City and county officials issued declarations of disaster in Seguin and Guadalupe County on Sunday and Monday due to the destructive and disruptive weather conditions.
Precipitation and frigid temperatures combined to make driving on local roads treacherous, and Guadalupe County Judge Kyle Kutscher wanted to get the point across to residents.
Kutscher signed a disaster declaration Sunday night for the county, which lasts a week unless Commissioners Court extends it.
“The declaration gives us the opportunity to seek reimbursement on damages to infrastructure, different units, different departments,” he said. “But the most important thing is we wanted the public to understand and be aware how serious this winter weather is and how dangerous it is to be out in it.”
Roads started getting bad Sunday during the day. Crews with the Texas Department of Transportation tried to get ahead of the slick weather but it proved too much for them, Kutscher said.
He spoke with area TxDOT officials and learned they suspended road treatment because the weather worsened and undid the work they had accomplished spreading brine, sand and rock material on Sunday, the judge said.
“TxDOT could not keep up with the weather,” Kutscher said. “The weather was staying ahead of them. That led us to know this was something more severe and worse than we anticipated.”
New Braunfels ISD, which has schools in Guadalupe County, on Monday morning issued an emergency notification to district parents and personnel canceling school for students on Tuesday. Superintendent Randy Moczygemba said he closed the buildings out of an abundance of caution and that maintenance personnel would assess facilities to help determine whether classes would reopen Wednesday.
Seguin, Navarro and Marion ISDs followed suit Monday afternoon.
Mayor Donna Dodgen signed a declaration for Seguin similar to the one Kutscher issued.
Severe winter weather poses an "imminent threat of widespread and severe property damage, injury, and loss of life due to prolonged freezing temperatures, heavy snow, and freezing rain," Dodgen's declaration read. "[E]xtremely cold temperatures and record snow and ice accumulation on the streets in the city of Seguin have created dangerous conditions making travel difficult, closing most businesses and creating hazardous conditions for the city's citizens."
He ventured out onto the roads to survey the situation and get an idea of its severity, City Manager Steve Parker said.
“Only thing we’re asking is asking people to stay off the roads,” he said. “Right now, if everyone would stay off the road, we would be good.”
First responders on Monday were helping stranded motorists, but tried to do so quickly, Parker said.
“Right now, if you have a wreck, we’re trying to get you out and home safe,” he said. “We’re not dealing with towing.”
Seguin had seen about 80 power outages across various areas of the city caused by blown fuses and transformers, Parker said. City employees worked feverishly to restore power where they could, he said.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas reported realizing a strain on the state’s power grid and ordered utilities across the state to conduct rolling brown outs to conserve energy. Seguin had fared well in the energy department, Parker said.
“Overall, we’re feeling pretty good about our electrical supply,” he said. “We haven’t had to replace any transformers, per se.”
With no quick end in sight for the cold temperatures, roadways were expected to remain bad Tuesday, leading city leaders to shut down government operations a second day, Parker said.
“We closed the city campus tomorrow,” he said Monday afternoon. “We’re trying to keep as many people home as we can. We have essential personnel in.”
The city already had planned to push trash collection service back a day. It could be delayed further, Parker said.
City Council rescheduled its regular meeting planned for Tuesday, Feb. 16 to take place a week later, Parker said.
County government made a similar call on Monday, Kutscher said. Along with closing most county functions, commissioners canceled a 9 a.m. Tuesday workshop meeting and the regularly scheduled 10 a.m. meeting, he said.
Keeping people safe and out of harm’s way was the goal, the judge said.
“Stay home, stay sheltered and stay off the roads as much as possible,” Kutscher said.