Locals request assistance during winter storm

Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat
A file photo from 2017 shows the Panda Power plant in Sherman. Officials with ERCOT said high demand and unexpected plant outages across the state have led widespread blackouts.

While the winter weather that gripped the area for several days was expected to start to thaw on Thursday, the response from local communities and agencies will be something that will be studied for quite some time to come. 

State Representative Reggie Smith, District 62, said he has watched the situation unfold and been as upset as anyone else by the number of people who have been left in the cold and without water during this event.

State House Rep. Reggie Smith speaks in Sherman during a 2020 watch party.

"It has been agonizing to tell you the truth because there is not a whole lot that those of us in leadership can do but hope these guys catch up and fix the problem on the ground," Smith said.

"I am just really proud of our local officials and they way they have managed themselves. They have worked diligently day after day to try to do the best that they can for the communities that they serve. I have seen one act of great leadership after another out of them."

On Thursday morning, he said it was his understanding that ERCOT instructed the providers that there was no longer a need for controlled outages.

"So, now it is up to the utilities and their individual circumstances to go ahead and implement power. A lot of that is going to depend on what the circumstances are on the ground — has there been damage to infrastructure that still needs to be repaired and that sort of thing." 

He is looking forward to looking into exactly what happened and why.

"There are so many questions that need to be answered and so many issues that need to be dealt with. I am looking forward to having meetings with mayors, city councilmen, county commissioners, after this is over with, to kinda get their input  as to our situation locally. I am looking forward to ERCOT answers to my questions (and the questions of others) about how we ended up in this situation and  what we can do to correct it going forward."

In a situation report issued Wednesday night, The Grayson County Office of Emergency Management Office showed an over view of how things stood in the county at that time. 

The report said agencies that requested water conservation included Denison, Pottsboro and Southmayd. Those that issued boil water notices included Bells, Denison, Dorchester, Gunter, Howe, Pottsboro, Sherman, Southmayd, Tioga, Tom Bean Van Alstyne, Whitewright, and Desert Water Supply. 

Denison, Dorchester, and Gunter had requested generators through the State of Texas Assistance Request process.

"The state has been unable to fulfill any request at this time," the report said. 

Dorchester Mayor David Smith said his city would be shutting off water overnight to conserve water and Dorchester will not need the generator once things settle down. 

"Right now, we are basically running water from 8 in the morning to 8 or 9  at night at a reduced pressure for two reasons. One, is to conserve pressure and the other is that people are finding broken pipes flooding their homes," he said.

Not returning to full power right away will allow people to find those broken spots with as little water damage as possible. Smith added that they are driving the area where their 600 accounts are located and looking for signs of broken pipes to try to get repairs underway as soon as possible. 

It could be Monday before they get things back up to full speed. 

Warming Centers

Officials with the Grayson County Office of Emergency Management reported significant electric, water outages and issues following winter storms February 2021 storms.

Because there were so many people without power in the county, there were several warming centers opened throughout the area.

Sherman Community and Support Services Manager Nate Strauch said Sherman had fewer than a dozen people take advantage of the warming center at the Municipal Building, but he added other centers might have had more use.  

St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Denison has been open as a warming center since the beginning of the week.

Warming Centers were also opened at St. Luke's, 427 W. Woodard in Denison, First Baptist Church Youth Center, 99 Gentle Creek Lane in Gunter, Community Bible Fellowship, 415 S. Collins Freeway in Howe, City Hall Community Center, 201 Britton Street in Tom Bean, Van Alstyne Community Center, 262 N. Preston Avenue in Van Alstyne, King's Trail Cowboy Church, 498 Bethel Cannon Road in Whitewright.

A request for information from the Grayson County Office of Emergency Management about how long those centers would remain open was not immediately responded to on Thursday.

Senior nutrition

Ray Ferman, right, packs bags of food for delivery at the Sherman Senior Center in 2020. Meals on Wheels volunteers distribute meals from the facility.

Meals on Wheels was not able to deliver during the severe weather event.

In a telephone call Thursday, Meals on Wheels of Texoma Executive Director Greg Pittman said the meals that they had delivered in advance due to COVID-19 preparations were there to hold people over.

Just before the bad weather hit MOWT was able to take out a few additional meals and then during the event, it was able to make some deliveries to those who were in need.

"I think they had (a delivery) for every single person (on their rolls) in Tom Bean yesterday," Pittman said.

Those people received more of the shelf stable meals, and Pittman anticipates Meals on Wheels will be up and running close to normal by Monday. However, that depends upon the water situation in Sherman and the availability of the items needed to fill food boxes. 

"Every little individual serving of everything is all gone (from store shelves). You just can't get individually wrapped shelf stable individual serving sizes right now," Pittman said adding he is sure it won't take long before those supplies will be replenished.

Meals on Wheels of Texoma Director Greg Pittman accepts a ham from Ruiz Foods in 2020. Hot meals have been on hold for the senior meal distribution organization this week as Texomans deal with power outages and boil water notices.

"We have enough (on hand) to pack up two meals per client right now," he adding that MOWT is expecting another grocery truck next week.

Sherman Water

The Sherman wastewater treatment plant has been treating water from Howe residents for many years.

Strauch said  Sherman's water treatment plant went back online early Thursday morning.

"So we're hopeful that everyone will have water services restored by the end of the day," he said.

The city had given out about 800 cases of bottled water by noon on Thursday to city residents who were in need.

As for the boil water order that was in place, Strauch said lifting that would be a bit more complicated than just restoring service.

"It will be removed for the east side of the city before the west side. Hopefully (the) east side will be lifted (Friday). We will have to wait and see what the samples look like before we'll know for sure on the west."

The city will continue to hand out water  at the Municipal Building to those in need as long as the need continues to exist.

Denison Water 

The city of Denison had also issued a boil water notice.

Calls and texts to check the status of the water water situation in Denison were not immediately answered on Thursday.

The notice on the city's website said the city's water system had experienced reduced system pressure and the boil water order  was issued on Tuesday.