear, as well.

    That is the ugliest school color in the country, even worse than Wyoming’s brown and yellow.

  84. WRT the T-shirt, I’m kinda with the mom. IMO, there’s no question about it being boastful, especially an ED school, which says as much about parents’ finances as kids’ academics and/or hooks.

    OTOH, it has been over 2 months since ED announcements, so there’s been enough time for those who didn’t get favorable EA/ED notices to get over it.

  85. I find the faux modesty about where you or your kids went to school to be worse in some cases than the proud wearing of a t-shirt, bumper sticker or a big gaudy golf bag! There’s a difference between rubbing it in people’s faces and being so coy it is even more condescending.

    That said – maybe this guy is being an a-hole and not just a proud parent. Hard to tell from just the letter from the wife’s POV. But I think proud parents can be granted a little obnoxiousness too. A little.

    I feel the same way about HS admissions, FWIW, which is the land that I am living in currently.

    @RMS – I own & will wear some Illini gear since DH went there, and I didn’t go to a rival. If DS goes there, I will become an ALL OUT Illini fan, I’m telling you right now. (BTW, I did cheer loudly for them as we watched the BB game this afternoon – it isn’t often that they are ranked, so it’s been fun to watch.)

  86. Meme – good luck.
    RMS – hoping you can spend summer with granddaughter. It’s so nice in that area.

  87. Meme, that is so exciting. Looping back to the post about what traits are inherited, it may be interesting to see what you find.

  88. The only college gear I wear is a UCSC banana slug ultimate frisbee shirt from DS2. I also have a heavy Stanford sweatshirt that is pulled out once a year for cold weather sporting use. It is extremely bad form to display any alum or parent gear from the local “college in Boston.” Except at sporting events. Maybe a “house” scarf.

  89. “When DS2 settled on his college, we ran out and bought a ton of burnt orange gear”

    T-Knoxville?

    JK.

  90. I don’t wear college logo clothing, not because of false modesty, but it just isn’t my style. My hoodies all have stuff from Nordic mythology or Celtic interlace on them. DS1’s school has a really fun team character (what do you call those assorted eagles and wildcats and dogs anyway?) so I have bought Tshirts at his school to give to relatives.

  91. “Wyoming’s brown and yellow.”

    One of the rivalry jokes was about their front and back colors.

  92. “It is extremely bad form to display any alum or parent gear from the local “college in Boston.””

    I haven’t bought any logowear for that school for quite a while. I have a shirt I bought many years before DS was born, when DW and I were there as tourists, that I used to wear, but that’s largely been removed from the rotation.

    OTOH, that’s not the school to which the LW’s kid was accepted.

    BTW, even on that campus near Boston, you won’t see a lot of kids wearing logowear, unlike a lot of other schools, e.g., LSJU.

    “I feel the same way about HS admissions “

    I don’t often wear logowear from my kids’ HS either.

  93. I believe I’m neurotic about this. I have a fear of being accosted by someone and being upbraided for wearing logowear that I’m not “entitled” to. Obviously this goes for highly selective schools, but it also goes for Cal State Stanislaus or Colorado State University at Pueblo.

    Who is going to accost me? This isn’t junior high. No one in Kroger is going to stop me and say “How dare you wear the sacred logowear of Southeast Missouri State University?” No one. No one is going to do that. I’m just weird about it.

  94. Rocky, maybe not so much accost you as try to bond with you. I don’t remember the details, but back when we were dating, DH and I were visiting my parents and it ended up getting cold or something, and I loaned him a sweatshirt I found in my sister’s room that belonged to a former boyfriend of hers. It was from a high school from another city or state we had never been to. DH was wearing a week later somewhere and some guy literally ran after him to talk about it. The shirt said some Irish school name wrestling, and apparently the guy had wrestled there and wanted to know what year DH was there, and if he wrestled under coach whoever. DH didn’t feel like going through the whole provenance of the shirt and just said it was his buddy’s, but the guy was super persistent and wanted to know all about the buddy. Very awkward.

    I have a colleague from Scotland who expressed a lot of puzzlement over US parents and their kids’s college acceptances. His feeling was “if they get in, I’m happy for ’em, but it’s their accomplishment, right? Why the f*ck am I wearin’ the shirt? And do I have to put the goddamn sticker in me car window? I just bought this car.” Of course, this was part of a rant that they had not planned to transfer to the US, so they had not spent the last 15 years saving for college, and now here they are with a senior and twin sophomores who will all go to college in the US, and they can’t sell their house in Scotland yet because of Brexit, so I get that he’s not a fan of our system.

    And my alma mater is “America’s brightest orange” so I’m not hating Houston’s new attire!

    One habit of mine that DD has picked up is that when we have to go out looking well below our best, we wear gear that affiliates us with schools/organizations that we don’t really want to be affiliated with. We have no hot water heater and have no water pressure for even a cold shower, so look pretty rough. My grocery store run involved an OU tshirt. DD just got back from Target and I can see she’s wearing a tshirt she never wears from a school she doesn’t really like. It’s good to appreciate your own sense of humor.

  95. “Screw that. If my kid gets into his school of choice I will wear the t shirt as much as I damn well please.”

    Yes. I’ve been approached at the grocery store and pizza place by friends alums. I get a lot more cred wearing maroon than I do the colors or logos of my alma maters.

  96. Houston – yes! The allegiances are crazy strong here!

    Meme that is quite a day! I’m sure it’s a bit overwhelming, but I hope in a good way.

  97. I have sweatshirts and shirts that I wear regularly from Illinois (my alma mater), Arizona, Oregon, and Washington State. If I’m paying for DS to go to U of A, I’m damn well going to wear an “Arizona Dad” sweatshirt.

    And my alma mater is “America’s brightest orange” so I’m not hating Houston’s new attire!

    Illinois is orange and blue so I have no problem with orange, it’s the particular shade that Houston’s DS’ school uses that I find putrid.

    (BTW, I did cheer loudly for them as we watched the BB game this afternoon – it isn’t often that they are ranked, so it’s been fun to watch.)

