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Outdoors: Lessons learned from the storm

Outdoors: Lessons learned from the storm

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Most people I know planned for last week’s winter storms just the way they should’ve. Ice storms can cause tree limbs and power lines to snap, and water pipes can freeze in single-digit temperatures. We don’t get that kind of weather very often, but we’re pretty smart folks overall, and we can at least Google things like the proper way to insulate an outside spigot.

I occasionally write about preparing for survival situations, suggesting that readers learn skills and have certain emergency supplies on hand, but few, including myself, guessed the devastating and nightmarish degree to which Texans would be subjected to nature’s power last week.

This wasn’t about somebody stranded in the woods. People suffered mercilessly in their own homes. Millions went days without electricity and water, huddled in blankets and eating whatever they could find that didn’t require heating. One of my cousins will probably never eat peanut butter again.

The problems were widespread. Firefighters found themselves without resources to do their jobs as water systems froze, causing some first responders to be helpless bystanders as they watched buildings burn.

It was an historic storm for Texas, but this kind of weather goes on all the time in other places. This failure lays at the feet of the Texas leaders who designed and supported the flawed system. Everyday people prepared the right way. The system was broken, and people struggled to survive.

Electricity is not a convenience—it’s a matter of health, safety, security, and economics. It’s a matter of life and death, and when utilities are tied up with profit motives, then safety is bound to be compromised. I compare it to a hotel manager removing smoke alarm batteries to save money—it’s not a problem until something goes wrong.

Knowing Texas politics the way I do, I expect the legislature will appoint some committees to investigate what went wrong, find a few scapegoats, and then try to cover any tracks that they might have left in the snow. That might sound cynical, but it’s realistic cynicism.

The reality facing Texans— and all Americans—is that we’re not immune to disasters, no matter how smoothly our lives run most of the time. I remember thinking one frozen night about how nice it’ll be to go back to just dealing with Covid.

Now’s a good time, while it’s fresh on everybody’s minds, to make a list. Figure out what you wished you’d had while you sat wrapped in a sleeping bag, eating vienna sausages straight out of the can, with two dogs somewhere in there with you. Take that list and make it a reality.

One thing a lot of folks are looking for is a generator. These tools can provide electricity during a power outage, and there’s a variety of sizes available for different needs.

I heard from people who were without power but had a fireplace to stay warm, but many had either gone through their supply of firewood or what they had was frozen and saturated. Some were picking out their least favorite furniture—that dining table chair with the wobbly back won’t be causing any more problems.

One product that I’ve written about several times would’ve helped that situation—Pull Start Fire. This powerful, easy to use fire starter will get things burning when other methods fail. I keep a few in my emergency gear bag all the time, and I’m thankful we didn’t have to use any last week.

Being an outdoor writer, most of my focus on survival gear and strategies has naturally been on outdoor settings—like when you’re in the woods or on the water and a motor won’t start, or when you lose your bearings and get lost overnight. Thankfully, my wife thought of and prepared for the possibility that we might need a stock of supplies to last a week or so inside the house, and our jugs of water and ready-to-eat food were on the shelf when we needed them.

The ironic thing about the Storm of ’21 is that most people planned and prepped just the way they should have. Poor planning by our leaders caused the power and water-related disasters to mushroom. It didn’t have to be that bad for that long.

My prayers and good wishes go out to everybody who suffered and continue to struggle.

Cold fishing

We got six weeks of winter crammed into six days, and while the snow melts away this weekend, anglers looking to shake off their cabin fever are heading to lakes and rivers to get things back to normal.

For those who’re fishing this weekend, know that the week-long winter storm likely made some changes that you’ll need to consider when deciding on your strategy. First of all, the water temperature is way lower than it was the last time you fished. Most lakes in Central Texas have dropped into the 30-40 degree range, meaning the fish are going to be slower-moving.

Lake Whitney striper guide Clay Yadon (Reel Deal Striper Guide Service) planned to scout the lake on Saturday to prepare for a Sunday trip. Yadon spends at least six days per week on the lake, and like other guides, knows that his ability to locate fish and identify feeding patterns determines both the enjoyment level of his customers and the success of his business. Saturday, he was going into it with a clear understanding, saying, “Whatever I knew before this storm, I don’t know now.”

Some parts of lakes and streams are partly frozen, and if you’re bank fishing, your decision whether to cast further or walk out on the ice should be made wisely. I know from personal experience that by the time you hear the ice cracking under your feet, you’ve gone too far. Fortunately, I stopped and walked back without falling through, but a friend’s dog wasn’t so lucky and barely got out alive.

Another thing to know is that some lakes have experienced fish kills, with bait fish being the hardest-hit. Catfishing legend Danny King says that the string of sub-freezing days has resulted in shad kills, which will translate into tougher fishing.

“Well, Mother Nature pulled a fast one on us, and we’ve got a bunch of dead shad in the water because of it,” he said. “It’s perfect for the fish. They’ve got just what they want—to just sit there and eat until their bellies are full.”

Also, if you normally use shad for bait, there won’t be as many around to catch, and with the cold water temperatures, they’ll probably be deeper and harder to net. “It’s going to be harder to catch shad in your throw nets for a while, so you’d better have a back-up bait ready,” King said. He, of course, favors the Danny King’s Catfish Punch Bait line of products.

He expects that it’ll take weeks for the bite to normalize.

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