electricityThe good news is this week’s Wednesday WTF is being written. The bad news is it’s being written from a hotel room next to a strip club because home base has no electricity.

You think I’m kidding, but Monday when we couldn’t find any restaurants open, my sweet innocent child said from the backseat, “Oh look, Mom! There’s a buffet at that place. If they’re open we can go have lunch.”

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So yeah, that was a whole thing.

Anyway, we spent Sunday night believing Oncor when it said we would have electricity by 5 p.m. Then 6 p.m. Then 9 p.m., then WTF PM ARE YOU DOING OUT THERE? And we were all trying to be very zen about it. We spent time outside. We filled up the wading pool. We ate popsicles.

But around midnight, with all of us sleeping in separate beds because all of us needed to starfish for maximum circulation, it became clear that Oncor knew as much as we did about the electrical grid of the Dallas Metropolitan Statistical Area. (more…)

12417 Quincy lane

By now you have probably heard that about 100 trees will be chopped down in North Dallas, trees that line the Dallas North Tollway on the eastern side from Forest Lane north for about a half mile to Harvest Hill Road. All sorts of varieties, too, pines, live oaks — good trees. For 30 years these trees have created a nice buffer between the Dallas North Tollway and the backyards of the folks who live on Quincy Lane in Melshire Estates.

So why are we doing this?

The trees are going to be cut down by Oncor to replace old transmission towers with spotless new towers, because we are sucking so much energy. There is an increased demand for power in this city — one of the many side-effects of our gleeful growth. (And you want Amazon?) Robert Wilonsky over at the Dallas Morning News heard about the Quincy Lane tree-ectomy from homeowners on that little street whose western edge backs right up to the Dallas North Tollway. The trees, writes Robert, are on Oncor’s property, since they own an easement behind the homes, abutting the Tollway. 

The trees have to go because they will make it too dangerous for the electrical upgrade work, which might involve helicopters. They are on Oncor’s property, and state law says Oncor can cut down any tree it wants if it interferes with utility equipment.

“That line isn’t just about the customers on Quincy that like the trees on Oncor right of way,” said Oncor spokesman Geoff Bailey, who also serves as CEO Allen Nye’s chief of staff, “but the hundreds of thousands of customers those lines serve.”

Bailey said, yes, this is all very “unfortunate” and “we understand the passion about trees.” But he said that verdant buffer must go to make way for construction equipment, including, likely, helicopters. They are dangerous, too, he said, as they begin growing toward the power lines. 

Still, it seems pretty drastic. This home at 12417 Quincy abuts the tollway and will likely lose some of the canopy in the backyard.

(more…)

dallas rain

Dallas rain is causing major delays at homebuilding sites, like 5802 Anita St. in East Dallas, a JLD Custom Homes site. Photo: Joanna England

Thanks to nearly two months of non-stop rain, DFW homebuilders are experiencing major delays and expect months of playing catch-up even though it has stopped.

Based on weather forecasts, that break might finally be here!

More than 26 inches of rain have fallen at DFW International Airport so far this year, including a record-setting 3.3 inches a week ago Sunday. This is now the wettest May on the books.

“The rain has been a killer on schedules—we currently have three homes under construction and have taken them as far as we can go in the inside, and are now at a dead standstill until we can finish the driveways and walkways on the exterior, not to mention fence, sprinklers, and landscaping,” said Michael Turner, owner of Classic Urban Homes. “We are telling potential new clients we are six-to-eight months out from being to take on any additional work.”

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“I always keep a pair of old mud shoes in the truck, these days, I’ve got two pairs,” said JLD Custom Homes President Jeff Dworkin. Photo: Joanna England

Other custom builders are in the same boat. Jeff Dworkin points to his house at 5802 Anita St. in East Dallas, pictured above.

“We’ve finished the inside, but the yard is a mud pit!,” said Dworkin, who is President of JLD Custom Homes and Past President of the Dallas Builders Association. “We can’t get fence in, irrigation, or landscape. It’s hard to make it look pretty when your ‘drive-up’ is just dirt. We have also been trying to get another one started at 5731 Vickery Blvd.—got the permit a week ago, but we are just stuck in the mud for now.”

Homebuilders are able to get work done up to a certain point inside new houses, but the risk of tracking in mud onto new carpets or hardwoods means even that part of the process is delayed. And every part of completing the homes’ exterior is delayed. A Prosper developer tells me one of his largest volume builders is 90 days delayed, the longest delay in the history of the company.

“We can sell homes, design homes, and permit homes while it’s raining—we just can’t start them. We have five queued up and all in the holding pattern until the weather breaks,” Turner said. “No sense in selling a new home and then not being able to start for six months without telling clients upfront. For the most part, people are willing to wait, as builders are all in the same boat.”

(more…)

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We’ve been displaced from our home in Casa View Haven for going on four days now. Our little corner of East Dallas lost power around 4 a.m. on Friday, and while we thought we could tough it out that evening, we ended up doing a white-knuckle commute to Forney, where our in-laws live. A trip that usually takes no longer than a half-hour took about an hour and a half on Friday afternoon, considering the snail’s pace we drove to negotiate icy bridges and 18-wheelers stopped on the shoulders. We saw cars and trucks in ditches, some getting rescued by tow trucks and fire engines, and more than a few devil-may-care-type drives being humbled by the icy roads.