    It’s been a while since they’ve been this good. Hopefully they can make a run in the tourney.

  98. Rhett, it’s on the other side of town from me fortunately. But still very scary. And DS just got on a flight back to Tucson. (He came home for a couple of days to get his fake tooth repaired.)

  99. “It’s been a while since they’ve been this good. Hopefully they can make a run in the tourney.”

    I saw them play in the final four.

  100. Finn, the kids all like it here, and the oldest has told them that even if the parents eventually move back to Scotland, she wants to stay in the US.

  101. Meme, wow! Congrats!

    Rocky, I’m with DD. I’m writing the checks, so I’m damned sure going to wear the gear.

    Thanks for the good wishes. It was a good call to go out and feel like ourselves again, at least a little bit,* and there was a ton of space in the restaurant, so I felt as safe as possible.

    *We realized while sitting there that it’s about two weeks short of a full year since we ate inside a restaurant – we were in NY first week of March when the first breakout occurred, so I self-quarantined for two weeks when we got back, and by then we’d all shut down here.

  102. Those of you in TX, were you aware in advance that the very cold weather was coming? Did you prepare at all, e.g., stock up on food and make sure your gas tanks were full and/or your car batteries charged?

    I’m wondering how much it was like when we know there’s a hurricane approaching, and people rush to stock up on food, water, gas, and prescription meds. Were stores and gas stations especially busy just before the cold weather hit?

  103. “about two weeks short of a full year since we ate inside a restaurant”

    I think next weekend will make a year for us. We were in Cambridge the same weekend as Mooshi.

  104. Finn, I dont think anyone expected that power generation, gas line supply, and power distribution would fail catastrophically, including at water treatment facilities. Some power outages or rolling blackouts, yes. Some city water mains bursting, yes. Some dangerous icing on the roadways, yes. But nothing on this scale. So people had food in the house and gas fireplaces for short term heat and grills to cook on.

  105. Finn, yes we knew the cold weather was coming, and that there was a chance of snow in Houston. But snow in Houston melts almost immediately. So we planned for a day or two of not being on the road much, which in these times is not a big change. We did a normal grocery run on the weekend, but we don’t buy bottled water normally and there was no reason to think we’d need more than the 12 pack that we keep in the pantry. No one foresaw the grid shut down or the water outages. Even with that, it was only a few days of meals and we have a gas stove, so we managed fine. It was the water that was a problem for us. After DH capped our first leak and we turned our water back on, the neighborhood had some lines break so we were without water again almost immediately. When the neighborhood got its issue resolved and turned the water back on, they told us the City of Houston was cutting us off in around an hour, so in that hour we filled up every possible container we could. Then when stores were open we split up and went to different ones to try to find bottled water, and DD and I were successful at Costco. Now we have tap water back, but with a boil order, so we are using our bottled water to drink, and are boiling the tap water to wash dishes, etc. The stores have are replenishing supplies but are limiting the amounts customers can buy.

    A year ago yesterday I had an unplanned surgery, so was working from home and staying home while I recovered. That morphed into the shutdown, so it’s really been a whole year since I’ve been out in normal times. I’m so ready for a return to something approximating normal.

  106. Becky, thanks.

    From what I’ve read, what happened shouldn’t have been a surprise; investigations had been done and reports written after previous cold snaps that indicated the vulnerabilities that needed to be addressed to prevent this sort of thing. Some articles made it seem like a conscious decision had been made to prioritize low electricity prices over reliability in conditions like what just happened.

    So apparently that information wasn’t widely disseminated, and thus most people weren’t prepared for what was to come.

    It’ll be interesting to see how TX residents prepare the next time a cold snap is predicted. My guess is they will become more common.

    I think WFI’s DH will be very busy.

  107. It does seem that the combination of events on a massive scale was a surprise to Texans. Something similar happened with the Isaias storm last year here. The storm effects surprised local power companies, leading to week-long outages and calls for investigations.

    Freezing pipes have always been a particular problem for many places in Texas. Once I returned from a Christmas trip to find a cold snap had frozen the pipes and flooded the entire first floor. Big mess! The insulation had not been designed for extreme cold.

    Yesterday I got my first Covid-19 shot at a pharmacy less than a mile from home. I’m letting myself think ahead a little about what I will let myself do in a few weeks, like going to a restaurant. I’m the high-risk person in my household, but I will still feel more comfortable when the rest of the family gets their vaccinations. I desperately want to meet with people in person.

    It was relatively painless to get an appointment since I just logged on about 5:30 am and kept refreshing until about 6:05am when slots opened up for the next day. By 6:15 all the slots were taken. I was eager to share my strategy with some relatives, but they responded that it would be so hard to get up that early. What? Oh well. Some people like to complain about their problems more than they want to fix their problems.

  108. Finn, My thoughts echo Becky’s. We usually have a couple of cases of water lying around for hurricane preparedness, as well as batteries/flashlights, etc. We also visit our home country once in a while, so everyone is used to drinking and brushing teeth with boiled water.

    I hope the state does the right thing and invests in our power infrastructure. So many people are suffering.

  109. Amazing, Meme! Yay Kim for your vaccination! I just checked the MA site and nothing is available for my parents. :(

  110. L, the new appointments at The large sites are posted on Thursday. If your parents live in a more remote area, as you do, the local board of health or drug stores may be the best best. DH and and I were just fortunate in that we each had one medical provider that got an allotment and had smartphone in hand to respond quickly when notified electronically. His Kaiser type plan and my Mass General connection were worthless.

  111. “ Some people like to complain about their problems more than they want to fix their problems.”

    A universal truth.

    @Finn – When was it that you saw them in the Final Four? 2005?

    I haven’t eaten inside a restaurant since March 13. We hemmed & hawed and then went out that night thinking we’d be fine if we just kept wiping down everything with Clorox wipes. And then worried about it for two weeks after as everything really shit down.

