The clear blue sky and bright sun Monday made it hard to believe that just last week Calhoun County was plunged into a winter wasteland of ice and snow with no power or water.
But residents along with city officials are assessing the damage from burst pipes and extreme cold that got down into the 20s with wind chills even lower.
And through it all, people helped people at warming centers, and businesses did their best to provide for residents’ needs as the freezing weather took over for four days.
Power went off starting Monday and didn’t return to the area until Thursday.
Interim City Manager Jody Weaver was at city hall from Sunday until Wednesday working to restore power to the water, wastewater, and lift stations.
She reported to the Port Lavaca City Council that the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority could not see the levels at the city’s tower due to equipment loss on their end. At 2:20 p.m. Tuesday, the city issued a boil water notice as pressure had gotten below 20 pounds per square inch, she said.
The water stayed off as did power, and Weaver said she reached out to AEP to switch the plants to the hospital circuit, which was still working but received no reply.
The Port Lavaca Fire Department distributed water to residents at the Bauer Center on Wednesday.
“I reached out to the Point Comfort Fire Department to get some water as their facility had better pressure,” said PLFD Chief Joe Reyes.
Helping out was the Six Mile Volunteer Fire Department with a tanker truck. The Calhoun County AgriLife Extension Service also brought a 250-gallon tank, and Reyes said about eight PLFD and volunteer firefighters were also in service.
Reyes said the first day of water distribution was from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the second day was from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as demand was dwindling, but added that people with busted pipes were still stopping by the fire station for water.
At the Monday council meeting, Weaver said the city was still under a boil water notice, but samples had been sent off, and she was hoping to be able to rescind the notice by Tuesday.
The lift stations became a critical issue for the city, nearing surcharge, but the power was restored in time for the main lift station to be pumped, avoiding an overflow condition, she said.
The water was slow to return due to open taps, but by Friday had reached a point where it could be turned on for residents under an essential use-only notice, which was rescinded Monday.
City crews have been dealing with water leaks like the one at Nautical Landings, and citizens have been good at reporting the ones they have found.
One program Weaver wants residents to know about is the plumbing repair hotline for homeowners. The program is waiving permit fees for plumbing issues, and the information will help the city track and report the scope of the program. Residents can send their information to email@example.com or contact Jessica Carpenter, Port Lavaca Development Services, at 361-552-9793 ext. 235 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Weaver said the report was a very preliminary one, noting a more detailed report would be presented at the March city council meeting.
Point Comfort’s electricity was restored earlier but, on Wednesday, ruptured pipes were being reported across the city, creating big issues, said City Administrator Robby Silva.
One issue was in the Point Comfort Business Center where the pipe burst in the Point Comfort Library leaving it in three feet of water, said Silva.
Even though power came back on, the city was put under a boil water notice due to low pressure in the water system. Samples have been sent to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, but the agency wants to see more consistency before the notice can be lifted, said Silva.
The city was able to provide a warming station via a generator at the Brush Community Center, of which 30 to 40 people took advantage.
“The lack of connectivity was an issue. We didn’t have phones or the internet. Even cell phones were spotty,” he said.
Calhoun County ISD’s technology area was hardest hit in the school district, which necessitated the relocation of several departments, said Superintendent Larry Nichols.
School resumed Monday, despite some busted pipes at a few campuses. “They were quickly fixed in order to have schools open,” said Nichols.
The football and baseball fields also suffered from burst pipes.
Nichols estimated the damage between $70,000 and $100,000, and the district has applied to FEMA for assistance.
Meanwhile, in Seadrift, the city is no longer under a boil water notice, but is also dealing with burst pipes and water main breaks.
“We had emergency work done on two six-inch lines by a contractor on Tuesday and Thursday,” said Mayor Elmer DeForest. “Many residents, including myself, have had busted pipes.”
The citizens pulled together well during this time, DeForest said.
Calhoun County Judge Richard Meyer said Port O’Connor had some trailer parks that were being monitored by the MUD district because of broken pipes.
“If the meters keep spinning, the district will cut off water,” he said.
While the county fared well, Meyer said they weren’t truly prepared for this kind of storm and plans a workshop to compare areas and to start planning for the next time.
“I hope there is not a next time, but if there is, I want us to be ready and more prepared than we were this time,” he said. “Overall, I talked to all the commissioners, and things are coming back together.”
Staff writer Jared Van Epps contributed to this story.