Over the last several days, El Paso has been hit by the worst winter weather in something like 35 years, with temperatures dipping down into the low single digits. At this time of year the high is normally about 63 degrees, and we've been suffering from "highs" of 15 and 18 degrees. Our local electric utility was ill-prepared for the cold and lost generating capacity. As a result, the utility inflicted "rolling blackouts" across the city, shutting off electricity to various parts of the city, including ours, for 3o minutes to an hour each time. Pipes froze in buildings all over the city, including at our house; we had to stay with our parents-in-law for three nights. And now that the temperatures have climbed back above freezing, pipes have been bursting everywhere. The bursting pipes spared our house but hit most of our friends and relatives. Plumbers and clean-up crews have been having a field day. Crews have come from as far away as Tennessee to help with the mopping up.
As a result of electricity black-outs and the burst pipes, the water utility district has been struggling to provide water service. The reservoirs are nearly empty, and people in El Paso people have discolored water or low water pressure. The entire city is under mandatory water-use restrictions--no taking showers, no using dishwashers, no using washing machines, no watering, etc.
When the temperatures were low and both electricity and gas were scarce, the city asked the schools and colleges to close to save energy. So UTEP was closed Wednesday through Friday of last week. And now that water is scarce, the city has asked the schools and colleges to close again to conserve water. So UTEP will be closed again on Monday, at least.
The funny thing is that yesterday and today were really nice, with lots of sunshine and beautiful sunsets, punctuated with bursting pipes.