Predicting and planning for the next polar vortex?

‘Texans were clearly not prepared by their federal, state or local governments, or even their local news media outlets, let alone ERCOT, for the magnitude of this polar storm…”

“We’ve spent billions on wind turbines and solar panels that were useless when people most needed electricity.”
– Duggan Flanakin

“News outlets have devoted abundant space to the vicious storms that recently battered Texas and many other US states – and sent wind, solar and other electricity generation down dramatically, just when families and hospitals needed it most,” says Paul Driessen. “In this article, Duggan Flanakin presents background and insights that almost no one has brought up, including successes and failures of organizations Americans rely on for weather warnings and advice on how to prepare for … and survive … Mother Nature’s onslaughts.”

Predicting and planning for the next polar vortex?

We say we can predict and plan for climate chaos 50 years out, but not an imminent vortex?
Duggan Flanakin

Americans know a lot about planning for hurricanes, and about voluntary and mandatory evacuations. They also know that some hurricanes bring major damage to urban and rural areas, and that sometimes (Katrina comes to mind) people’s failure to heed calls to “get outta Dodge” can have disastrous results.

The National Weather Service website explains, whenever a tropical storm forms in the Atlantic or eastern North Pacific [or central North Pacific], the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center issues tropical cyclone advisories at least every six hours. Once a hurricane watch or warning is issued, the advisories come every three hours.

When evacuation orders are issued, there are always a few who opt to “ride out the storm,” for fun and excitement, or fearing the theft of their property more than their possible loss of life. Even then, rescue teams risk their lives in dangerous weather to save those losing their crazy gambles with storms.

On January 11, National Geographic warned, “The polar vortex is coming –raising the odds for intense winter weather,” caused by a sudden major rise in temperatures in the stratosphere above Siberia. This polar vortex “could mean frigid winter weather pummeling the U.S. Midwest and Northeast and the mid-latitude regions of Europe.” Not a word about intense cold in the American southwest.

On January 28, NOAA’ website announced, “The POLAR VORTEX is coming!!!!!” NOAA explained that the impetus for this extremely rare event was a “sudden stratospheric warming” [SSW] that occurred on January 5. Such an event happens about six times per decade, NOAA says.

NOAA acknowledged that parts of Europe had already seen very cold weather in the north and stormy weather in the south, but gave no specific warning that disaster was imminent in any specific parts of the United States.

Comparisons to the disastrous 1899 polar vortex

Shortly thereafter, meteorologist Joe Bastardi predicted in his Twitter feed that “Texas is going to be tested on so many levels” by the coming storm. He acknowledged that NOAA’s own forecasting model prompted comparisons to the disastrous 1899 polar vortex incident that dropped temperatures below zero in every U.S. state.

On February 3, Jennifer Gray at CNN announced, “It’s about to get so cold that boiling water will flash freeze, frostbite could occur within 30 minutes, and it will become a shock to the system for even those who are used to the toughest winters.” She went on to say “the coldest air of the season will be diving south, not leaving anyone out. Every single state in the U.S. – including Hawaii – will reach below freezing temperatures on Monday morning” [February 8].

The next day, Austin’s KXAN-TV issued its own “First Warning: Extended Arctic blast coming to Texas.” Emmy-winning meteorologist David Yeomans noted that his actual first warning had come a month earlier – the day the SSW event had occurred.

Yeomans said the cold front would likely slam into Texas by February 9, “cooling us off dramatically by the middle of next week.” While “this pattern may last for an extended amount of time,” Yeomans predicted just “4 to 5 days where local temperatures will remain in the 30s and 40s into Valentine’s Day weekend.” He concluded that, while “some precipitation appears possible …it is too soon for specifics on this Arctic outbreak and potential winter storm.”

Austin – Just the fifth single-digit low in a century

But he did not foresee the impending disaster; nor did most others in the field. And yet actual lowest temperatures in Austin reached 9o F (-13 C) – the lowest in 32 years and just the fifth single-digit low in a century. Not until Valentine’s Day did the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) declare an “energy emergency alert three” that mandated rolling outages.

Texans were clearly not prepared by their federal, state or local governments, or even their local news media outlets, let alone ERCOT, for the magnitude of this polar storm – or for the devastation it could and did cause. People get a warning to prepare prior to hurricanes. But this time there was no urgent demand that people lay in food, turn off or otherwise secure water pipes against a deep freeze, expect water cutoffs, plan for lengthy power and heating outages, and be ready for horrific driving conditions.

