FAYETTE COUNTY, Texas — After winter storms piled on top of each other across Texas, causing pileups on roadways, deaths in homes and millions to lose power, heat and water, Fayette County is getting ready to move forward.
"The calls that were coming in were distress calls at the beginning," Leon Longhamer, who owns Leon John's Inc. in Schulenburg, said.
In any given week during the winter, Longhamer might get 20-30 plumbing- or HVAC-related calls. In this past week, he's received more than 150 and expects to get more over the weekend.
"We did a lot of water shutoffs and then followed up for the cleanup a little bit later, once we had warmer temperatures," Longhamer said. "It was just so doggone cold out there and when it's that cold there's no point trying to fix anything or repair it at that point."
Out in Fayette County, many people living in rural areas outside towns have well-water pumped up to their homes. However, when the winter weather knocked out power to the county, those pumps died too, leaving people without water.
"The well has a small pressure reserve, but as soon as that's out, then they don't have water anymore," Craig Moreau, Chief of Fayette County's Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said. "Well, then a lot of people are also, depending on their wells, continuing to trickle a little bit to keep from freezing. So as soon as the electricity goes out, not only do not have water, you run freezing risk in the well."
Moreau and county staff and neighbors stepped in to deliver water to people who had their pumps knocked out from either weather or when the Energy Reliability Council of Texas asked counties to "shed load" and shut off power. At the same time, Longhamer brought in additional subcontractors to handle the call volume.
Both Longhamer and Moreau say any sort of notice that water or electricity were going to be shut off would have helped save some pumps.
"We've got people without water, without sanitation," Moreau said. "You know, that's a major health risk. And just a little bit of forewarning could prevent a lot of it. They tell us in 30 minutes you're going to be without power. We would start draining our pumps immediately, and that's going to be a major issue."
"The situation as it was with the rolling blackouts, I think, something that we all just didn't foresee," Longhamer said. "Hopefully we can get that eliminated."
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