Arlington leaders want to explore additional generator power and disaster response accommodations after the February winter storm that left more than 5 million Texans without power.
Andrew Piel, District 4 council member, said he received a call from a mother with a child after they lost power, asking where they could go. Asking around, Piel was told there was no guarantee of power at any facilities except for hospitals.
“I was very disturbed by that,” Piel said before asking whether the city could explore adding generators to a recreation center or using a portable generator.
Fire Chief Don Crowson and other city staff broke down each day of freezing temperatures, water pressure loss and recovery as residents scrambled for warmth, water and information. The presentation included information on decisions made during the storm. The city experienced more than 2,500 water breaks, predominantly at homes and businesses where owners let their water run.
“We chased those leaks for days,” said Craig Cummings, Arlington Water Utilities director.
Cummings said poor advice or false information on social media prompted demand for water at levels higher than what the department would see in August. At the time of the freeze, Pierce Burch Water Treatment Plant was running when John F. Kubala Water Treatment Plant would normally run. Only one plant normally runs during February, which Cummings described as a “mundane month.”
Cummings said the city plans to install a generator at Pierce Burch; Kubala already has a generator. Additionally, he said, the city could consider keeping both plants running. Water issues, he said, were not due to systemic failure; rather, increased demand brought down the system.
Crowson said the city should better inform residents about storm preparations, including stockpiling water before the storm and accumulating supplies for at least three days. Officials, he said, were concerned with giving residents the tools to shelter at home because they could not guarantee services or amenities elsewhere, especially as the winter storm affected the entire city.
“We can only solve key critical issues,” Crowson said, before adding staff needed to ask more of residents to be prepared.
Officials may consider creating a regular warming station, Crowson said, but the city may not see enough extreme weather events to make a new facility worthwhile. The city relies primarily on nonprofit or faith-based services for shelters. Dottie Lynn Recreation Center opened as warming station and ultimately housed six residents, Crowson said.
Crowson said opening AT&T Stadium would not have been practical during the storm because the facilities would use unnecessary resources and still run at risk of power failure.
“A stadium is the worst shelter location option, period,” Crowson said.
City Manager Trey Yelverton said adding a generator to facilities like Elzie Odom Recreation Center or The Beacon could cost up to $1 million.