At 2 a.m. Feb. 15, the effects of the winter storm became apparent when the electricity went off. This one initial event triggered a series of occurrences that set us on a path of physical, mental and emotional challenges that in many ways were even more concerning than those we experience during hurricane season.
All of the forecasts predicted freezing weather, and we expected from all reports that any power outages would take the form of rolling blackouts. But soon it became clear that we were in for an entirely different response.
An emergency declaration was put into place immediately, employees were assembled, CenterPoint Energy was contacted, communication was organized, and our state elected officials were notified.
A letter to Gov. Greg Abbott was sent requesting assistance, and the Texas Department of Emergency Management was notified. Plans were put into motion to handle this as a true emergency. The main difference, though, is with hurricanes the rest of the state isn’t affected and resources are available.
The city knew that as temperatures started to rise and electricity was restored, thawing broken water lines would begin to leak. Crews worked around the clock to turn off water to homes, and the Gulf Coast Water Authority stepped up to supply extra water to fill our depleted water tanks.
Quickly, we started stemming the outflow of water and filling our tanks, electricity eventually was restored, and the city rapidly moved to test our water for safety and lift the boil-water notice.
From this point forward, the city is working to return to “normal” as soon as possible. We’ve been working with our federal and state administrative and elected officials to see what can be done to restock our depleted plumbing supplies.
In addition to our letter to the governor at the outset of the storm, the city has submitted testimony to the state legislature outlining our concerns and requesting restitution.
The city is finalizing a program to assist our home and business owners concerning their water bills, and the Public Utilities Commission has enacted an order prohibiting the disconnection of electricity for non- payment.
I’m hoping this winter storm was an anomaly — but it could possibly be the beginning of a trend. Here in Galveston, discussions are underway to determine what lessons we’ve learned that are valuable in making us more prepared and resilient in the future.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the city staff of Galveston for their dedication and hard work that allowed our community to lead the state in its ability to get back to normal as quickly as possible.
And I would like to especially thank our residents who, in many instances, suffered greatly but during their hardships were very supportive and contacted me and the city with continual offers of assistance.
To both, you’re the true heroes that we all owe an enormous debt of gratitude.