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Save Our Seniors initiative starts in San Jacinto County

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031121 SOS 2EMILY KUBISCH-SABRSULA | SJNT Sergeant Rachelle Thomas and her team of medics and administrators teamed up with the San Jacinto County’s Office of Emergency Management to keep the clinic running smoothly, with 105 doses administered in the first day.

By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula
SJNT Staff Writer

COLDSPRING — Last week, San Jacinto County was the first of 26 counties in Texas to implement the Save Our Seniors vaccination program, meant to get the first round of the vaccine into the arms of the county’s older citizens.

Volunteers, who have already been working to assist with distribution at the Brookshire Brothers, along with Army medics, worked side by side to administer the allotted 200 vaccines, with 105 doses of the Moderna vaccine being used in the first day at the Coldspring Emergency Shelter.

Medics also drove around the county to give the first dose to those who are homebound, with officials in the Operations and Emergency Management office calling residents in the county to make sure they were aware of the free program.

The initiative was originally intended for those 75 and older with an appointment, but volunteers moved to contact those 65 and older on the second day as to not waste any of the vaccines, which must be kept refrigerated.

Among those assisting the San Jacinto County OEM office in distribution was Sgt. Rashelle Thomas and her team of certified medics and administrators, who are based out of Lufkin and will continue moving around East Texas to assist in distribution, including in Shelby and Panola county.

“The volunteers and the town are awesome, and we just enjoy all the people we’ve gotten to work with,” she said.

The county, which has been holding vaccination clinics through several outlets prior to last week’s event, claims luck had a small part to do with why the county was chosen as the first to pilot the program, which was put together in less than a week.

“The first day was a little hectic, but we’ve had a steady flow of participants and it’s gone smooth,” SJ County Judge Fritz Faulkner, equipped with a mask, said. “This has really been a blessing.”

Other factors, as stated on the governor’s website, include vaccination rates among seniors and total vaccine allocations over the past three months.

Participants will need to return approximately three weeks after the first shot, as indicated on their form. Those who have received the vaccine are encouraged to continue wearing masks in public and practicing social distancing, as indicated on the CDC website.

While the vaccine has been proven effective in reducing symptoms, specifically those that lead to hospitalization, it’s ability to reduce spread is still being monitored.

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Career month offers alternatives

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031121 ctec 016 COEF PHOTO BY CASSIE GREGORY COCISD CTE Director Jeff Eichman, pictured right, presented Computer Science teacher Robert Mills with a gift bag from the COCISD Education Foundation for CTE Month.

By Jessica Caso
Special to the News-Times

COLDSPRING — For the month of February, Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD celebrated Career and Technical Education Month, which is a public awareness campaign that celebrates the value of CTE and the achievements and accomplishments of such programs.

In addition to celebrating CTE staff and programs, the month also brought awareness to different career paths by providing videos or in-class presentations on engineers, project developers, branches of military, law enforcement and director of academic success.

The month began with gift bags from the Health Center of Southeast Texas and the Coldspring-Oakhurst Education Foundation. Sprinkled throughout February were sweet treats, plants and a Taco Tuesday.

The Yokogawa Corporation ended the celebration by providing breakfast to the program’s 21 staff members and student teachers.

Each day CTE staff were spotlighted as "CTE Staff of the Day" for their contributions to the school and community, and featured on the COCISD CTE Facebook page.

Special thanks were given to the Healthcare Center of Southeast Texas, the COEF, and Yokogawa for their contributions to CTE this month.

Although CTE month is over, COCISD will continue to work with partners to produce career videos throughout the school year. This will provide families access at any time to explore options with their children and know what training, certifications or education is needed for potential careers.

The goal is to empower students with the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve personal and career success and reach their fullest potential as respectful, responsible citizens.

Businesses, people and organizations participating in career video project include Angelina College's Director of Academic Success, Jennifer Balduaf; Solar Power Project Developer, Aaron Arriaga; Yokogawa Corporations Human Resources, Engineering and Marketing Team; U.S. Marines; Texas National Guard; software engineer at Amazon AWS, Lauren Elkins; U.S. Navy; and Westpoint Academy.

Jessica Caso is the COCISD College, Career and Military Readiness Counselor.

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Law enforcement seeks suspected ATM thieves

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KODAK Digital Still Camera     PHOTO COURTESY OF SAN JACINTO COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE The entrance to the Timewise convenience store was damaged Feb. 23 after a group of men rammed it with a pickup truck in order to steal the ATM inside.

By Tony Farkas

SHEPHERD — San Jacinto County law enforcement officers are seeking the identification of a group of men believed responsible for the Feb. 23 break-in at the Timewise Convenience Store near Shepherd.

According to Detective Gary Sharpen of the SJ County Sheriff’s Office, police received a 911 call at about 4:30 a.m. Feb. 23 at the store, which is located at 4700 US 59.

Records show the clerk inside, who was not named, noticed a pickup truck that contained several African American males with hoodies, who then sped up and backed into the store, striking the ATM machine.

