Cities, utilities respond to area storm damage
By Abigail Allen
As area residents struggle with power outages, the local officials, city staffs and faith leaders have worked together to meet the needs of the area’s residents.
Municipal and utility crews have braved the below-freezing temperatures to keep as many necessary services working as possible, including the Pilot Point Public Works Department.
“Public Works has been working tirelessly for the last 48 hours, trying to make sure that we have water, make sure that our sewer plant’s working,” City Manager Britt Lusk said. “And they’re doing a great job because we haven’t had to issue that notice.”
The majority of Pilot Point had no power from in the early morning hours on Monday through Tuesday evening.
“We’re trying to maintain water so that we don’t have to issue a boil water notice because we don’t have any power,” Lusk said on Tuesday. “It’s hard to boil water when you don’t have any power.”
Those outages have affected municipal resources as well, including the city’s lift station and two water wells, which all depend on electricity to function properly.
Director Trent Vandagriff had his staff out treating the roadways and salting sidewalks on Friday in advance of the storm.
The Pilot Point police and fire departments were also at higher staffing levels than normal to help respond to emergencies, such as the house fire on North Prairie Street on Tuesday.
Although the city wasn’t able to solve the power dilemma for area residents, Lusk said, the staff wanted to find a solution to help people have a safe place to be.
The Pilot Point Community Center, which would have been the city’s first choice, wasn’t an option because of the water and power issue.
“I got an email from Britt, and he said, ‘Do you know of any churches that are offering any emergency shelter in Pilot Point or in the area?’” Midway Church Lead Pastor John Theisen said.
After checking on the condition of the church’s Pilot Point campus, Theisen offered up the church, which has retained power and water services throughout the storm, as a safe place for area residents first on Monday.
The first night, the church received three requests and worked with the Four Horsemen in Pilot Point to accommodate them.
On Tuesday night, several families took the church up on the offer of warmth and shelter, with Theisen estimating that 50 to 80 people were taking shelter there.
Those families came from Aubrey, Pilot Point and Little Elm.
The Pilot Point and Aubrey police departments are having officers at Midway to help as it serves as a temporary shelter, and the Red Cross has provided supplies for those in need with the help of a contact at the Denton County Federal Emergency Management Agency location.
“We’re not a shelter intended for a long time, but we hope this will get through a day or two until the power comes back on,” Theisen said.
With power out along most of U.S. 377, crowds filtered through Jerry’s, a convenience store in Pilot Point, to fill up on food and fuel.
Crews—municipal and utility—throughout the 76227 zip code had to work on water delivery issues on Tuesday, and power availability varied from no outages to rolling blackouts to controlled outages.
Aubrey early in the day Tuesday issued a boil water notice.
“Once the boil water notice is no longer in effect, the City will issue a notice to customers that rescinds the boil water notice in a manner similar to this notice,” it read. “Please share this information with all the other people who drink this water.”
Krugerville Mayor Jeff Parrent released a statement about how frustrated and dismayed he was that the city’s residents had been without power for more than 30 hours.
“Tough questions should be asked by our state leadership so this never happens again,” he wrote. “Our city has been working with PD and our FD to assist as many as possible. We will continue to do the best we can for our citizens. Let me say, I am sorry to everyone having to deal with this right now. No one could have been prepared for such a storm.”
T. Lynn Tompkins Jr., the mayor of Cross Roads, put out a statement about the outages and other weather-related guidance Tuesday.
“Please be prepared for continued power outages,” Tompkins said. “CoServ will continue rolling outages with a goal of outages not exceeding one hour if at all possible. Oncor is also targeting controlled, rolling blackouts instead of prolonged outages. Residents are encouraged to wear multiple layers, keep pets indoors and protect water pipes.”
He urged people to be careful about space heater usage.
Tompkins also added a description of the discrepancy between areas with no outages to those who were without power for extended periods of time.
“The utility companies have to shed electric load by feeder, which is decided by priority based on public health and safety, such as hospitals, nursing homes, water treatment plants, lift stations and fire departments,” he wrote. “Some providers are having more success at managing rolling blackouts than others.”
In her message to Providence Village residents, Mayor Linda Inman encouraged people on Tuesday to look out for each other as the second wave of the storm was set to hit.
She also explained what she’d learned from the discussion with area local officials and County Judge Andy Eads.
“While I know how trying these days are right now with rolling outages, water pressure issues, etc., from what was being relayed by other towns in Denton County, I am glad we are not in the same circumstances as many of the other towns are,” she wrote. “Justin, Ponder and other small towns have had their grids 100% blacked out for 48 hours or more with no explanation as to why.”
Tioga experienced similar outages that lasted for a couple of days.
In addition, Cross Roads postponed its planned Tuesday evening Town Council meeting, and Providence Village canceled its Tuesday meeting.
The Denton County Commissioners Court also postponed its Tuesday meeting and declared all county facilities closed through Friday.