(Note: The weekend edition of The Rockport Pilot was sent to press Wednesday, Feb. 17. All breaking news is posted on the Pilot’s Facebook page. We encourage you to “like” our Facebook Page to ensure you receive any breaking news.)
Winter Storm Uri brought more pain to Aransas County residents than was first expected.
Supply issues with electricity, water, gasoline, and even food compounded issues people faced. Everyone had to focus on the most basic of things to make it through a nearly weeklong period most had never faced.
Sunday and Monday
In preparation for the storm, Aransas County residents braced for 24 to 48 hours of below-freezing temperatures.
That began Sunday evening, Feb. 14, making it a Valentine’s Day to remember.
Monday’s temperatures remained below freezing.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) instructed electric utilities, including AEP Texas, to interrupt power early Monday morning and anticipated continuing the controlled outages through Tuesday. Winter Storm Uri was impacting the entire state, and the supply of electricity fell to dangerous levels because the storm knocked out many electric generation sources in the state. Those who had power were told they could expect to keep power, and those who didn’t have power, were told not to expect power until Tuesday at the earliest.
The AEP report at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15 noted close to 370,000 customers across its service territory in south and west Texas did not have power.
An ERCOT directive later the same day directed electric utilities to shed even more power.
At 9:30 p.m. Monday AEP reported 441,000 customers in its service area had no power.
AEP noted damage to its lines was minimal. They were awaiting ERCOT’s approval to start powering back up.
Temperatures rose above freezing during the day, which led to yet another problem – busted pipes.
As frozen pipes thawed, breaks in thousands of lines were exposed.
At the same time, the San Patricio Municipal Water District (SPMWD) cut its supply of water to Rockport by more than half.
Water was bleeding from the Rockport water utility, much faster than it was being received.
A Code Red message was sent late Tuesday afternoon asking everyone to turn off dripping faucets because the temperature was not expected to be below freezing again until Thursday night.
On Tuesday night water service had to be cut to maintain the integrity of the water system.
A boil alert was issued for all water to be consumed.
The good news was Tuesday night was not expected to bring temperatures below the freezing mark along the coast.
However, the National Weather Service – Corpus Christi issued several bulletins late in the day and into the evening warning that freezing rain was going to reach the coast, including Aransas County.
By Tuesday, there was only one location one could buy gasoline – the convenience store at the north end of the Copano Bay Causeway, at Park Road 13. That supply of gas didn’t last long.
Also on Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott declared ERCOT reform an emergency item this legislative session. In declaring this item an emergency, the Governor called on the legislature to investigate ERCOT and ensure Texans never again experience power outages on the scale they had seen.
“The ERCOT has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” said Gov. Abbott. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable. Reviewing the preparations and decisions by ERCOT is an emergency item so we can get a full picture of what caused this problem and find long-term solutions.”
Warming stations were opened at the Fulton and Lamar volunteer fire departments Tuesday evening.
After another cold night, temperatures rose into the 40s.
Aransas County Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills, Rockport Mayor Pat Rios, City Manager Kevin Carruth, Public Works Director Mike Donoho, and Fulton Mayor Kelli Cole addressed residents via Facebook Live, which was carried by this newspaper, and the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce.
(Note: see Pilot’s Facebook page to listen to that address by local officials.)
Each of the officials noted Winter Storm Uri was a rare event, presenting problems not faced before.
They asked everyone to practice “a little grace” during this stressful time, and encouraged everyone to check on their neighbors.
Officials asked people to report any water leaks to 729-1111, and city crews would turn off water to the home or business as soon as possible.
It was noted during Hurricane Harvey, residents could leave town for a while to escape the hardships, but with Uri, the entire state was affected, and there was no place to turn.
Donoho announced city water would be turned on about 8 a.m. Thursday, after the City’s above ground, and ground level water storage tanks had a chance to refill. He said the water will be shut off each day by 5 p.m., or earlier if required. This is a similar pattern used after Hurricane Harvey. Regular water service will resume once it is deemed safe to do so.
The city couldn’t afford running too low in its stored water supply, which would present a myriad of other issues due to reduced water pressure, including the safety of the entire water system.
Only a few hotels were open, and the availability of gasoline remained all but non-existent.
Gasoline availability was the same issue as electricity and water – demand far exceeded supply.
The availability of food was an issue, as well. HEB remained open, but closed earlier than normal each day. Walmart closed and was not open through press deadline Wednesday. Ace Hardware, and several convenience stores were open, but with limited hours of operation.
Aransas County and City officials announced all their offices would be closed the remainder of the week.
Residents can visit the “Winter Storm Uri” information page at www.cityofrockport.org for additional information.
An ERCOT directive Wednesday afternoon directed electric utilities to shed even more power.