  112. A school t-shirt led to marriage for a friend of mine. My friend went to high school at a Boston-area prep school (I’ll call it Totebag Academy). After college and grad school, he got a job down in DC. One day he was out and about in DC doing errands, and he spotted a young woman wearing a Totebag Academy t-shirt. He approached her asked her if she had gone to Totebag (she had, but she was a few years younger, so their time at school hadn’t overlapped). They started chatting and comparing notes, and one thing led to another. They’ve been married for about 20 years now.

  113. The last indoor public outing we had as a family was last year on Leap Year Day — February 29. We went to see Fiddler on the Roof in Boston. The theater was packed. I remember that when I went to use the restroom at intermission, I thought to myself that maybe I should wash my hands especially diligently, but that’s all the thought that I gave to the virus. Little did I know what was about to unfold…

  114. My niece got married in the obligatory barn in January 2020, and when I got the save the date I remember thinking she should have planned it for May like a normal person. It could be cold! It could snow! (Turned out to be 60, but raining). So glad she didn’t, as that wedding was our last event and the last time we saw extended family. Winter barn weddings for the win!

    Last time I ate in a restaurant was early feb 2020. I do think I’ll have trouble shaking the sense of peril after we all get the shots. It might be while before I go back into restaurants, etc.

  115. Kim and Meme, glad you received your vaccines.

    My last outing was on Feb 28. I went to MOMA to meet a college friend to see the “new” MOMA. It was closed for a long time for a renovation. We ate in a restaurants until that outbreak in New Rochelle in early March. I’ve had every meal at home since November. We were eating outside until Veteran’s Day, but we haven’t been to a restaurant since November. We still take out, but it will be nice to let someone else clean my dishes. I am still cleaning my own house too.

  116. I took my last out of town trip a year ago when I took DS2 to an admitted student day at UMassBoston. We attended an honors banquet and reception the first night, and went to an Afghan restaurant the next. It was a lot of fun. Photos from that trip just popped up in my Facebook “memories”

  117. We were thrilled to get appointments for my parents when the Mass. vaccine protocols opened to 65+ on Thursday, though the site crashed about 20 times before I finally made it to the end. Fortunately, they are healthy enough to drive 90 mins to the mass vaccination site with availability, as the one close to home was booked instantly.

    The kids have really missed having time with my parents (who are both high risk). With limited risk factors in our immediate household, I am much more excited for my parents to get the shot than I will be when my own time comes!

  118. Meme, thanks for the tip – I will get online with them this Thursday. They are a few towns from you and will have no trouble getting to Gillette or Fenway. I don’t know if their PCP or other health care provider will be of any help at all.

  119. DS2 just got a letter from his doctor stating that he is eligible for a vaccine, but like me, can’t get an appointment. We can’t go to pharmacies because they are only doing over 65 per state request. I was all excited to see availability yesterday at two new sites in Brooklyn and Queens, but then I saw those are only for NYC residents. DS2 doesn’t count as a NYC resident because he is a college student.

  120. L – if the website crashed Thursday morning, just keep hitting reload. That’s what I did, and I eventually grabbed an appointment at Gillette.

    Good luck!!

  121. I second the strategy for getting up early and seeing what becomes available. That’s how I got vaccine appointments for my parents at the county site, which is pretty close to my house. A day that was a holiday suddenly opened up and behold appointments for the whole day were available. In around half an hour the whole day was booked.My parents healthcare practice is just now getting a limited supply of vaccine.

    My last big public event was accompanying DS to an extra curricular activity in Mid March, in a school full of parents and students. I am glad we had my parents 50th Anniversary celebration. That will be the last family get together for a while. My cousin just got married but none of our family other than her sibling and my aunt (her mother) could attend. The home country is restricting things again as cases have started to increase.

  122. My last day of work was March 13. That week, my co-worker Kelly and I had been wiping down everything in the guard office and wiping down the rescue tubes that you’re required to carry at all times when you’re up watching the pool. We were commiserating about how we wished we knew more about the ventilation system in the pool enclosure. Then over the weekend we got the word that the whole staff was laid off til further notice.

  123. We last went out to eat on March 11 – my group had just canceled rehearsals (that was the week of the choir superspreader event in Washington, so good call!) but I convinced DH to come out one more time (the previous weekend we took the kids to our favorite ramen place) to get sushi. I really miss restaurant sushi!

  124. MM, he is eligible to get the vaccine at the NYC locations that are for 65 and under if he can show his school record and/or anything that shows that he lives in Manhattan. I assume that he has something that shows his current address if he ever receives any mail or if there is a bill for student housing.

    My friend’s son attends the same school, lives in the same place and he was able to get an appointment at the large major hospital near the FDR. He got this appointment by using the NYC COVID-19 Vaccine finder. He also has an underlying condition that qualifies him. He brought proof of that condition, but they didn’t even ask to see it. He also does not reside in NYC because he is from another part of the state.

    The other option for both of you is to try to call the state number to get into the locations that take people that are 65 and under. It is the same number, but call the hotline -vaccine appointments for Javits, County Center and other locations around the city. 1 833 697 4829. GO!! Do not do use call back feature. Choose prompt for rescheduling.

    If you are going to say that you don’t have time to call the number to keep checking for cancelations – then I guess you have to wait until you have time or until a time when there is no shortage.

  125. Apparently I’m the odd one out because the last time I ate in a restaurant was about a month ago. And I have been traveling quite a bit.

    From what I’ve read, what happened shouldn’t have been a surprise.

    Not to get too political but lots of these “disasters” have been completely foreseen. The problem is people don’t want to spend the money on preparedness. Bill Gates predicted a pandemic a few years ago. The disaster in New Orleans after Katrina was predicted. Everyone knows how vulnerable the power grid is. Etc.

  126. Lauren, I really do not understand how this works because the instructions we received said that we can ONLY use the locations listed on the state vaccine finder – the Am I Eligible app. It does not show any hospitals. There is so much confusion around this. DS2 was also told by this dorm administration that he cannot claim residency until he has lived at that address for a year. Perhaps your friend’s son has been in NYC for more than a year?

    Believe it or not, DS2 does not even have a school ID. They shut down the office that gives them out so he has never figured out how to get one.