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Since then, we’ve been without power for 81 hours or so. (Side note: Our Great Pyrenees mix, Horsby (above) does not seem to mind the cold at all.) For the duration of that time, we’ve been relying on reports from our fellow neighbors who are either made of stronger stuff than we, or don’t have 2-year-olds, who have stuck it out in the cold and ice. The Casa View Haven Neighborhood Association has really come together during this time, with neighbors offering a warm bed to those who would otherwise turn into ice cubes overnight, hot meals, and even helping find animals who were spooked by the storm. The consensus among residents, though, is that service has been ridiculously slow to our area. Calls and texts and emails and web messages to Oncor have resulted in little to no service to our Zip code — 75228 — the largest in Dallas.

Considering the number of downed power lines and fallen trees in our neighborhood of post-war traditional homes, you’d think response time would be faster. And yet, a neighbor posted that a power line that has been buzzing on the ground in her backyard has still not been addressed. She’s finally decided to call 911, hoping that firefighters or emergency responders can help address the dangerous conditions.

It wasn’t until last night that we started to see trucks labeled “Alabama Power” in our area. If you’re keeping track, that’s about 64 hours after most of our neighborhood (including our home) lost power. We bought some of them coffee to help sweeten the deal to perhaps expedite our power restoration, but they were gone just about as fast as they arrived. They told us they were trying to figure out who would be working on our outages, and they were shooting to have power restored by midnight. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

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We saw a few more Alabama trucks this morning, and even an Oncor truck, but still, no power. Even more galling is that Oncor’s text system keeps reporting some customers’ power as “restored” when those residents can tell you through chattering teeth that nothing could be further from the truth. What we’ve heard from some workers is that there were a lot of branches over lines that should have been trimmed, and when the perfect storm of winter conditions arrived — Hello, Cleon! — those branches crashed on the lines, resulting in massive and widespread outages.

Our neighborhood would have to agree. We’re still reporting outages to Oncor, every hour, on the hour, employing the “squeaky wheel” strategy. Here’s hoping we’re back in our own home, safe and warm, this evening. Until then, we’re hiding out in the Casa Linda Starbucks and other warm places that can keep a 2-year-old busy considering that his preschool — along with all DISD campuses, Fort Worth ISD, and pretty much all urban districts save for Garland — is closed. We definitely have a case of cabin fever.

Do you have power? What has been your experience from winter storm Cleon? And are you seeing crews working in your area? Sound off!

Ice tree on car E DallasThe latest estimates put it at 20,000 plus in Dallas and Collin Counties. That would include our Executive Editor, Joanna England, and frequent contributor Karen Eubank, both of whom live in East Dallas. Jo has been texting me since her house went cold Friday. She says “this photo is two streets over from me. We are finally seeing more Oncor and Alabama Power trucks in our area.” I’m sure Jo will be figuring out just what the hell took Oncor so long to get some parts of town power, soon as her fingers thaw.

Alabama Power? Does this mean Oncor had to call in for support? Parts of our ‘hood just got power — or “went hot” as the Oncor dudes put it —  last night. When I asked them why the selective service, they pointed to a bunch of trees weighing down some lines.

Kind of like this tree weighed in on this truck.

Also, I was at an open-house yesterday at a home with a metal roof. Looks to me like the ice was melting down in sheaths! I have so many questions for our CandysDirt Approved Builders I will keep them busy all month long… a sampling:

1. How much ice can a typical Dallas roof hold? That stuff is heavy.

2. I know this happens once a year, but maybe we do need heated front sidewalks, especially for elderly residents? My front walkway still looks like a slip and slide.

3. Can gutters withstand the weight of the ice?

4. What’s a better roof for ice, metal seamed or composition?

5.  What’s the best insulation for days like this?

 

Oncor power outage map

Icemageddon 2013 has left around 240,000 people without power, according to Oncor. The largest numbers of outages are concentrated in Dallas and Collin Counties, they said.

And a large number of people in Tarrant, Denton, Ellis and Kaufman counties also do not have power.

Freezing rain turned to ice overnight, accumulating on tree limbs and leaves. Those limbs fell into power lines, affecting service. Then car wrecks, where cars hit street poles connected to power lines, also caused problems.

Pity the poor power company employees: Oncor COO Jim Greer said there were more than 2,500 Oncor employees responding to power outages Friday.

“Crews from utilities as far away as Florida are responding in north Texas to assist with power restoration to Oncor customers,” Greer said.

If you have an event planned, figure that it is cancelled. Better to stay home and be safe than sorry. The freezing rain may be behind us, but low temperatures will hold the ice accumulation like a very efficient Sub Zero freezer. Any new precipitation will just freeze again, leading to the possibility of more power outages.

Hunker down: we are stuck in our homes for the weekend!

For 24/7 power outage information, follow live updates from the Oncor Storm Center here: http://stormcenter.oncor.com/default.html and to report a power outage in your area, click here. You can also text “REG” or “OUT” to 66267, or call Oncor’s outage hotline at 888-313-4747.

In my ‘hood, half of us have power –heat, light, refrigeration. For those who do not, we may invite them over. Now is when those five fireplaces may come in handy to light, and your freezer should be ok for about 24 hours if you don’t open the door.

Of course, your patio is now one giant freezer!