“There were five to six black males wearing masks and gloves, and not wearing COVID masks,” he said. “They knew what they were doing — they had planned this out. This wasn’t something spur of the moment.”

Sharpen said the clerk held their hands up throughout the robbery.

The suspects loaded the ATM into the truck, which was identified as a stolen Dodge Ram 1500, and took off, heading into the town of Shepherd on Pine Street, reports indicate.

Sharpen said a witness observed a bunch of debris on the roadway, and saw the pickup in the ditch, which apparently had crashed during its getaway. The witness saw males running around the vehicle, looking confused; however, the suspects had another car with them — a small dark colored 4-door vehicle — which picked up the suspects and fled the scene.

The pickup truck, as well as several sets of gloves and masks, were recovered and are being processed for evidence. Additionally, the ATM was left in the back of the truck, and was recovered and turned over to the company that owns the ATM.

Sharpen said the investigation is continuing, and anyone with information can call the Sheriff’s Office at (936) 653-4367 or the Multi-county Crime Stoppers at (936) 539-7867.

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Severe storm leaves lingering cold temperature and questions

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022521 weather 2PHOTOS COURTESY OF FRITZ FAULKNER San Jacinto County Commissioner Laddie McAnally, County Judge Fritz Faulkner, and Brandon McClendon and Mike Flynn unload pallets of drinking water to be distributed throughout the county to those affected by Winter Storm Uri.

By Tony Farkas

San Jacinto County Judge Fritz Faulkner can’t really remember a time that winter was this bad.

“It’s the worst winter weather I’ve seen in my life,” he said.

However, Faulkner said the communities in the county pulled together nicely to get through it.

“We opened up a warming center, but we didn’t have a lot of response to it, got about 14 out of the cold,” he said. “Most people prefer to stay home. The roads were in terrible shape because the highway department was overwhelmed.”

Faulkner said the power companies did an outstanding job getting power restored as well, and as of Friday, all the county now has power.

“Everyone is now at the stage of putting their water pipes back together,” he said. “In anticipation of that, I ordered a couple of truckloads of water from the state to pass out, divided between the four commissioner precincts.”

Faulker said that food pantries were delivering food Friday and Saturday to people that needed it.

Cassie Gregory, public information officer for Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD, said the district was not impacted by the weather, as it was taking the winter break.

However, Shepherd ISD did close for the week, for weather and because the city of Shepherd issued a boil water notice in response to the storm.

In a news release, Entergy Texas expected all customers who can safely take power were able to turn the lights on by the end of the business day on Friday.

At the state level, Gov. Greg Abbott, after issuing an emergency declaration for all Texas counties on Feb. 14, on Saturday announced that President Joe Biden approved a partial emergency declaration for Texas.

San Jacinto County is among the 77 counties that will be eligible to receive federal aid.

Additionally, Abbott temporarily waived regulations from the Department of Motor Vehicles to aid in the response to winter weather and power outages throughout the state.

These waivers allowed commercial vehicles to travel in Texas as long as the vehicle is registered elsewhere and doing emergency response.

These waivers are helping increase the delivery of water, food, and other supplies to Texas communities dealing with power and water outages.

“As we continue to bring power and water back online throughout the state, it is essential that we deliver the food, water, and supplies that Texans need during these challenging times,” Abbott said. “These waivers will help us provide more of these vital resources to communities across the state and ensure that Texas families have the supplies they need to stay safe as we work to overcome this emergency.”

Since the Legislature is in session this year, Abbott added a mandate for the winterization of Texas' power system to the list of emergency items the state must tackle. 

Abbott also requested a Major Disaster Declaration — which includes Individual Assistance, Public Assistance, and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program — from the White House. This declaration will allow eligible Texans to apply for assistance to help address broken pipes and related property damage.

The state is also working to distribute food, water, generators, and additional supplies to Texas communities, and warming centers are established every day. For winter weather resources, including a map of warming centers and ways to help Texans in need, visit: https://open.texas.gov/winter

Expressing concern about financial challenges Texans will face as a result of the winter storm, Abbott will address the need to ensure that Texans are not left with unreasonable utility bills they cannot afford because of the temporary massive spike in the energy market.

The meeting include committee leaders, including Sen. Robert Nichols, who represents San Jacinto County.

The Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees public utilities, prioritized natural gas deliveries for human needs with an emergency order on Feb. 12, and recently extended it through Tuesday.

This action helps ensure the availability of gas supplies to gas-fired generation facilities in Texas during this critical period. The Commission took this action to help protect public health and safety during this extreme weather event.

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Round Two - Winter storm dumps snow on area (GALLERY)

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SanJacSnowFeb2021 7COURTESY PHOTO Frozen Texas yard ornament.

News-Times staff

The area has been hit with record low temperatures and uncharacteristic snowfall, and San Jacinto 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 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.

Area road closures include:

•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.

According to the San Jacinto County Office of Emergency Management, the low may lead to burst pipes, ruptured water mains and other serious damage to infrastructure.

Snow and ice that accumulates will stick around until at least mid-week with temperatures remaining below freezing for extended period of time. More wintry precipitation may fall with another system behind the current one.

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.

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