Frozen with few resources

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Rural Gillespie County residents struggle with loss of electricity in Arctic weather

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  • The rural town of Doss was covered in ice as early as Thursday afternoon, causing electricity and water to go out for residents. — Standard-Radio Post/Samuel Sutton
    The rural town of Doss was covered in ice as early as Thursday afternoon, causing electricity and water to go out for residents. — Standard-Radio Post/Samuel Sutton
  • Central Texas Electric Cooperative Staking Technician Matt Wood looks in awe at a downed power line while assessing damage. Several lines have been pulled down after broken limbs toppled them.
    Central Texas Electric Cooperative Staking Technician Matt Wood looks in awe at a downed power line while assessing damage. Several lines have been pulled down after broken limbs toppled them.
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To see more, watch the accompanying video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJ2CYjyysPA

 

Gillespie County’s six days of Arctic weather left residents in rural areas of Gillespie County without electricity and water.

Elizabeth Ochoa, a Doss resident who works for Ambleside School of Fredericksburg, was elated when her boss called off school on Thursday. That excitement turned to worry when she lost power hours later.

“We got a text from (Head of School) Russ York by 5:30 a.m., like super early in the morning,” she said. “It wasn’t for hours until the electricity went out. It went out around 2:30 p.m.

“Until that point, it was just really icy outside, and all my tree branches were breaking and falling, but I didn’t think it was an emergency. Then the power went out.”

This was right after she had finished a workout. She wanted to shower before there was no longer hot water, but that was shortened when her water shut off after a loud noise occurred that she said sounded like a steamboat.

“I guess my well, the pump is connected to the electricity or something,” she said.

She called Central Texas Electric Cooperative, and was told to be patient, as they were working to try to fix the same problems for about 4,000 other members.

“That’s when I realized like, ‘OK, this is not coming back on for like, an hour,’ so I had to kind of figure out what to do after that,” she said.

Ochoa ended up staying in a hotel in Fredericksburg for a night, before driving to her family’s house in Boerne Friday morning. Before heading there, she went back to rescue her cats. As she was driving, she saw other neighbors leaving.

“I’m pretty sure everybody’s still in the same situation,” Ochoa said, and she was right.

Other rural residents, like Blaine and Marsha Hahn, said their power went out Friday morning.

“When we lose power, we lose water,” Blaine said, referring to the same well issue Ochoa spoke about.

Blaine explained that with all of the trees down in the rural areas from the weight of the ice, it looked as though a tornado passed through.

“That’s the biggest thing, just the amount of precipitation and the amount of ice and the amount of weight that it all caused on everything,” he said.

At one point over the weekend, CTEC was still working to restore power to 6,000 members, after just restoring 8,000.

“The damage from fallen limbs and trees is extensive,” CTEC officials said in a statement on Friday. “We know it is beyond difficult to be without power and that freezing cold temperatures make it worse, but rest assured, we won’t quit until everyone is up and running.”

 

Helping out

The displacement of residents due to power loss, water loss and home damage didn’t go unnoticed by city and county officials, as they partnered with the Fredericksburg Independent School District to provide a temporary shelter at Fredericksburg Elementary School, which opened at noon Sunday.

“We had a lot of calls from citizens wondering where people could go, so we decided it was time to go ahead and set that up,” said Justin Calhoun, city and county Emergency Management coordinator. “The shelter will be open as long as it’s needed.

Some lodging services, such as the Hoffman Haus and Fredericksburg Inn & Suites, also chipped in by offering special rates to those displaced or traveling on icy roads.

Calhoun said if anyone needs assistance getting to the shelter, they should call the dispatch nonemergency line at 830-997-7585.

For information on the shelter, call Calhoun at 830-998-7252.

“Sheltering in place is the best option right now, but if you need to get out, call the nonemergency dispatch line and someone will be there to help,” Calhoun said.