When it’s 100 degrees outside, it’s hard to talk about winter storms. Just like it was hard to imagine it being 100 degrees in mid-February, when record cold iced Texas.

The cold temperatures, which brought sub-freezing weather for 252 hours, plunged to minus-4 degrees. Before that happened, the city lost power at its water treatment plants, causing a total shutoff of water.

Loss of power across Texas — Abilene was one of 23 larger cities with storm-related issues — caused so many problems that vows were made at the state level that the situation never would happen again.

Locally, residents wanted to know how the city would react.

Installation of generators at the facilities was one idea, though a costly one.

Was this a 100-year event — actually, it was more as we broke records dating back to 1895 — that we wouldn’t soon re-experience? Or, considering recent hailstorms, the May 2019 tornado and record summer heat 10 years ago, would a similar winter storm sock it to us more sooner than later?

Since 2011, the city has been able to provide utilities for more than 99% of the time. It’s that fraction when services fail that we’re worried about.

The Abilene City Council this week took up the issue, then decided to take more time before a decision is made.

The biggest challenge is cost.

To install diesel generators at 14 key locations here would cost $25 million; six would cost $12.7 million. A third option came in at $10.4 million — four generators and a “microgrid” that would provide fuel, such as natural gas.

Who would pay for this? You know who.

Recently, a street maintenance fund was added to our monthly bills for the city to provide funding for annual work to prevent a total breakdown of our streets that we have been experiencing.

And water rates are going up.

So adding more to that likely would tap out local residents’ ability to pay their bills.

There may be outside funding available, our city manager said. “Hard money,” Robert Hanna calls it.

So, let’s not hurry into a decision was the viewpoint of council members.

Rodney Taylor, the city’s director of water utilities, was honest. There have been times Abilene has dodged a bullet, and that includes super high water usage in the summer, beyond the average use of 23 millions gallons a day.

The city’s northeast water treatment plan alone could handle that.

Improving what is being called “resiliency” for all seasons would be good for all of us.

We need this issue addressed. Even if freezing weather would be a relief after the first three days of 100-degree temperatures this summer.

The city did its best to react to what really was an emergency. Many residents were without power, and everyone was without water. We reacted on the fly, and now have the chance to be better prepared. This includes how to rescue residents who cannot remain in cold homes or are without food.

Yes, it would be great if we could find ways to pay for improvements in addition to local tax dollars.

As we move closer to the FY 2022 budget, our leaders face many challenges. We are not forgetting our streets or ignoring the need to maintain city facilities built in the 1960s.In the past year, in addition to enduring a pandemic, we survived a temperature range of 112 degrees. Maybe record temperatures in the Northwest this year were an anomaly.

But count on it being both extremely hot and extremely cold again in Abilene.

Are we ready for that?


Wyndi Veigel is the editor of The Marshall News Messenger and a 2007 graduate of Texas A&M University-Commerce. She has been a reporter, photographer, page designer and social media expert for several publications.