Ice storm paralyzes Central Texas
By LPR Staff
The promise of severe winter weather brought city, county and school district business to a screeching halt on Monday.
As temperatures hovered at or below freezing early this week, the area”s leaders followed the lead of other Central Texas municipalities and brought business to a halt. For both the City of Lockhart and
Caldwell County, the decision meant not only closing government offices, but also canceling meetings for the governing bodies.
“We don”t want people leaving the house unless they have to,” said Lockhart Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram. “I don”t think that the city employees should have to leave their homes, and I don”t want our citizens trying to either climb the stairs at City Hall or come down the ramp to the Glosserman Room for the meeting.”
Bertram said he made the decision to close city offices just after 4 p.m. on Monday and spent the rest of the afternoon working with City Manager Vance Rodgers to inform city staff and the local media.
“We had a lot of calls we had to make,” he said. “We wanted everyone to know that we were going to go ahead and close on Tuesday, and that on Tuesday we would make the decision about Wednesday.”
Weather reports as of Monday afternoon indicated that the worst of the storm would have passed by Tuesday night. However, conditions worsened Monday night and throughout the day on Tuesday, prompting city, county and schoolofficials to halt business on Wednesday as well.
“Right now, people are staying inside and not going out, so our emergency services aren”t being overtaxed,” Bertram said Tuesday. “Still, we”ve been talking to the Regional Office of Emergency Management, and we have reason to believe that it”s not going to get better, it”s going to get worse.”
Despite a slight thaw on Tuesday afternoon, temperatures plummeting back into the 20s on Tuesday night caused many roadways and overpasses to freeze again, creating the potentially dangerous situation Bertram was concerned about.
The weather also affected plans for the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day March.
The march, organized by District One Pride and the Lockhart Progressive Club and co-sponsored by the City of Lockhart, was cancelled just hours before it was scheduled to begin.
According to District One Councilmember Kenny Roland, the march was scheduled to go forward as of 9 p.m. on Sunday. At that time, Roland hoped that even if the weather prevented the march, it would allow the speaking program scheduled afterward. However, in the early morning hours on Monday, Roland and other event organizers experienced a change of heart.
“We”re disappointed that we can”t go forward,” Roland said on Monday morning. “But our biggest responsibility is to the folks, and we can”t have them out on the streets if it”s icy and freezing rain [is falling].”
Roland said the march would be rescheduled for an alternate date.
Emergency service workers were on constant alert as severe weather blew into Caldwell County. Sheriff”s deputies kept a vigilant eye on the San Marcos River through Martindale, Fentress and Prairie Lea as the weekend”s rains brought promises of flash flooding, and Lockhart police officers started exchanging information about ice sightings as early as noon on Monday.
Through Monday and Tuesday, police officers, sheriff”s deputies and fire service workers stayed in constant contact regarding road conditions and worsening weather. Early in the afternoon on Tuesday, reports floated over the airwaves about streets and highways being impassable, including State Park Road, Highway 183 and FM 2001. Ice accumulation over half an inch was reported in Uhland and Lytton Springs by members of Chisholm Trail Fire Rescue.
Calls began coming in just after 8 p.m. on Monday about ice-related accidents, the first occurring on Highway 183 on the bridge crossing Highway 21. No one was seriously injured in the accident, and those involved declined medical attention at the scene. Though traffic was quiet for much of Tuesday, another ice-related accident occurred on the Plum Creek Bridge just after 5 p.m. Again, no one was seriously injured when the driver lost control and slid off the highway.
Lockhart City Manager Vance Rodgers reported on Wednesday morning that Lockhart fared the worst of the storm well. Only one major power outage, which lasted just under two hours, was reported.
“We had one tree come down on San Antonio Street that knocked out a main line,” he said. “It went out about 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday, and we had the power back up by 3:15 a.m.”
Rodgers said there were other spotty outages but that emergency systems were not being overtaxed as of Wednesday morning.
At press time Wednesday, weather reports indicated that though the worst of the ice storm had passed, some threat of continued freezing rain and sleet still exists, and rain is expected to continue through the weekend.