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Keeping up with the Jones: The mess in Texas

By |  March 30, 2021 0 Comments
Galveston CC after Winter Storm Uri on Feb. 16, 2021. (Photo: Jeff Smelser)

Galveston CC after Winter Storm Uri on Feb. 16, 2021. (Photo: Jeff Smelser)

I started writing this while sitting outside. It was by no means balmy, but that’s still saying something considering a week ago, I woke up to -17 degrees F here in northeast Kansas. School was canceled for two days as a result of dangerously low temperatures and rolling blackouts. My daughter walked by my office and saw me working in a stocking cap and gloves. But, we never had a rolling blackout here, thankfully.

I try to avoid writing about the weather, mainly because the weather changes so fast that it’s old news by the time the magazine comes out. And also, because oftentimes, bad weather is quickly put behind us after it’s passed.

I don’t think the folks in Texas, and in many other areas of the U.S., are going to forget the weather of February 2021. Millions were in a dayslong blackout, and tragically, 26 died in Texas as a result of the harsh conditions. The news showed empty grocery store shelves and long lines to buy propane. Safe drinking water was scarce, and reports of carbon monoxide poisonings were common.

For this issue, we checked in with several of our Friends of Golfdom, including Jeff Smelser, Galveston (Texas) CC, and Jim Moore, retired from the USGA, near Waco (see “Winter Storm Uri ravages Texas”). While everyone endured a harsh week, everyone we talked to was well and — naturally — preparing for golfers when we talked to them.

Tyler Andersen, superintendent at the University of Texas Golf Club in Austin, told me that last Monday morning, the house across the street from him still had power. At the time, he still believed these were just “rolling blackouts,” and power would soon be restored to his side of the street. By 5:30 p.m., he took a breath, and when he exhaled, he saw his breath. A check of the thermostat showed him it was 38 degrees inside his house and time to take his family somewhere else.

Power remained off in the Andersen home for four straight days. Thankfully, a friend with power nearby put his family up for a few days. He couldn’t get to his course for a week, because the roads to the course were too gnarly to travel. “We don’t have snow plows here,” Andersen said. “We just have gravel trucks, and those were limited to the main roads.”

Tyler told me he thought the strangest thing of the whole ordeal was how accurate the weather forecast was for this unusual weather spell. They knew it was coming but were helpless to what ensued.

A cross country skier skied over one of the greens at LaFortune Park GC in Tulsa, Okla. (Photo: Scott Schurman)

A cross country skier skied over one of the greens at LaFortune Park GC in Tulsa, Okla. (Photo: Scott Schurman)

Scott Schurman, superintendent at LaFortune Park Golf Course in Tulsa, Okla., texted me a photo of ski tracks over one of his greens. Schurman worked in Nebraska before coming to Tulsa and said even up north, they didn’t see sustained cold temperatures like this. He was counting the hours the temperature remained below zero, and as those hours turned into days, he couldn’t help but wonder about the fate of his ultradwarf greens.

Tulsa saw a wind chill of -20 degrees F and 9 inches of snow. They covered their ultradwarf greens on Feb. 7. They had a quarter inch of ice under the snow. “Next month will be telling,” he said.

Yesterday, the local weatherman reported that our area will experience a temperature change of 110 degrees, comparing how it felt from last Tuesday to this Tuesday. Last Tuesday, it felt like -35 degrees F. Today, he’s forecasting a temperature of 65 degrees F, feeling like 75 in the sun. Last week, I was in my office in gloves and a stocking cap. Today, I’ll be outside in shorts and a T-shirt.

It’s easy for a guy like me to walk the laptop out to the driveway and put the weather ordeal behind me. But, there’s no telling the long-term effects this weather might have for courses across the country. But, like Smelser told us, “life moves on.”



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