Atascosa County’s landscape looked like a magical winter wonderland on the outside, but inside homes, thousands of residents suffered days of no electricity and for many a loss of water, too. Off-the-charts demand for power in Texas and frozen utility plants have left 4,100 residents in Atascosa County in the dark and bitter with near-freezing temperatures inside. The utility tracker PowerOutage.US stated that more than 2.7 million Texans are without power.
Governor Abbott held his first press conference since the storm hit Texas Wednesday at 3:50 p.m. He stated that severe weather will continue for the majority of Texas through Thursday night not getting above freezing until Saturday morning. Gov. Abbott is urging residents who experienced busted pipes to start finding a plumber immediately and to contact their local insurance agents. Gov. Abbott will be issuing waivers to previously licensed plumbers, or those in the process of getting licensed, to assist licensed plumbers with the high amount of claims.
Gov. Abbott said if you do not have insurance to please keep all receipts from damages caused by the storm. Non-insured individuals may be eligible for reimbursement from FEMA.
On Wednesday, Atascosa County Judge Robert Hurley issued an emergency state of disaster for Atascosa County which stated that the county is facing significant threats to life, health and property due to the arrival of a major winter storm. Further, the statement said that this storm has prevented access and safe passage on many roadways, caused long-term electrical power and utility outages; has the potential to cause major infrastructure and property damage, thus creating a public safety hazard.
Judge Hurley said that the situation with ERCOT is disastrous and unacceptable. ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) manages about 90% of the state’s power for 26 million customers. ERCOT was criticized widely for what was seen as poor disaster preparation after a series of planned rolling blackouts never ended for millions of Texans including those in Atascosa County. Judge Hurley called Rep. Ryan Guillen’s office Monday to open an investigation into ERCOT on behalf of Atascosa County. Judge Hurley, who has been without electricity since early Monday morning, has been checking on local nursing homes to ensure they have power. All but one had power as of Tuesday and that facility is being powered by a generator.
The hardest hit by both power and water outage are Charlotte residents who have not had electricity since Monday at 2 a.m. “I have been making calls all over about the situation with the water and power outages in our city,” said Charlotte Mayor Christi Rankin. “The company in charge [ERCOT] has done all of this without the consent of the state of Texas. I was told that Texas opted out of a program involving these blackouts, but it was done anyway. As soon as I get more information, I will update our residents through our City of Charlotte Facebook page and the Pleasanton Express. My main priority right now is making sure my residents, especially our elderly, have a safe and warm place to stay and getting our power restored.” Mayor Rankin stated that the city is currently closed, but the city crew is on standby in case of any emergencies. All late fees or water bills will be waived for as long as the city hall is closed due to the inclement weather.
McCoy, Jourdanton and Poteet all suffered periods of low pressure and no water since Monday. All three issued water boil notices to their citizens as directed by TCEQ.
The City of Pleasanton’s water system was backed up by generators so the city did not see a loss of water. However, Pleasanton did have its share of burst pipes that kept the waterworks department pulling 18 hours days said Mayor Travis Hall. “There is a lot going on behind the scenes,” said Mayor Hall. “Even though the city hall is closed the majority of city workers are still hard at work. I have been without power since late Sunday evening but am fortunate to have a makeshift office and a place to stay locally. One goal we have is to make the Civic Center available for natural disasters by installing generators. Unfortunately, the Civic Center experienced power outages so it was not a place to warm. I am so thankful for the churches locally who opened their doors to warm our citizens. Currently, we are working closely with Rep. Ryan Guillen on numerous matters regarding the impact of the freeze. Presently, he is helping us with a local fuel shortage.”
Amidst the cold weather chaos, there were many random acts of kindness. The Quilted Hearts donated 200 quilts to the Jourdanton Police Department to distribute. Joe’s Place opened its doors and offered a warm spot and free soup. Locally, individuals who were fortunate to have electricity opened their homes to friends and neighbors.
Local churches offered day refuge to residents turning their sanctuaries and fellowship halls into warming centers. First United Methodist Church in Pleasanton, First Baptist Church in Pleasanton and Poteet and Church of Christ in Pleasanton have opened their doors to be warming centers.
“What is right is loving your neighbor,” said Pastor Johnny Arrington, First United Methodist Church in Pleasanton. “Jesus said, ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was sick and you looked after me.’ In this same way, we are blessed to be able to offer a warm place of comfort for those who are cold and in need of warmth.” Pastor Johnny said that the church doors are open and the fellowship hall is warm and ready for you to come to recharge personally as well as charge your phone.
The First Baptist Church in Poteet is allowing overnight visitors. On Tuesday, the church had up to 30 people staying there including many elderly. Local restaurants in Poteet such as The Backyard, La Mesa and Poteet Pavilion were offering the individuals staying there free food.
Pleasanton Church of Christ minister Robert Miller said, “Our doors are open to help because that’s how we let our lights shine, especially when so many are forced to live in dark right now. It’s how we demonstrate warmth and live out our faith by loving our neighbors and our community. If there is anyone who needs our help or anyone that we can assist in any way, our doors are open and we are ready to serve.”
If you are searching for a warming center in Texas please call 211 to find the nearest shelter.
Atascosa County ISDs and McMullen County schools remained closed all week due to the inclement weather.
The Atascosa County Sheriff’s Office is open 24/7 at 830-769-3434. Please call the ASCO or 911 for emergencies. Atascosa County Animal Control is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. They have been offering free space for pets that cannot be made safe during the storm. Please call them at 830-769-2341 and go to their Facebook page for more details.
On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott declared the reform of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) an emergency item this legislative session. In declaring this item an emergency, the Governor is calling on the legislature to investigate ERCOT and ensure Texans never again experience power outages on the scale they have seen over the past several days.
“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” said Governor Abbott. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable. Reviewing the preparations and decisions by ERCOT is an emergency item so we can get a full picture of what caused this problem and find long-term solutions. I thank my partners in the House and Senate for acting quickly on this challenge, and I will work with them to enhance Texas’ electric grid and ensure that our state never experiences power outages like this again.”