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  • County begins road to recovery from Uri

    image Photo by Charles Miller of RE/MAX Lake Livingston Arial footage of the city of Livingston depicts snowfall that covered the city and much of Polk County last Monday. The snowfall was the result of Winter Storm Uri, which made its presence last Sunday night and impacted the county much of the week.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Winter Storm Uri wrecked havoc on the entire state of Texas, including Polk County.

    While Uri forced several businesses to close for much of the week, the county’s biggest winter storm since 1996 didn’t do as much damage as anticipated. While there were power outages, frozen pipes, water main breaks and water shortages, there were no fatalities from automobile accidents or freezing/hypothermia.

    “Power in Polk County was restored quickly,” Polk County Office of Emergency Management coordinator Courtney Comstock said. “Water is still an issue. We are advocating for our residents in trying to get information when their water will be restored. There are a lot of water main breaks. It also took a little while for utility companies to identify the leaks. Crews are working diligently to restore homes.”

    Comstock said that power was restored fairly quickly after the storm. She said that SHECO (Sam Houston Electrical Cooperative) moved really quickly and Entergy resolved most of their outages Thursday.

    According to Comstock, SHECO had 11,758 meters without power due to outages from the storm in Polk County between Monday and Tuesday, but as of Thursday, they were up and operational completely. She said Entergy had slightly less than 100 outages as of Thursday and now they have just one.

    Uri made her mark Sunday night by bringing snow and freezing rain to the area. Snow continued through Monday night, and much of the county had to deal with icy road conditions until Thursday.

    “This disaster is different because it impacted all 254 counties in the state of Texas,” Comstock said. “DPS reported eight vehicular accidents. First Responders had to pull some folks out of ditches as well. But there were no fatalities from accidents or freezing.”

    Uri also forced the county’s six school districts – Big Sandy, Corrigan-Camden, Goodrich, Leggett, Livingston and Onalaska ISDs – to shut down for the entire week. All school district except Goodrich, which has a student holiday on Monday, are scheduled to return to the classroom on Monday.

    Comstock said she expects some supplies in from Red Cross on Monday, and the Center of Hope provided meals and beverages to residents in need on Saturday. She also said that drinking water was expected to arrive this weekend, and that most restaurants are open to serve hungry citizens.

    “Emergency Management has requested drinking water from the state,” Comstock said. “Residents have been directed to restaurants in Livingston because most have been operational in serving the past two days. We’ve been telling people to call local restaurants to ask if they have filters for their water so they can serve drinks. The state is getting ready to roll. I anticipate drinking water to arrive soon. When the water comes in, volunteer fire departments will distribute it. This helps with localized distribution.”

    Comstock also said that Lifeline Church of Livingston helped by opening a warming shelter and managed to maintain power and water. The church also provides showers and laundry services at the facility.

    Uri brought back memories for Comstock, a Livingston native. She compared it to another winter storm that took place a quarter of a century ago.

    “The last ice storm that could be compared to this one happened in 1996,” Comstock said. “I was in elementary school when the winter storm of 1996 hit. I remember that we had thick ice and snow mix on the ground for three days. I don’t remember a long-term power outage then, but as a kid, I was excited to get out and play. Those were fun memories.”

    Comstock said Uri was the first winter storm of this magnitude that she dealt with as coordinator of the OEM. This is her 13th year with the Polk County OEM.

    “I think Polk County fared better than many other counties,” Comstock said. “Power was restored quickly. Once we get water restored, we’ll be back to normal conditions. Some residents will have to make home repairs in order to get back to normal. I think we’re all looking forward to some 60-degree weather this weekend.”

  • Round Two - Winter storm dumps snow on area

    021821 snow 4COURTESY PHOTO BY TERRI GARVIN Dylan Knight and Chase Knight measure the snowfall on Monday.

    TCNS staff

    The area has been hit with record low temperatures and uncharacteristic snowfall, and Trinity County came to a standstill on Monday.

    Schools have been closed at least through Tuesday; roads have been closed, and electric utilities have been forced to start rolling blackouts to stave off a larger blackout because of the huge demand put on the electric grid.

    The possibility of a second winter storm bearing down on the region exists as well.

    According to Trinity County Emergency Management, about 1,130 people were without power, mainly due to the overloaded electric service and the Montgomery County Power Station being down.