  127. So I went on the NYC Covid Vaccine finder to check. The hospital you mentioned is not scheduling any first dose appointments right now. I scrolled through most of the list, and none of the hospitals I saw had first dose appointments and everything else is 65+

  128. “I took my last out of town trip a year ago when I took DS2 to an admitted student day at UMassBoston.”

    OK, so my last meal out was a year ago. I remember that Mooshi posted about being on her trip while we were also there, and thinking about trying to meet, but DW didn’t feel well that night. DW later wondered if she got covid then (I believe a superspreader event happened in Boston that same weekend), but a subsequent antibody test indicated that probably wasn’t the case.

    That was also part of my last trip. I remember noticing that more than a handful of people were wearing masks on the plane and in the airport here.

  129. DS2 was also told by this dorm administration that he cannot claim residency until he has lived at that address for a year.

    I don’t know about NYC specifically but most places are operating on the honor system. They aren’t demanding documentation when you show up for your appointment.

  130. “When was it that you saw them in the Final Four? 2005? “

    1989, in Seattle. Michigan won.

    I remember that one rim seemed to be noticeably softer than the other. Whichever team had that softer rim in the second half won all the games.

  131. “My last day of work was March 13. “

    That was the last day of F2F school for both my kids.

    DS’ school told students the week before to not travel for spring break (the 13th was the last day before break) because of concerns they would bring back the virus, then reversed course on the 11th and told the students they had to vacate no later than the 15th, and left kids scrambling to book travel home, right after many of them had canceled their reservations. They also did not allow kids to store any belongings in the dorms, so kids were scrambling to arrange storage or transport, or just leaving stuff; normally kids are allowed to store some stuff in the dorms over summers.

    OTOH, I’m glad they didn’t do what many other schools did, and let the kids leave stuff in their rooms, and then require them to come back later to clean out their stuff from their rooms.

    DS got home on the 15th (when we picked him up at the airport, we saw a whole bunch of kids from his HS who’d all been on the same flight home). He mostly stayed in his room for 2 weeks. He didn’t leave home except for going on neighborhood walks, and once driving DW to pick up a takeout order, until the end of May when there were a bunch of drivethrough graduation parties.

    DD’s class found out a couple days before that their prom was canceled, so on the 13th all the seniors wore their prom clothes to school.

  132. “I hope the state does the right thing and invests in our power infrastructure. So many people are suffering. “

    I wonder if that’s the state’s decision to make. It seems like TX takes pride in lack of government control.

    I wonder if a more likely outcome is something along the lines of what Rhett suggested,
    in which electricity customers can choose providers whose systems are more robust but who charge more.

  133. Those of you who live where sub-freezing temperatures are normal, how do you prevent your pipes from freezing?

    I know from watching This Old House that one measure is to empty any pipes outside the house, or use special fittings that put the valves for outdoor spigots inside the house. Is the basic approach to keep all pipes within the heated part of the house, and keeping the thermostats set at least above freezing? I’m guessing the supply lines also need to be buried below the frost line.

    Do you employ any additional measures in advance of approaching weather events that might lead to very cold temperatures or disruption of utility services?

    I’ve heard of cracking open faucets enough to drip; what circumstances would call for something like that?

  134. I’ve heard of cracking open faucets enough to drip; what circumstances would call for something like that?

    When the forecast calls for temps in the single digits is when people would let the faucets drip. With that being said, temps in the single digits is way too cold to snow. If there is a blizzard that will cause power outages temps would be in the upper 20s.

  135. “ With that being said, temps in the single digits is way too cold to snow. ”

    That’s what I thought/experienced until last week when we got 10 consecutive days of snow – mostly in the single digits or low teens. Including Presidents Day when we got over a foot while it was hovering around 10. Meh!

    But we never lost power or had pipes freeze.

    I’ve only had pipes freeze when someone let the heat turn off. One time, we were living above a vacant apartment that turned off the heat & that caused a freeze in the lines in their unit but it affected the whole building. The other time was the same – downstairs neighbor turned the heat off & then went on vacation in December. I came home one day to water pouring out that neighbor’s back door. That time water only had to be turned off to his specific unit though. In both of these cases it had gotten down to the single digits.

    I don’t think I’ve ever even let the pipes drip, to be honest. We do turn off the water to the outside faucets in fall.

  136. In contemporary houses, the pipes are all within insulated areas. We do blow out the sprinkler system in the fall (well, the guy comes around and does it, actually.) We never set the thermostat below 55 even if we’re traveling elsewhere. This is all standard in climates where very cold weather is expected. You get into trouble when freakishly cold weather happens, as appears to be the case in Texas. It’s reasonable to build to the predictable weather in an area. You look at history and see what the lows and highs are, build in a little margin, and then design for those temps. I am reminded of WCE talking about tradeoffs. There’s no particular reason to design houses in Houston for the temperatures in North Dakota. But then when freak weather happens, it’s a huge mess.

  137. Those of you who live where sub-freezing temperatures are normal, how do you prevent your pipes from freezing?

    Insulation. Few / no pipes immediately abutting (i.e. insulation between the pipe and the plywood) the outside plywood sheet which sits underneath/behind the siding. For outside spigots, there are weatherproof ones which are normally, not special order, installed when a house is built. We have never had to take any special precaution, unless you consider keeping our heat on to about 60F 24/7 when we’re away and not using the house.We could probably go lower, like to 50F.

    Do you employ any additional measures in advance of approaching weather events that might lead to very cold temperatures or disruption of utility services?

    It’s more like preparing because getting to the grocery store might be iffy for a couple of days.

    In early March 1993 we had an ice storm that knocked out power for 0-10 days for people (we lost power for 4). But the water worked, we had a gas stove. The weather was cold, like 10s at night 20s in the day, a good thing, because we could move refrigerated/frozen things to the deck in coolers and all was good. We had plenty of firewood, hung blankets in doorways to keep the kitchen and family room in the high 50s, warmer when the sun came shining thru. HFN or Ada…were you here?

    I’ve heard of cracking open faucets enough to drip; what circumstances would call for something like that? When they’re poorly insulated.