Oregon – The most dangerous conditions ever seen in the history of PGE

Lone Star State public officials are getting slammed for their lack of foresight. But Texans are not alone in this disaster. Over 100,000 Oregonians went all week without electric power days after a snow and ice storm swept through that region. Portland General Electric (PGE) spokesperson Dale Goodman, noted that over 2,000 power lines were still down two days after the storm. “These are the most dangerous conditions we’ve ever seen in the history of PGE,” he lamented.

This is after PGE had worked tirelessly to restore power for over half a million other customers who’d been affected by the polar storm. As in Texas and elsewhere, people there died from carbon monoxide poisoning, food spoiled, and many of the 200,000 Oregon customers who lost service were told they may not get their Internet back for weeks. Oregon is much smaller than Texas, with fewer people and colder weather. Portland’s average February temperature is 10o F cooler than Austin’s.

Major power outages in Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky and West Virginia

In the aftermath of this massive storm – which also caused major power outages in Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky and West Virginia – there will be plenty of time to evaluate where forecasts went wrong, assess blame, and determine what damages can and cannot be recovered. Job one right now, however, should be to get people back into their homes, their jobs, their hospitals and their lives. (One Austin hospital lost power and water.) Blame-throwing only gets in the way of human rescue.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has called for an investigation of ERCOT, acknowledging that the power grid curators have been “anything but reliable” over the previous 48 hours. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather,” he added. “This is unacceptable.” Well, DUH! But they aren’t the only guilty parties.

The nightmare is far from over

Worst of all, the nightmare is far from over. The damages are widespread, and it will be some time before anyone can calculate the actual costs – and the avoidable costs – of this supposedly rare event. Will Texas shrug its shoulders and simply say, “This can’t possibly happen again.” Will Oregonians? Will the entire nation, which will suffer the effects of this loss of energy production and economic vitality in Texas?

Any investigation must begin with the fact that hardly anyone paid attention to warnings that this storm could have major impacts. Perhaps big winter storms need names, like hurricanes do, so that they stand out and can compete with partisan political bickering. Maybe we need a thorough review of all disaster preparedness, including spring floods, summer fires, and summer-autumn hurricanes and tropical storms. We certainly need better prediction, prevention and preparation – including thinning overgrown forests and clearing out dead, diseased and intensely flammable trees.

Will the American people get this kind of response from their elected officials – or from those charged with direct oversight of our land, water and infrastructure, and increasingly our lives and livelihoods? Or will we spend the next two, four or ten years bickering over trivial matters, like a modern Nero fiddling as our nation falls apart and becomes even easier pickings for Mother Nature and predator nations?

We’ve spent billions on wind turbines and solar panels that were useless when people most needed electricity

We’ve spent billions on wind turbines and solar panels that were useless when people most needed electricity, instead of on winterizing baseload power generation. We’ve spent billions on “climate crisis” models and fear-mongering – but can’t seem to get winter storm forecasts and warnings right. Too many are paying with their lives. When will we get it right?

Duggan Flanakin is director of policy research at the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (

16 thoughts on “Predicting and planning for the next polar vortex?”

  1. I live in a manufactured home about 18 miles south of Sherman, TX, and my family wasn’t taken by surprise. Why? Because I listen every weekend to Joe Bastardi’s “Saturday Summary”, and believed him when he told us what was coming.

    We have a fireplace, just in case, a propane stove for emergencies and we made sure we had enough food. We went around and made sure all the faucets were dripping when the temperature dropped below freezing. We had only one problem. The outside faucet had already frozen, so we crossed our fingers and hoped.

    We did all right until the 17th when the stupid pipe did what might be expected — it burst. We fortunately had enough water so we weren’t in any danger –but I expect a good sized water bill. We weren’t able to turn off the water for two days because the water meter was buried and we had to get someone from the water company over to find it for us. Things were warming up by that time, however. My daughter took her husband and kids over to the nearest national park, which had running water, and they spent the day there, and took showers, while my husband and I waited for the repair man, who actually showed up on day 4. We never lost electricity at all, but if we had, we would have been fine.

    I concluded, afterwards, when reading about the disasters that occurred elsewhere, that it is much better to rely on yourself than on the government and government officials to do their job. In my 73 years, I have watched in disgust while such officials fouled up over and over and then offered thin excuses later.