    Trinity County Emergency Management opened a warming shelter in the Apple Springs area for anyone in need, and opened the VFW in Trinity as well.

    Anyone feeling they are in need of the service can contact Justice of the Peace Richard Steptoe, Constable Brian McMullen, County Judge Doug Page or Apple Springs Chief Brett Selman.

    According to The Weather Channel, Winter Storm Uri spread brought heavy snow and damaging ice to parts of the South, Midwest and Northeast. Winter Storm Viola has already begun in the West and will be right behind #Uri, bringing significant snowfall totals to many across the country this week. It is expected to bring snow to many of the same locations currently being hit by Uri.

    021821 snow 1COURTESY PHOTO BY KELLY DIAL 10-year-old Brance Dial enjoys some time in the snow.

    Area road closures included:

    •Highway 190 Trinity River Bridge shut down

    •Highway 59 Trinity River Bridge heavy ice over roadway

    •FM 223 to Stringtown Road heavy ice over road

    •FM 1514 Heavy ice over the roadway

    •FM 1725 heavy ice

    •East Fork San Jacinto River Bridge on FM 495 heavy ice

    •FM 2025/FM 2666 to Highway 150 iced over

    •FM 946 South and Highway 156 iced over.

    021821 snow 2COURTESY PHOTO BY CHELSIE JO COOK Roads are beautiful, but dangerous, after a winter storm dumped several inches of snow in Texas.

    TxDOT is encouraging motorists from traveling across the nine-county Lufkin District during the winter weather.

    As of Monday, the Lufkin District currently had 170 employees working 12-hour shifts to monitor and address trouble spots as they arise, utilizing more than 125 pieces of equipment. Pre-treatment of roadways began on Friday.

    “We want people to be aware that driving surfaces will freeze and we are doing all we can to prepare the roadways, but even with a brine mixture, if we experience the low temperatures they have predicted, roads will still freeze,” said Rhonda Oaks, public information officer. “I don’t think there is enough manpower to cover the more than 7,000 road miles in the Lufkin District with a brine mixture but we are doing our best. We have focused our attention on major roadways, state highways and farm roads, but we should remember that Mother Nature is and will always be undefeated. It is up to us to prepare our homes, our families and ourselves to stay safe.”

    Crews will re-treat all major roadways as needed if conditions continue to decline, since additional moisture will re-freeze road surfaces after the initial downfall of snow and ice.

    “Pre-treatment with a brine solution can reduce the temperature at which water freezes and assists with reducing the bond of ice to the roadway, but it does not guarantee that ice will not form,” Oaks said. “There will be patches of ice on local roads, even on roads that have been treated. If you must drive, motorists should reduce speed and stay alert. But because this is an unprecedented weather event, TxDOT is urging drivers to stay home and travel only if absolutely necessary.”

    Visit drivetexas.org (or call 800-452-9292) for real time road conditions/closures or call 911 if you find yourself stranded or facing an emergency. For more information, call This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (936) 633-4395.

  • Tyler County eligible for FEMA funding

    Donna 190 PhotoDONNA HAMMER | TCB Snow, ice and impassible roads were an unusual sight for Tyler County, as well as the rest of the state last week.

    Lawmakers set to hear ERCOT testimony

    By Chris Edwards

    In the aftermath of last week’s winter storms, although the ice and snow have melted and the temperatures have risen, most areas of Texas sustained damages as a result, and Tyler County is one of the counties eligible for federal disaster assistance.

    President Joe Biden has approved a major disaster declaration for Texas on Saturday, Feb. 20, making most of the state eligible for federal relief funding. At press time, 108 of the state’s 254 counties were eligible. Initially, 77 were named as eligible for public assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but on Monday, 31 further counties were added to the list.

    The assistance includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and businesses recover from the disaster’s effects, according to a news release from the White House.

    The request made by Gov. Greg Abbott on Feb. 13 for the presidential disaster declaration included all of Texas’s counties.

    Abbott said on Monday that additional counties will continue to be re-requested and urged Texans who have suffered damage from the storm to fill out the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s (TDEM) Individual Assistance Reporting Tool, a form found on its website, located at tdem.texas.gov.

    Completing the form will help state officials to identify damages across the state and help emergency management officials gain an understanding for reportage to FEMA.