  138. Finn In a condo townhouse complex, the snowbirds have to drain the pipes before they leave, shut the water off at the main intake, set the thermostat to 50 or so, and put antifreeze in the toilets and the tanks. Alarms or electronic notification from the thermostat is advisable. My best friend only discovered that the heat was off when she got a january 10 dollar gas bill. I have the key. Scramble ensued. If it is a free standing house, that may be enough but there is an even more rigorous protocol. If the home is occupied, adequate heat in all areas with pipes does the trick and shut off to outside faucets. I recall LfB had some pipes that ran through an unheated area and had to fix it. We added plumbing on an outside wall and had to use double foam insulation. My friends with a colorado springs 12 mos “cabin” had one of the heat pumps go on the fritz this week (alarm notification) , and will be installing a baseboard heating back up. I have been clearing ice from my heat pump. It works, but makes a racket if there is build up.

  139. “a vacant apartment that turned off the heat & that caused a freeze in the lines in their unit “
    “turned the heat off & then went on vacation in December. “

    If you turn off the heat in winter, but also turn off water supply at the meter and crack open some faucets, wouldn’t that prevent burst pipes?

    So I’m thinking that what happened in TX was mostly that a lot of homes rely on electricity for heat, and when they lost electricity, they lost heat, and water in pipes froze, and pipes burst ruptured. So I’m thinking that many of those ruptured pipes could’ve been avoided by turning off water supply at the meter, and opening some faucets (making sure to first fill some containers with water).

    And I guess the problem really isn’t pipes freezing. Pipes already in solid phase; it’s when water in the pipes freezes and causes the pipes to fail.

  140. “My best friend only discovered that the heat was off when she got a january 10 dollar gas bill.”

    Did any of her pipes fail?

  141. “HFN or Ada…were you here?”

    Oh yes, I will never forget it; I had an infant at the time. We lost power for 2 weeks, but our 1930’s house had a one room addition that had its own gas heat that didn’t require a blower. So we had one warm room, and DS and I spent all our time there. The other side of the street never lost power. For us the issue was that every day we would call the power company line that confidently told us our power would be restored “tomorrow.” If ever they had said it was going to be weeks, of course I’d have loaded my baby up in the car and headed south to my parents’ home, leaving DH to fend for himself since he worked in a nice warm office every day.

  142. And I guess the problem really isn’t pipes freezing. Pipes already in solid phase; it’s when water in the pipes freezes and causes the pipes to fail.

    Ya think?

    A problem with the after the fact scenario is that if the whole house shut off is outside or in an exposed area, by the time the heat fails the water and gunk around the lever may be frozen open. So draining doesnt work. And the incidental moisture in natural gas lines also froze.

  143. We had not had a very cold winter at that point. Her house was about 40. But the water shutboff wasn’t fully engaged and the heating contractor had to drain the pipes and the hot water heater until the gas co could fix the problem. . The gas co had been changing meters and the owners were supposed to answer a robocall or some such to have gas service restarted. Then the gas company helpfully lit the pilot on the drained water heater that may now be ruined.

  144. “by the time the heat fails the water and gunk around the lever may be frozen open.”

    Right, so the key would be taking proactive action to fill containers with water, then shut off the water supply and drain the pipes, before the freeze.

    I hope as people whose pipes burst get them repaired, they’re also adding insulation around those pipes.

  145. My bet is that most homeowners did what they were advised to do and it still didn’t work because what happened with the weather was a freakin’ catastrophe.

  146. ” If ever they had said it was going to be weeks, of course I’d have … headed south to my parents’ home… ”

    Yeah ditto for us. DW was pregnant and could have easily made the 5hr drive to her parents’, but it was ‘only going to be a day or so’. And I did indeed have my fully heated office downtown* and was expected to work after the first day (storm hit Sunday night, so Monday was a no-driving day) but beginning Tuesday everyone was expected in. Pre WFH days.

    * I remember a number of women saying it was so good to be able to come to work because at least at work they didn’t have to sit on a freezing toilet seat when they had to go.

  147. “My bet is that most homeowners did what they were advised to do and it still didn’t work”

    From what Becky and Houston have posted, I’m thinking that they weren’t given advice that, if followed, would’ve prevented pipe failures.

    I wonder if people who’d lived in places where subfreezing temperatures happen regularly had a lower incidence of pipe failures.

  148. “My bet is that most homeowners did what they were advised to do and it still didn’t work because what happened with the weather was a freakin’ catastrophe.”

    In Texas? Yes, I’m sure that’s true. It really was a freak thing. I would assume electric heat is pretty common too since the temps are so moderate usually, no?

    As for the times I mentioned above where I have dealt with pipes freezing in a cold climate… more details for Finn.

    The first incident was in a rental unit and the tenants who moved out were idiot 20-somethings who didn’t know any better, the landlord lived in Arizona, and the landlord didn’t explicitly tell the maintenance guy to check on the vacant unit’s heat. It was Super Bowl Sunday, and the Bears were in the Super Bowl, so I assume everyone was also distracted by that. :) We had individual thermostats in that building, which was somewhat unusual for the building type – a classic early 1900’s greystone 3-flat. DH & I spent the day at our neighborhood bar just a little stinky, which was fine because: Bears in the Super Bowl. (this was before DS obviously)

    The second – my retired neighbor had just installed a Nest, but he didn’t really understand how to use it. He did get a “low temperature” warning on his phone – at 3am. He didn’t hear it. I discovered the water coming out the back of his house at 7:30am when I was dropping DS off at school. He hadn’t woken up yet because he had traveled West to visit his son. He woke up when I called him to tell him, get the alarm code, etc. To add to it, when someone installed this particular faucet for him, they skimped on the insulation around that pipe as well, so it was not up to code.

  149. Ivy, thanks for the details.

    The bottom line I’m getting from those cases is, heating turned off, water not shut off, temps get cold, pipes burst. Which is what sounds like what happened to many people in TX. Although with the retired neighbor, it sounds like it might’ve been an undrained exterior spigot that caused the failure.

    Given that for many TX folks, keeping heat on wasn’t an option, shutting off water would be the next thing to try to prevent pipes from bursting.

