In one memorable episode of Wheel of Fortune, a player spun the million dollar card and called the correct letters to finish the puzzle “Mythological Hero Achilles.” He only had to read it to keep the card. He pronounced the name as “A-Chill – es.” and lost the million dollars. The next player correctly pronounced, “A-kill-eze” to solve the puzzle and collect $1,000.
For the player who never studied Greek mythology, that pronunciation was his “Achilles heel.” The phrase ‘Achilles Heel’ originates from a Greek myth about Achilles and his mother Thetis. To protect her son and make him invulnerable, she dipped Achilles into the River Styx. Achilles grew to be a handsome, brave, fearless warrior. He was as invulnerable as Super Man away from Krypton, until an arrow pierced his heel, killing him. The very heel that Thetis held while dipping her baby Achilles into the river to protect him caused his downfall.
The unsinkable Titanic sailed across the Atlantic full steam ahead, confident in its engineered invulnerability. An iceberg pierced its hull, teaching future ship builders and captains valuable lessons. Even to this day, cruises begin with a drill instructing passengers on what to do if the Achilles Heel is discovered in these massive symbols of modern technology.
“The Achilles Heel” phrase came to mind recently as the electrical power grids in Texas failed. The storm of the century found the system’s Achilles Heel. Not that the Texas electrical companies ever declared infallibility. A few years ago a less extensive storm warned those in charge that a potential power challenge existed. This past week, every power source failed: renewable and non-renewable. Even the most eco-friendly forms of harnessing energy failed, as illustrated by a picture of a windmill being de-iced by a helicopter. Several sources, including the El Dorado News-Times, reported that picture originated in Europe several years ago.
Some want to emphasize that the green earth philosophy will not work when clouds block the solar panels and ice freezes windmills. The same folks tend to ignore that 75 percent of the energy source in Texas originated from fossil fuels. Those fossil fuel plants also failed during the storm and shut down.
In Arkansas, Facebook lit up with warnings, complaints and explanations when rolling blackouts abruptly began and ended one evening. The black outs stopped within a couple hours as folks adjusted thermostats, turned off appliances and went to bed.
With Texas off the grid, hundreds of workers began working on the problem. Long term solutions will follow as engineers and electricians seek to protect the system’s Achilles Heels.
It is easy to say that the power company should have handled things differently. With the eternal 20-20 vision of hindsight, an abundance of solutions always exist. However, 2020 has passed. Take time to stop, assess, correct and continue to look for the obvious, inconsequential and hidden flaws
Thetis could not go back and dip Achilles to include the heel. The Titanic can not be pulled up and set back on course. We can’t go back and make the results from the power failure go away. We can expect the powers that be to spend the time and money to avoid a future repetition. Customers can quit complaining about the outages, the bills and the inconvenience. Customers can also decide to do their part and turn down and turn off sooner when the next storm comes.
Checking for flaws, weaknesses and possible points of failure must follow the storm of 2021 because nature will again challenge any arrogant declarations of “unsinkable” or “invulnerable.” With time, the problems of this storm will be addressed, and let’s hope next time nature will not find a new Achilles heel.