    • If only more people used their brains to think rather than binge watch TV shows, fawn over celebrities, and worry about the latest sports scores.

  2. “When evacuation orders are issued, there are always a few who opt to “ride out the storm,” for fun and excitement, or fearing the theft of their property more than their possible loss of life. Even then, rescue teams risk their lives in dangerous weather to save those losing their crazy gambles with storms”.

    You mean like this?

  3. We began the Third GSM in 2020. The Eddy Minimum is expected to run through 2040 and maybe 2050. go back and look at the Maunder and Dalton minima’s (1600-1645 and 1790-1830) respectively. Also, 1821, south Texas and the Gulf Coast experienced extreme cold, freezing Galveston Bay. Also, in February 1899 a cold mass swept across the entire state moving from the northwest to the south. Temperatures fell well into the -20’s. This also happened in 1884. The 1899 cold wave the gave Galveston its record low still stands as the nation’s most severe Arctic blast since the Federal Govt. began keeping records. The cement head politicians and bureaucrats running Texas should be held fully accountable for this disaster.

    • John, GSM are tied to Solar Cycles with SC24 the first Active cycle of this GSM and caused by the Trefoil Orbit of the Sun around the Solar System BarryCentre, as can be seen in the JPL orbital data of the Sun.
      GSM are normally Two Cycle events like the LALIA and the start of the Vandal Minimum 585 to 800 AD, Oort which split the Medieval Solar Warm Period into two parts.
      Wolf 1285 to 1340 which started the LIA and ended Greenland’s ability to allow Icelandic (Viking) farming and only recommenced in a small scale at the end of the recent SWP which ended in 2008.
      Spoorer and Maunder are GSM periods, with a sequence of a GSM, a following Cold Gleissberg Periods and a shallow ending GSM .
      Dalton 1780 to 1820 the ending GSM of the LIA period, another two cycle GSM.
      The Cold waves you describe are the opening cycles of the Gleissberg Period 1880 to 1940 cycles 12,13,14,15 and 16
      All five are low output UV cycles similar to the energy output of SC20.
      The reason Politician are blind to these events, is the AGW Green propaganda fed to them over the Last 40 years. Fix the AGW Universities and you fix the Politicians who then have to find another source of taxation income for the power mad UN.

  4. One of the major problems with ERCOT is that it’s board members reside out of state. The former head of the agency lives in MICHIGAN. In Michigan, the power system is hardened against cold weather. In Texas, it is not because cold weather like that only happens once every 10 years or so.
    That is also why we don’t have the winter weather infrastructure for the highways, etc. it’s not cost effective to have equipment you use once a decade. I don’t know if the Houston airports have deicing equipment.
    It’s easier to shut the state down for a few days and ride it out.
    To fix this:
    1) If you’re going to be on the ERCOT board, you’re going to reside in the State Of Texas. No exceptions.
    2) Make sure the power generators can handle extreme weather conditions.
    3) Lose the windmills, build more conventional powerplants.

  5. Robert, the event in Texas was geoengineered. But you, of course, will not allow this comment as does not fit with your theory (which I’d say has more merits than the AGW).

    So let’s see if you respect free speech.

  6. Polar vortex, or in old money Arctic plunges are a significant feature of the 6 year period of the Solar Minimum between Cycle Max of the waning cycle and Cycle Max of the following cycle. The dividing line is usually between 35 and 25 full sized Sun Spots that can be seen with a 40MM optic and as UV levels decrease and Meridional Jet Stream activity becomes more apparent.
    During the bottom three years of the minimum, coronial hole activity increases significantly, driving long lasting SAW events which block the weather flows into Cold or Warm periods.
    A polar vortex in Europe also leads to the prevailing wind reversing and driving from Siberia over Western Europe to Iceland. The empirical evidence can be seen in weather history with the Thames in London city, freezing on 23 separate events between 1300 and 1823. After 1823 the Embankment was constructed speeding up the water flow and preventing the river from freezing.
    Every one of those freeze events during A Solar minimum, and more likely during the minimums between Grand Solar Minimum cycles.

  7. Let’s face it Robert, you’ve been warning people for many years now but were you prepared yourself?

    No, you weren’t or you wouldn’t be whining the way you are!

    Americans are such weak, pathetic creatures so afraid of invisible enemies and destined for the trash can of history.

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