    Seems to me one root problem was that those who’d received the earlier reports that predicted power outages in such weather conditions did not act on them, including not letting the general population know that electrical failures were likely, even though the weather conditions had been predicted. I.e., lack of good advice on how to prevent the problem.

    It’ll be interesting to see the response, including how people prepare the next time such conditions are predicted. Probably some of them will feel secure because they’ve installed generators.

  150. Finn, you can sleep well tonight knowing that burst pipes could not EVER happen to you because of your vigilance and preparedness. For most lesser mortals, sh-t happens.

  151. “not letting the general population know that electrical failures were likely”

    Nobody, including the “experts” thought that electrical failures were likely. They did not predict that so much generation would go off line. Hopefully they will winterize generation and transmission better from now on. I hope voters hold these politicians accountable.

  152. “Seems to me one root problem was that those who’d received the earlier reports that predicted power outages in such weather conditions did not act on them”

    Seems like you’re really desperate to blame the victims. Any particular reason, other than engineer smugness?

  153. “Seems like you’re really desperate to blame the victims.”

    Really?

    I’m just curious as to why what happened happened, and how it might’ve been mitigated. Might come in handy sometime in the future.

    There’s been a bunch of coverage of it, but I was interested in hearing from folks like Houston and Becky how things played out for them.

  154. Finn – as a home owner one takes precautions but TX was a very cascading situation with power failure and water failure. We have a generator and installed gas cook top to mitigate against power failure. But we don’t have a backup for a backup. What if both electric and natural gas fail ? It can go and on, about what you could and should have done.

  155. There was not much advance warning of power outages. When it started happening we were told they would be rolling outages and people believed that until it was clear it was untrue. We followed advice and turned water off where it came into the house. An outside sprinkler pipe burst. The pipe was wrapped and we drained the sprinkler but apparently there’s a bladder or something that is beyond what I care to know that we missed. After discovering this we turned it off at the main cutoff at the curb. Our tankless water heater, that we thought was drained, cracked along the heat exchanger. Again, I have no idea what I’m talking about. We discovered it only when we turned the water back on. Not sure what we will do differently next time. We are discussing whether we think a generator is worth the investment. In the first 26 years we have been here, the answer has been no.

    This is stuff Houstonians have never had to know. It has gotten below 10 degrees 4 times in history. People followed advice they were given. Depending on the timing of power and water going off and coming back on between Sunday night and Thursday, people were doing the best they could.

  156. “TX was a very cascading situation with power failure and water failure.”

    My current understanding is that the water failure is largely a result of the electricity failure.

    I think a major goal should be to learn from the experience so nothing this bad happens again, especially since trends suggest the likelihood of increasingly severe weather events, at the individual level as well as at levels that decide policy.

    Were I living in TX, the next time such a cold snap is predicted, I’d fill up a bunch of containers with water, shut off my water supply at the meter, and make sure my gas tanks are full and my car batteries are charged.

    Kinda like how ever since Kim posted about coming home to a flooded basement, I turn off our water supply at the meter when we travel.

    I’m probably influenced by the messaging we get every hurricane season, that we all need to take responsibility for preparation, because there are limits to government response and we need to be prepared to provide for ourselves, and perhaps also neighbors and family, at least in the immediate aftermath.

  157. “Were I living in TX, the next time such a cold snap is predicted, I’d fill up a bunch of containers with water, shut off my water supply at the meter, and make sure my gas tanks are full and my car batteries are charged.”

    We had bathtubs full of water, cases of water bottles, flashlights, batteries, plenty of cash, food, and gas–this is normal hurricane stuff. HOWEVER, days without heat is another thing altogether…

  158. Yeah, IDK what to do about no heat other than lots of clothes, blankets, etc.

    I wonder if in the aftermath, there’s a shift to gas for heat, especially in homes that already have gas service for appliances, and for new construction.

  159. “I have gas heat. You need electricity to blow the heat into the house.”

    That’s not true for all homes with gas heat. I lived in an apartment with gas heat but no blower, and my first house also didn’t have a blower. In both cases no electricity was required to heat the house.

    But in any case, my guess is the amount of electricity for the blower is fairly low and could be supplied by a generator like Milo’s, an F-150, or a PV panel.

  160. The heaters in my SV apartment and house were wall furnaces. They looked similar to this:

    https://www.homedepot.com/p/Williams-50-000-BTU-Hr-Monterey-Top-Vent-Wall-Furnace-Natural-Gas-5009622A/100073147

    Note the third bullet: “Requires no electricity for operation.”

    I’ve also seen similar furnaces in homes in SoCal. IDK if they’re commonly used anywhere else.

    I guess in TX, a lot of homes have central heat, so it makes sense that those homes might use the ducting for heat as well.

    Hmm, I wonder if this might make ductless AC/heat pump systems more popular in TX.

    From RMS’ link:
    “When turned on, the furnace, which is located in your basement, burns fuel like gas or oil and produces heat.”

    I’ve never lived anywhere with a basement, so I don’t think I had a gravity furnace. It was a one-story house, so I don’t see how it would operate based on gravity.

  161. My cousin in TX had bathtubs, buckets, etc full of water. Bottled water. They all froze solid after 24 hours without heat/electricity. Luckily they were able to go to a friend’s house who did have heat & electricity.

    Preparing for it to be in the single digits in Houston would be like preparing for an earthquake here. Technically, it’s possible, but it not something that has ever been part of any disaster preparedness plan I’ve ever seen.

  162. “They all froze solid after 24 hours without heat/electricity.”

    Wow, I did not know it got that cold that fast.

    At least the food in their fridge probably did not spoil as a result of electrical outage.

    “Preparing for it to be in the single digits in Houston would be like preparing for an earthquake here.”

    You’ve never learned how to take cover in an earthquake?

    Earthquakes are a lot different. You don’t have days of notice to prepare for a specific event.

  163. Ivy, yes, I’ve been in single digit temperatures, and colder.

    With earthquakes, very often you have zero time to prepare, you just need to react when you feel the shaking. The key is to avoid being hit by things that fall. If you’re indoors, move to a doorway, or hide under a solid desk or table, and move away from tall things that could topple. If you’re outdoors, move away from buildings, since things can fall from buildings.

