The Colony first responders were kept busy this past week as the winter storm that plagued Texas wreaked havoc on local roads, water and homes.
A week of sub-freezing temperatures caused power sources across the state to fail. That led to mass power outages, which The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) initially said would last 15-45 minutes but ultimately lasted for three days or more for some residents.
Some cities, not including The Colony as of press time, issued boil water notices as water treatment facilities were shut down. Many residents temporarily lost their water supply.
Because of the lack of electricity and/or water, plus icy conditions, many businesses shut down for two to three days, including restaurants and grocery stores, making it difficult to find food and basic necessities.
Toward the end of the week a new problem emerged – busted water pipes.
Fire Chief Scott Thompson said as of Thursday the fire department had received well approximately 260 calls for service Sunday through Thursday afternoon. Of those, 104 were related to water leaks, including those coming from fire protection systems in apartments. The city’s customer service and public works departments received 79 calls related to leaks.
While warnings were issued to protect pipes from the freezing temperatures, Thompson said in many cases the preventative efforts didn’t matter.
“It was such a hard cold that regardless of what people did they still had pipes break,” Thompson said.
Residents across North Texas took to social media to either share their experiences, ask questions on how to manage or offer assistance.
Josh Miller, a Denton County plumber, described on social media what he witnessed earlier in the week as residents began feeling the effects of the freezing temperatures.
“In all my years of plumbing I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “I talked to over 200 people throughout the day (Monday). Saw five homes completely flooded, multiple customers in tears because of their homes being destroyed and nothing that could be done to help them.”
Miller described the challenge residents faced with trying to protect their plumbing but not having the heat to do so.
“Even with faucets dripping, if you don’t have heat it’s just not helping … still seeing pipes freeze and bust,” he said.
The chief said the water leaks were on top of several other calls the department responded to, including four structure fires. He said one house caught on fire when homeowners tried to thaw out the pipes in their attic. Another house fire was a result of heating material, he said.
Thompson said firefighters also responded to several calls of residents in assisted living centers over concerns of not receiving enough oxygen while the electricity was out.
The police department also responded to 11 vehicle crashes that were attributed to the bad weather, but none of them resulted in injuries. Police also responded to seven incidents when motorists got stuck in the ice.