Fredericksburg begins storm recovery

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Updates on various areas of concern

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Even though snow has been falling and roads are getting slippery, the weather that has been putting such a chill on the Hill Country and much of Texas is warming and the area is now shifting into recovery mode.

Fredericksburg City Manager Kent Myers said 26 people were housed in the emergency shelter at Fredericksburg Elementary School.

“We are getting excellent volunteer support for the shelter including the mayor, who spent last night at the shelter,” Myers said. “Andrea Schmidt (Parks Director) continues to do a great job managing the many challenges associated with the shelter including EMS calls, power interruptions, etc.”

As for electric services, the city has restored power to its customers.

“Our crews are staying up with any calls for broken tree limbs and other temporary interruptions of services,” Myers said. “And the rolling outages in this area have been minimal thus far today. Disruptions of electric services are impacting Central Texas Electric Cooperative customers, with 8,998 customers currently out of service. This is mainly due to electric poles that are down throughout the county.”

As for water services, Myers said the city “dodged a bullet” in regard to maintaining services to customers.

“For the past 24 hours, we have dealt with several major water-related challenges that causes some real concern that we might have major disruptions of water services throughout the city,” he said. “We were able to restore water to the hospital late last night.  We are now in fairly decent shape in terms of our water supply.”

Myers said the success is due to three factors: Allen Keller Construction Company’s success in installing generators at two primary well sites; the completion of three new water tanks in the pasts several months; and taking a “proactive approach,” by identifying customers with breaks to water pipes and temporarily disconnecting their services.

“Using our system analytics we have currently identified over 100 customers who are using over 3,500 gallons a day,” he said. “We are stopping by these addresses to determine whether they are experiencing broken water pipes.”

He added officers with the Fredericksburg Police Department are patrolling neighborhoods to identify water flowing from houses and businesses.

“Our water department employees are working around the clock to make sure that our citizens have water,” he said. “Many cities are losing their water services and we want to do everything possible to avoid this from happening here.

The City of Fredericksburg announced that it will keep offices closed Friday. The recycling center will be open for regular hours. Officials say they will try to open the sanitary landfill at a later hour. Due to hazardous conditions, they may not allow trailers in.

Garbage collection has resumed, but officials are asking for patience, as crews are having to catch up for the last three days.

City offices will reopen on Monday, Feb. 22.

Our interview with Central Texas Electric Cooperative CEO Bob Loth answers some questions about the challenges for rural electricity customers. That article can be found here: CTEC caught in perfect storm

Propane available

Vapo Propane has also seen high demand, but, according to Office Manager Cindy Moore, they have enough supply.

"Right now, we have plenty of gas," she said. "We are waiting on transport loads; they're going to try to get them here. At this point though, we do have enough."

The shop at 1201 E. Main Street has seen lines out to the street for several days, but she said customers and the entire community has been supportive.

"Everyone tells us how much they appreciate us," Moore said.

She added one big problem has been delivery.

"We are getting the people that are close to zero, the people with the lowest amount of gas," Moore said.

Vapo has stayed open until 7 p.m. every evening and Moore said they will probably work over this weekend as well.

 

Plumbers stopped up

Reeh Plumbing, 3494 Ranch Road 1631, is still open with different operating hours. On Thursday, they had a late start opening at 10 a.m. and they will evaluate conditions before deciding on hours for Friday, Feb. 19.

Due to inclement weather conditions, a staff member at Reeh Plumbing said that they have around 150 to 200 people on a waitlist for service.

Gillis Plumbing Solutions is servicing emergency calls only for now. Due to the weather, they will not be open Thursday. However, they are adding additional hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20, in order to better serve their customers.

Melissa Gillis, who runs Gillis Plumbing Solutions with her husband Jon Gillis, said there is a waitlist but emergency calls are taking a priority.

Fredericksburg Plumbing will be making calls as needed this upcoming weekend rather than sticking to regular hours of operation. Owner and master plumber Randall Janc said today is the first day this week he has been able to make house calls because of the weather and road conditions.

Anticipating inclement weather this weekend, Janc said he is only able to cut people’s water off at the moment rather than permanent fixes. As of Thursday afternoon, about 40 to 50 people are waiting for service.

The company that houses supplies used by plumbers in the area is closed making it difficult for them to address anything other than emergency calls.

“Be patient,” Janc said. “Plumbers are trying to help as many as people as possible while also keeping themselves, their staff and family safe.”

 

Lodging problems

Lodging services have also been impacted by the outages.

Melanie Little, senior reservation specialist with Fredericksburg Escapes, said while she was offering discounted rates to people who needed it during this weather event, she’s had problems with water outages at their bed and breakfasts.

“I keep having to call and reschedule guests because of it,” she said. “I’d offer them if I had any, but I can’t right now.”

Hoffman Haus has also been trying to offer rooms to those who need it at discounted rates, but have had problems with availability, as they are also offering rooms to employees who have lost power and electricity at their homes, according to Evelyn Washburne, director of brand strategy at the Austin Street Group. They’ve also been offering rooms to Hill Country Memorial Hospital staff and recently released patients who have nowhere to go.

“We may have some availability this weekend, but it’s hard to tell with everything going on,” Washburne said.

 

Open or closed?

Between rolling blackouts, power outages, and supply trucks unable to deliver, it has been hit-and-miss as to which restaurants and businesses in town are open.

“I wish I had great information to share with you, but I do not,” said Penny McBride, president and CEO of the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce. “Some businesses have managed to open periodically, but with so many utility outages and limited supplies due to delivery delays, I cannot offer a reliable list.”

The best advice before heading out is to call ahead and see if a particular store, restaurant or service is open. Officials advise staying off the roads as much as possible until the weather improves and more utility service is restored.