Being in the communication business, specifically the community newspaper business, I get a little troubled when people say things like, “I didn’t know anything about that”, when it has been published in this newspaper, on The Pilot’s website, or on our Facebook Page.
When I was younger, I used to take it personally when someone said, “I don’t read the newspaper.”
Today, I just shake my head and say, “Then why are you complaining when you don’t know something?”
The news world is changing faster than a lightning bug turns off and on, but that doesn’t mean all news sources are reliable.
Traditional daily newspapers, network news channels, and even local news channels aren’t what they used to be.
This brings me to what we collectively experienced last week with Winter Storm Uri. Much of what our community experienced in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, was experienced again with Uri.
First, there’s the obvious, many didn’t have electricity or water.
Second, there were “problems” with communication, at least in the minds of some people.
I’m okay with that, but I’d like to offer a little advice. You can take it or leave it. Either way, I’ll still be sitting in my chair typing away for a few more years.
After Harvey, there was no communication for a brief period of time. There was no electricity, and no Internet, except in certain locations, at certain times of the day, and service was spotty at best.
I vividly remember trying to upload videos to The Pilot’s Facebook page after Harvey. Each one took at least 10 minutes to upload. Sometimes I had to wait until I started my journey back to New Braunfels where I stayed the first few nights after that storm.
People wanted information, and it was hard to get that information to you. The situation was just bad.
One of the things I learned after Harvey was to make sure multiple backup batteries for my cell phone were fully charged.
My cell phone was everything in the days after Harvey. Home delivery of the newspaper was next to impossible, and many of the outlets where this newspaper are sold, were closed.
However, whatever I could share, I shared with you. Whether you received it was solely up to you individually, up to the Internet’s signal at the time, or some combination of the two.
One thing I do know, for 100% certainty, is everyone who had the responsibility of disseminating information did the very best they could under trying circumstances.
Fast forward to Winter Storm Uri.
Once the power went out, laptop and desktop computers were useless, unless one had an alternative power source.
This newspaper’s print edition was of little use in terms of breaking news since it is published twice a week. No, that doesn’t hurt my pride. It’s a fact.
However, everything that needed to be shared with the public was posted on The Pilot’s Facebook page.
I learned after Harvey, and you told me as well, the news shared in that storm’s aftermath was easily received, and welcomed.
I take all the information provided by local government entities, the Emergency Operations Center, and any other credible source during times of emergency, and post it ASAP.
If one doesn’t have access to the Internet (Facebook), then there’s a good chance he or she will miss out on important information during emergencies. And, as you well know, too much of the content on Facebook is garbage, so it’s up to you to find a good source of information.
Something every one of you should do, as soon as you finish this column, or if you decide to quit reading it right now, is sign up for the CodeRED emergency alert system. Visit https://public.coderedweb.com/CNE/en-US/C3F2FDDE07FB right now and sign up if you haven’t already done so.
Emergency messages will be sent to your phone and email if you so choose.
Everything that goes out on CodeRED is also posted on our Facebook page.
The point I’m trying to make is that the information is out there. It is your responsibility to know where to find that information.
The City of Rockport does a very good job with its website, as well, but I’ve found it is easier to post on Facebook, and quicker, during fast moving events.
I don’t respond to comments on our Facebook Page, unless absolutely necessary. I try to provide complete information, and it’s your responsibility to take action based on that information.
The bottom line, and this will make many people mad, is that in times of emergency, you are your first line of defense. You must do everything you can to prepare for what is forecast.
Winter Storm Uri was a weather event we will probably never see again in our lifetime.
Hurricane Harvey was a weather event we will probably never see again in our lifetime.
When a severe weather event occurs, you must take appropriate action, especially when you are given a heads up something bad is heading our way.
The conditions most of us faced when the temperature dipped below freezing, and stayed there, were terrible.
Yes, our home in Rockport Country Club didn’t have power or water like most people in the county. It had nothing to do with skin color, the amount of money one has, or anything like that, even if social media posts try to tell you differently.
Lessons will be learned after this winter storm, but as it was happening, the long-term protection of the power grid, and our water system, were of ultimate importance, even though it caused a lot of short-term pain.
The lessons I learned in Uri were many, including having drinking water available all the time. I laughed at my wife, a week before Uri hit, as we were shopping. She said she needed another case of bottled water. I said you have half a case in the outside fridge. I went ahead a got it! The lesson learned is that if you drink bottled water on a regular basis, go ahead and have two or three cases on hand. Use the ol’ FIFO (first in, first out) inventory method and you will always have more than two cases of water on hand. Doing so means one doesn’t have to wait on others to provide water in an emergency.
Another thing I learned is generators don’t start on their own. I bought a new one after Harvey. The one we had blew up after one week’s use! The problem is, the new one was still in the box. Guess what? It’s still in the box! I didn’t have any gas, so taking it out of the box wouldn’t have done us any good.
I was the one and only one to blame for not being prepared.
Another thing I learned was our bay system holds a lot of water, and it didn’t even notice when I leaned over the bulkhead at Rockport Harbor to fill my aluminum turkey frying pot with water to use in the toilets at my office, and at our house.
It is hard facing challenging times. I’d rather have the heat (after Harvey) than sub-freezing temperatures.
But, as with everything in life, there are tradeoffs. The aftermath of Harvey still lingers. The freezing weather of last week has already passed.
It is easy to blame government officials for not getting you what you thought you deserved in an emergency. It’s easier to prepare, and be able to wait out the initial tough period until help arrives.
If you take anything from this column, please prepare for, to the best of your ability, anything that you know you’re about to face, sign up for CodeRED, learn how to access Facebook if you don’t already know how, “like” The Pilot’s Facebook page, have back up batteries for all critical equipment, and ALWAYS have enough drinking water in your home to cover everyone in your household for at least three days.
Get mad at me all you want, but remember this column the next time you’re in the dark, but hydrated and getting good information off your phone.
One last thing … all emergencies are local.
Make sure you have what you need BEFORE the emergency hits.
Always check on your neighbor, and get to know them if you don’t already know them.
Make sure everything is ready inside your own hoola hoop, that way you don’t have to depend on others during the initial stages of a weather emergency.
Until next week, have a good week.
Mike Probst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.