    All of the counties within the region were included on the list of FEMA-eligible counties, save for Newton, which Rep. James White said he had inquired to TDEM about, and added that Rep. Brian Babin is working with FEMA to get its status as FEMA-eligible.

    “Congressman Babin and I will stay on top of this until we get the answer Newton County deserves,” White said.

    Power outages were the primary utility concern for many Texans during the storm, but many also went without water. As of Friday, power had been restored to all Tyler County residents, but there were still around 1,200 residents without water, according to the county’s Emergency Management Office.

    For some of the millions of Texans who were left without electricity, it was reported that some electric consumers received extremely high bills, which is something Abbott said he and other state leaders are working to find solutions for.

    On Saturday, the Texas Tribune reported that Abbott held an emergency meeting with lawmakers to discuss the issue, and the Public Utility Commission met on Sunday to sign two orders: one for providers to put a temporary moratorium on disconnections for power or water customers for non-payment and another for companies to stop sending invoices or bill estimates to customers until, in the words of PUC chair DeAnn Walker “we work through issues of how we are going to financially manage the situation we are in.”

    Abbott also has given the directive to power companies and lawmakers to winterize the state’s power infrastructure, something that was lacking to keep the various power sources online during the record-low temperatures.

    White said he is committed to addressing the causes and implementing the solutions in order to prepare for such extreme weather events in the future, but not promoting agendas. During and after the storm, many public figures and lawmakers voiced opinions on the state’s infrastructure. Fox News’s commentator Tucker Carlson blamed the predicament on wind turbines, while former congressman Beto O’Rourke said that Abbott chose to ignore facts and science; that state Democrats in the House had been warning of a potential blackout for years.

    Part of Abbott’s directive was for the legislature to investigate the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the flow of electric power to more than 26 million Texans, or about 90% of the state’s electric load.

    White said he reached out to ERCOT and spoke with their legal counsel, as well as Bill Magness, the president and CEO of ERCOT. White said that although ERCOT requested two orders to provide a variance to generating entities to provide power generation above licensed levels (one to TCEQ and another to the federal Department of Energy) and neither order restricted, prohibited or eliminated electricity generation during the storm.

    White said that ERCOT stated it was up to the owner of the power generation unit to take advantage of the increase variance, and that ERCOT should have a list of the generating units that utilized the TCEQ variance, the DoE variance or those that chose to do nothing.

    “I look forward to listening to the committee testimony by ERCOT for consistency,” White said.

    White and the rest of the state legislature are expected to hear testimony from ERCOT officials on Thursday in hearings in Austin.

  • Winter weather slams through Polk County

                                   PHOTOS BY JASON CHLAPEK AND PAM NOBLES I PCE Winter weather made driving conditions treacherous for a Toyota pickup truck and an 18-wheeler earlier this week.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Like the majority of the state of Texas, Polk County was not spared by Mother Nature this week.

    A winter storm came through most of the state Sunday night and Polk County was one of the storm’s destinations. The storm left snow on the ground, which prompted schools and some businesses to close its doors because of adverse travel conditions.

    Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy called a declaration of disaster from Sunday to Wednesday. The northern portion of the county received 4-6 inches of snow, while Livingston received 3-4 and the southern portion received 1-2.

    Temperatures did not go above freezing (37 degrees) and are not projected to until Friday when the high is supposed to be 43. Temperatures dropped to as low as 4 Tuesday morning.

    Truck 1

    As of press time, the Polk County Office of Emergency Management reported that approximately 2,600 homes were without water and 292 were without electricity. A second cold front was projected to sweep through the county Wednesday afternoon, which would make driving conditions treacherous again.

    All six county school districts – Big Sandy, Corrigan-Camden, Goodrich, Leggett, Livingston and Onalaska – either closed or performed virtual learning Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. C-CISD is closed for the remainder of the week, Goodrich is closed today and the other districts didn’t make a decision about today or Friday as of press time.

    The Polk County Office of Emergency Management can be reached at 936-327-6826, or visit the website at http://www.PolkCountyOEM.com/ . Other agencies that can be reached during winter storm emergencies are the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (936-327-6810), Department of Public Safety (936-327-6806), Livingston Police Department (936-327-3117), Onalaska Police Department (936-646-5676), Corrigan Police Department (936-398-2551) and the Alabama-Coushatta Police Department (936-563-1200).