Opinion – Inclement weather tests Caldwell County services
From the Desk of County Judge Tom D. Bonn:
Caldwell County residents were awakened during the early hours last Wednesday morning Jan. 25, 2012 to a massive rain, lightning, and thunder storm. Rain measurements exceeded 9-plus inches in the northwest part of the county to 5-plus inches at mid-county. Electricity was lost to large sections of the county for several hours due t
o downed trees and lightning strikes, according to Will at that Bluebonnet Command Center. Bluebonnet Electric service teams responded during the dark of night and peak of the storm restoring power as rapidly as possible. Lockhart ISD closed school and we asked only essential services personnel to report for duty for our first weather day of the new 2012 year.
However, during these outages, our Emergency Management Center lost Internet capability, Unit
Road lost electrical power, and other offices lost phone service due to lightning strikes (JP1). This is when our Public Safety 700/800 MHz radio network became our communication lifeline!
This network is more dependable than any public cell phone communications. It allowed for the coordination of field operations between Unit Road and emergency responders, volunteer fire departments, and the sheriff deputies to identify low water crossings and roads that had flooded. These were logged at the EOC and requested to be barricaded by Unit Road as soon as possible to protect our public. Luling Fire Department made one swift water rescue allowing Star Flight to return to Austin for another emergency.
This information was posted to our County website as soon as practical. Mark George was able to assist with the operations of the EOC and his work is greatly appreciated.
The damage range was from light to excessive. The total amount of damage by category and the estimated amount of damage is as follows:
Light Damage – 49 Roads: $500
Moderate Damage – 54 Roads: $ 1,500
Heavy Damage – 9 Roads: $ 3,000
Excessive Damage – 2 Roads: $75,000.00
The foregoing amounts were turned into DPS Emergency Representative Jack Dobbler then forwarded to FEMA as our initial damage estimate. This initial damage report was prepared by our new County Engineer and staff. Other damage assessments on County buildings sustained damage due to roof and window leakage. The Courthouse had numerous water leaks from the horizontal rain entering the clock tower passing through the attic to the third floor offices and down to the second floor courtroom.
We had multiple road closures (approximately 25) which occurred because of the flooding. Closures have been reduced to two as of this writing (Jan. 30, 2012). We anticipate the remaining two roads will be back open within a week.
I want to personally thank all emergency service providers, County and volunteer, Bluebonnet Electric, County Engineer Bill Garner, and the Unit Road personnel. Their cooperative work managing the safety of our citizens, restoring power, making repairs in a timely manner and working on weekends to get these roads back open.
When you have events such as the recent flooding, your manpower and resources are usually strained to the maximum because you have so many simultaneous damage events and road closures occurring at the same time.
Road and bridge repairs were completed and scheduled on a priority basis. County roads were repaired as soon as possible with major traffic arteries given priority servicing the largest number of County residents. Safety consideration is always our first priority.
We appreciate your patience as our crews attempt to get all of these roads opened and repaired as soon as possible. If you feel that the Unit Road department missed the repair of a damaged road please call your Commissioner to coordinate the necessary repairs. If you have any questions about the state or timing of repairs then please contact the County Engineer at (512) 398-1803.
Despite the damage to our roads and bridges the rain was a most welcome event for our residents. Ponds and area lakes are full again and the rain will most certainly help restore our grass pastures, thirsty trees and our spring crops. Our “H.T. Wright Wetland” is now officially christened, with all of the 13 impoundments holding water. This was a critical weather event that hopefully changes our drought forecast by the National Weather Bureau. The County “Burn Ban” continues to be lifted until conditions dictate the need for enforcement.