The severe winter weather that has seen temperatures dip down into the single digits has hampered city operations, but not halted them. Despite the challenges, city employees have worked together to provide vital services to Waxahachie residents.
City Manager Michael Scott said it has been a collaborative effort between the city, Waxahachie ISD, state organizations, first responders, and community groups to meet the needs.
“City offices have been closed this week and we are trying to keep those folks safe and off the streets like we are advising everyone to stay at home,” Scott told the Sun. “We have a number of folks that work at home and we are doing what we can remotely.
“Essential crews have reported every day, which is our streets, our utilities, and first responders,” he said. “It has been business as usual for them as far as them taking care of business that needs to be taken care of. We have worked with TxDOT to make sure the welfare of the roads and put some sand down.”
Scott said preparations began as soon as the city knew there was a cold front moving in, including steps like stockpiling sand, fueling city vehicles, and filling storage tanks.
David Bailey, director of utilities, said teamwork and preparedness are what helped the city during this winter storm.
“Even though we felt like we were prepared, this extreme frigid temperature and all this snow and ice gave us a bit of a little challenge,” Bailey said. “However, the operations team, the maintenance team, and up to the city manager pulled together and have done a magnificent job of keeping pressures in the system and water to the customer.
“Some water systems in the area and across the metroplex are under a boil water notice, but that is not the case here in Waxahachie,” he said.
What puts a water system in a boil water scenario is if it loses water pressure and the system gets below 20 pounds per square inch or becomes completely out of water, Bailey said, noting that boiling water is a precautionary measure. It lets people know that a water system can’t guarantee the integrity of that water because the pressures in that water dipped below the 20 psi mark.
“Our pressures did not get below 20 psi,” Bailey said. “We maintained pressures and water in our storage tanks. We were one of the fortunate systems.”
The Utilities Department took several steps to prepare the system for cold weather. Some of the steps included inspecting equipment to make sure it was ready to go, putting insulation on equipment, getting portable heating equipment in place, and having generators at key facilities ready to go and serviced. The overall status of the city’s water and sewer systems is healthy and up and running, Bailey said, noting that he’s proud of the work put in by the city crews.
“We have an amazing, dedicated group of team members that had been out day and night keeping things going, all the way from our utility workers through city management. Everyone played a part,” Bailey said. “Also, Public Works was also out there helping transport fuels to our generators so a shout out to them too.”
While residents are encouraged to keep their faucets dripping so pipes don’t freeze up, they do need to conserve in areas where they can until the city gets all of its storage tanks back up to normal levels, he said.
The city is considering issuing a disaster declaration. Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide disaster declaration in response to the severe winter weather, with cities like Arlington following suit and issuing their own.
“It is very likely,” Scott said. “We are looking at that right now, especially if there is some state and federal funding that can come from that. The state issued a declaration for all 254 counties and, of course, we can get on board with that and hopefully get some FEMA funds if they become available.
“We have incurred some costs in responding to this that we would not otherwise have,” he said. “We are kind of ascertaining exactly what the damage is and what the costs are and what that disaster declaration will get us.”
A specially called city council would have to be held in the coming days to look at the possibility of adopting a declaration.
Scott stated he is proud of the community’s response to the weather.
“It just speaks to the resiliency, dedication, and care of this community,” he said. “I could not be prouder. Waxahachie is an amazing place. You have got organizations like the churches in town and all of them are ready to step forward, lend a hand and help people out. I think that is what makes Waxahachie just an awesome place.
“They are so quick to say that we are all in this together, we are going to get through it and how can I help you?” he said. “Those churches stepped forward and we sure appreciate their community-mindedness.”