  164. All this talk about single digits reminds me of a horrible trip when I was a kid. We were driving from the West back to KY in January, through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, etc. We were in a VW bus and the heat failed. My parents thought it would be OK because we were on the warm Southern route. But a major cold snap hit the entire region and temps went down, yes, to the single digits. The coldest point was Amarillo where we also encountered an ice storm (and yes, I know Amarillo is the northern part of the state). We had a lot of canned goods in the car from Asian markets in the West. It all froze solid. Cans of solid ice. It was so cold in that car. My parents weren’t willing to just stop and stay in a motel until it got warmer because it would have messed up schedules and cost money. I was so glad to get home.

  165. We had radiators when I lived up North. I enjoyed them. I guess people here didn’t want the heaters in their living areas when we need heat for only 2-3 months of the year.

  166. Finn: I recognize that you are being an engineer and deconstructing the problem to figure out opportunities to prevent a recurrence. But you should understand that for someone who’s not an engineer, it comes across as if you believe that the people who were caught out just weren’t smart enough to take what you consider to be basic measures to protect themselves. A/k/a blaming the victims.

    The thing is, no one ever has perfect knowledge of anything. Look at Becky’s story: she took all of the precautions that you’d expect her to take, but she didn’t know about something inside the sprinkler system that still had water in it, or something in the hot water heater. And most people don’t know every tiny detail of their plumbing, electricity, insulation, or all of those other systems inside the house that you cannot see. You know where the water shutoff valve is and the main breaker panel into the house and think you’re good. But you don’t know what you don’t know.

    And even if you do have perfect knowledge, there are always limited resources. We live in an area where things are mostly mild — your periodic cold snaps or heat waves, an occasional depleted hurricane or small tornado, etc. (even a small earthquake). But if you step back and imagine the worst thing that has happened over the past say 500 years, we could have some very bad stuff happen. We could have a week or more of temperatures over 100 with high humidity and rolling blackouts. We could have a week or more of temperatures lower than TX had with rolling blackouts. We could have a massive hurricane, or an ice storm that takes out all the trees and overhead power lines. We could have a tsunami that takes out most of downtown. I could have a 5.0 earthquake with the epicenter right below my house, or an F3 tornado make a beeline for me. Hell, we could have a rogue bear break through our windows.

    Our house would not even come close to withstanding all of that, and trying to ensure safety against all of those risks would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, which no one could afford. So you design for the most likely risks, and cross your fingers that the worst-case scenario doesn’t happen. We’d be ok in a massive heat wave, because our house is designed to manage hot summers, because it was built before AC and so the heat and humidity was the biggest danger. The newer parts are designed to withstand reasonably cold temperatures — we don’t have pipes in those exterior walls, for ex., we drain the exterior spigots, and we know where the water shutoff valve is. And we also almost never lose power, because we’re clearly on a part of the grid that feeds something critical, so having a generator has never made financial sense.

    But if we had an extended cold wave and power loss, we’d be in trouble, because the same features that help our house get rid of heat buildup in a heat wave — high ceilings, big windows on all sides, a stairwell “chimney” — also make it less able to *retain* heat if the power goes out. We would obviously do what we could to prepare (probably live in the kitchen with the gas stove, tape blankets around the windows, etc.). But when your infrastructure is not designed for the black swan event — and it almost never is — there’s only so much you can do to manage.

    Again: I could “safety-proof” my house against all of that. I could add hurricane shutters and straps, I could take off all of the siding and roofing and add extra insulation, I could add earthquake strapping, I could add a generator, I could buy propane heaters to run inside, I could stock my basement with nonperishable food and water, etc. etc. etc. I could install bars on the windows to keep bears out. But we have not made those investments because the cost is huge when compared to the miniscule risks of those things happening — and we’re lucky, we could actually *afford* to do that, where 99% of people couldn’t. I would argue that our decision is a perfectly rational, economically-efficient one, both personally and for society as a whole, because we don’t *want* our society making extreme investments to guard against black swan risks, at the expense of using those limited resources for higher priorities. But that means we also need to have a sense of understanding and a safety net in place when those freak events do happen, and not act like people could have prevented it if “only” they’d taken some basic precautions.

  167. In many ways, the Texas debacle reminds me a bit of the mess caused by Sandy up here in the NYC region. Yes, it was a terrible storm, but a lot of the destruction was preventable – not building so many houses so close to the water, not putting the emergency generation systems in the basements of major hospitals, better floodproofing for the subway systems, better floodproofing in general. And no one stopped to think about what would happen to gasoline distribution during a widespread and lenghthy blackout. It was a mess, people were killed, and everyone vowed to do better in the future. But you know what, we still won’t pay to bury our electrical lines and upgrading the subway tunnels is taking forever.
    Every region is unprepared for something…

  168. Mooshi, did the govt take steps after Sandy to mitigate future storms? I know about the damage caused, but don’t know about how things changed after Sandy.

  169. They did but there was never enough money and the money dribbled out slowly. People were still rebuilding years later. Sandy was one of those climate change warning events, but no one wants to pay for the necessary measures to deal with it

  170. Houston – some things changed after Sandy – new buildings with empty first floors (garages), changes in where back up generators in hospitals are kept, various upgrades to subway lines and tunnels – all come to top of mind. Still not enough in my opinion.

  171. I think what’s galling about the Texas situation is the perception that local government could’ve taken simple regulatory steps that would have lessened the impact of this unusual event but chose not to, despite warnings of the risks, and the consumers bore the brunt of the damage, including lives lost. Burying electricity lines and re-jiggering physical infrastructure take far more money and time so, for me, aren’t quite comparable.

  172. All homes on the coast in NY and NJ are required to be built or renovated using the new building codes. If you visit towns in Long Island and NJ, all homes on the bay or ocean must be raised. The homes that were renovated right after Sandy were also raised. In addition, there are now stronger materials used for these same homes – specifically windows and shutters. It would be almost impossible to obtain a building permit or home insurance if these new guidelines are not followed.

