County officials — after taking a moment to step back and assess the situation that a winter storm left the area in — expressed gratitude Tuesday morning for the community’s response to the treacherous weather.
People across Guadalupe County came together during an emergency situation and helped each other, while county employees performed above and beyond their regular duties, several attendees said at the Guadalupe County Commissioner’s Court regular meeting.
“First of all, I want to thank the public,” Sheriff Arnold Zwicke said. “This is one of the things we haven’t seen supposedly in the past 30 years and I don’t think it was this bad 30 years ago.”
When arctic air along with a mixture of snow and ice were forecast for the area the previous week, Zwicke said he expected his deputies to stay exceptionally busy for days responding to motor vehicle wrecks. After the storm dropped ice and snow on Feb. 14 and again Feb. 16, what he realized was quite different, the sheriff said.
He was amazed at the low number of accidents deputies worked. It allowed them to help in other areas, Zwicke said.
In one case, deputies provided a ride to a woman on a dangerous trek in the elements, he said.
“We found a lady walking down the road,” Zwicke said. “She had to walk nine miles to her daughter’s house because she was out of everything.”
Most people in the county adhered to suggestions to stay off roads to avoid emergencies, he said.
Zwicke commended efforts from the county’s road and bridge department, his deputies and the general public.
Help during the storm also came from employees of the local hospital, the area food bank and corporate neighbors, Guadalupe County Emergency Management Coordinator Patrick Pinder said. Niagara Bottling Company donated nine pallets of water for residents who lost access to potable water due to the storm’s affects, he said.
His own staff pitched in help for the community at a tremendous rate, Pinder said.
“Our office came in Sunday last weekend and we left on Thursday,” he said. “I finally got to sleep in my bed Thursday night.”
Commissioner Drew Engelke thanked Pinder personally as well as the emergency management staff for their hard work. County Judge Kyle Kutscher said all county entities reported being back to normal with water, electricity and utilities services.
Some boil water notices remain in place and some were expected to end Tuesday, he said.
Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative personnel did a phenomenal job helping restore power to customers who lost it, Kutscher said.
Not everyone or every entity showed exemplary behavior through the course of the storm, the county judge said. He expressed disdain with the Public Utility Commission of Texas early on in the storm notifying utility providers of the ability to go to the maximum allowable charge for each kilowatt hour of power.
Some providers increased their costs and some consumers in Texas will feel the pinch, Kutscher said. Power customers could see utility bills of between $2,000 and $5,000, he said.
It was unclear Tuesday whether GVEC or other local customers would experience such dramatic increases, Kutscher said. He hoped to speak with leadership at the cooperative to get a better handle on the situation and try to prevent county residents from being hit so hard.
“Nobody under the conditions we had to live through last week should have an electricity bill of $2,000, $3,000 or $4,000, it’s absurd,” Kutscher said. “Unfortunately, the county doesn’t have much say in that.”
The court would try to figure out ways of joining other collectives to hopefully help bring about legislation to prevent such enormous increases in rates during emergencies, he said.
Also, after action meetings are planned to better understand what went wrong and what went right during the weather emergency, Kutscher said. He knows a lot went right and recognized those who did well.
“We saw a tremendous amount of partnerships, cooperation, true acts of kindness of neighbors working with each other,” Kutscher said. “I just want to say I’m really thankful we’re in Guadalupe County and we get to serve and be in this place. It’s really inspiring to see people come together the way they did.
“I just want to say thank you to all of those who pitched in and were ready to do so.”