All-hands on deck for first bottled water distribution in Lockhart
With the temperature hovering below 20 degrees, the 18-wheeler pulled into the Lockhart Junior High School Parking lot just before 8 a.m. on Feb. 19. The truck’s precious cargo was18 pallets of bottled water, much-needed relief for local residents who have been without since Wednesday.
The plan was to unload the pallets, stage it for pickup, and then announce a 9 a.m. pickup. The Maxwell Fire Department prematurely posted pickup for 8:30 a.m., and thirsty residents began lining up at around 8:15 a.m.
The truck did not come with a pallet jack, but it did come with a helpful drive (that this reporter, regrettably, forgot to get a name). Caldwell County Office of Emergency Management Chief Hector Rangel and several members of his staff improvised a chain system to pull the pallets to the edge of the truck, allowing a forklift to pick up.
As cars filled with anxious residents lined up, the City of Lockhart brought in a pallet jack to speed up the offloading. By 9:20 a.m., the pallets had been unloaded, and were ready for pickup.
The Lockhart Police Department, which had been stopping traffic, began letting cars through. Without asking, the truck driver pitched in, helping direct cars. It took about 20 minutes for officials to get a system, but once they found a rhythm, the line flowed fairly smoothly (one car got stuck exiting, but it was cleared after a few minutes).
All 640 cases of water were put into cars by city and county officials, and several members of the Lockhart Fire Department.
Judge Hoppy Haden grabbed case after case of water he had requested from the state a week prior. He offered a wave and a masked smile as he set the cases in the back of pickups, trunks of cars, or backseats.
The first car to come through shouted, “thank you!” as he drove off.
Lockhart Mayor Lew White, who is 69 years old, lugged the heavy cases of water to cars, offering a wave and a smile with each delivery.
Lockhart City Council Member David Bryant, who is also a pastor, offered a “God bless,” to many people he gave water to.
Precinct Three Commissioner Ed Theriot, Lockhart City Council Member Jeffry Michelson, Lockhart City manager Steven Lewis all pitched in loading cases into cars, directing traffic, and helping to stage the cases in stacks for loading.
Overall the response was positive. Most people shouted thank yous as they pulled away, children smiled, and curious dogs wagged their tails. There was only person who shouted profanity when he was told he could only have one case.
Two pallets were pulled aside from the shipment. One was picked up by the City of Luling and will be distributed to residents there, and the other by the Maxwell Fire Department, who organized pickup at their fire station at 2:30 p.m.
Both the City of Lockhart and Caldwell County have put in STAR requests for more shipments. No dates have been announced.