    The power lines are not going to be buried in my lifetime. No one seems willing to spend the money and I’ve seen how long it s taking Con Ed to upgrade the gas lines in my town. This is the third year and they are making slow progress. It takes them days just to open ups the roads to get to the gas lines.

    The hospitals along the east river that were impacted by Sandy did make changes, but all of the hospitals are private with the exception of Bellevue.

  173. “I recognize that you are being an engineer and deconstructing the problem to figure out opportunities to prevent a recurrence. “

    Thank you. Yes, I’m trying to glean what I can from what happened, and perhaps sometime in the future that knowledge will come in handy.

    “But you don’t know what you don’t know. “

    But this experience could be teaching us, so next time we’ll know more.

    “Our house would not even come close to withstanding all of that, and trying to ensure safety against all of those risks would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, which no one could afford. “

    I wasn’t advocating for people to make huge changes to their homes. My focus is more on what actions could be taken to minimize the negative impact of a similar event in the future, e.g., shutting off water at the meter to prevent burst pipes.

    I’ve mused about whether this will change trends moving forward in things like what sort of heating systems are installed.

  174. For those of you in TX, I’m curious as to whether there was any widely disseminated guidance in the week or so leading up to the cold snap on how to prevent and deal with freezing in pipes.

    That would seem to be a predictable danger associated with a cold snap, and seems to be a leading cause of pain in the aftermath.

  175. Finn, my understanding is that people were told to drip their faucets, and they did, and then that ended up causing more problems (lower pressure) that exacerbated the unexpected water supply issues.

  176. “unexpected water supply issues”

    I heard on a podcast that the electricity issues led to water supply issues because water pumps shut down.

  177. I suspect it’s both. IME, really big FUBARs are never the result of one failure. It’s when the gaps in numerous systems all line up like a stack of Swiss cheese.

    Finn, as Becky indicated, there was advice circulated about turning off the water supply, and they followed it, and things still got messed up. The problems were not that people didn’t know it was going to get cold, or that the government didn’t tell them that they should shut off water and drain their pipes, or that people didn’t understand to stockpile water and food just like they do every year for hurricanes. Really, you’re asking pretty basic questions that seem to be founded on the belief that neither the government nor the utilities nor the residents had the sense God gave a goose. And that’s insulting to every Texan (even former Texans like me). The reality is that people took normal preventive/preparation measures, and those were wildly insufficient in the face of a black-swan-level cold snap.

    If you actually want to delve in and focus on potential preventive measures in a useful way, I suggest you start from the assumption that the vast majority of people did the very simple, very basic things that everyone knows, and focus instead on the other, systemic issues that kept the standard efforts from succeeding. Like: does it make sense to modify the TX home construction code to assume colder temperatures as a design basis, so homes can stay warmer longer? Are there better ways we can design irrigation systems and water heaters to automatically drain once the water is turned off (or provide a sacrifical expansion tank that could blow instead of taking out the piping or entire unit)? Should we revise the regulations for power generators to require additional winterization and backup efforts? Should we require new PUDs to require a certain amount of backup power for residents — or at a minimum override HOA rules that might restrict installation of personal generators? Etc. etc. etc.

  178. LfB– I’m mainly trying to learn what I might be able to do in a similar situation, i.e., given a few days to a week to prepare, to minimize negative impacts, and also decisions directly within my control, e.g., which electricity provider/plan to choose.

    The systemic stuff is interesting too, but would not be directly within my control.

  179. Finn: Ok. But you should understand that to someone who is a non-engineer, your questions sound very much like you think everyone is stupid. E.g., asking if the local authorities sent around any suggestions about shutting off water, because freezing pipes appears to be a predictable danger. That question implies that you think they may have been so stupid as to overlook something so obvious, which — to quote myself, because I rather liked that phrase — seems to be founded on the belief that neither the government nor the utilities nor the residents had the sense God gave a goose. (Plus I don’t see how what the local TX authorities did/didn’t do is helpful to your own preparation for the next HI disaster.)

    Tl;dr: you do not mean to be offensive, but your questions are easily interpreted that way. So if you’re wanting to know for a specific reason — like, say, your own future planning — it may be helpful to say that directly. E.g., “I’m interested in learning from what went wrong here so that I can be better prepared for future emergencies. What did the authorities do that was helpful? What didn’t they do that you would have found helpful? What efforts did you take that worked, and what didn’t? Why do you think that was?” Etc.

  180. Finn, DD is correct. People were told to drip their pipes, and many did. On our neighborhood Facebook some suggested we turn off the water at the main connection at the street. After initially having turned it off where it came into the house, the second night we turned it off at the street. Pipes belong to our neighborhood MUD bursting were unanticipated and I’m not sure where they were located. They were fixed within a few hours. DD is also right that the loss in pressure due to breaks within the city is what led to the City of Houston cutting us off, and the lack of power combined with the low pressure caused the MUD to not flow any water to our homes for a while, then to resume under a boil order. To say there was a lot going over those 72 hours is an understatement. There are lots of small municipal utility districts (MUDs) in the county that drill wells and manage the water for their neighborhoods. In my part of the county, we also purchase water from Houston via another quasi-governmental agency to offset subsidence. Lots of decision points. So our home was briefly down but mostly up. Our MUD was briefly down but mostly up. Houston was down more than either our MUD or our home, but the three were down sequentially, resulting in an uncomfortable few days. The outage we could have prevented was the shortest and we capped it ourselves. The other two were out of our control. I don’t know where the breaks were to know who was responsible to have prevented them.

  181. Becky, it just sounds awful. I’m so sorry for all our TX totebaggers. What an ordeal.

    Up until this happened I didn’t know anybody anywhere had to choose their electric power supplier. I’ve always just had whichever company services my area, and I would have no idea how to evaluate different providers. I can understand why lots of people just choose the cheapest or whatever one their realtor or their uncle suggests.

  182. HFN, ditto, we’ve only ever had one electrical provider choice.

    Becky, Houston et al, I hope you’re all back up and running now!

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