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South Siders learning lessons following weather emergency

Communities recover from wintry blast

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Following a historic winter storm, relief programs have emerged as officials assess what responses worked and which ones didn’t during the emergency and its aftermath.

Hundreds of thousands of CPS Energy customers endured rotating or prolonged power outages for several days of subfreezing temperatures. The mercury in San Antonio dipped to record lows the week of Feb. 14, as two of the biggest snowfalls in nearly 40 years occurred days apart.

Those blackouts hampered efforts by San Antonio Water System crews to address water-pressure problems caused by pump-station failures and leaks.

Thousands of folks literally left out in the cold used social media and other means to share frustrations they endured during and after the wintry blast. Many residents and merchants spent weeks fixing burst pipes and other damages.

SAWS customers may apply for plumbing-repair reimbursement by visiting www.saws.org/cpr.

San Antonians who sustained storm-related property damage or loss of personal property may visit https://strongertogether.sanantonio.gov or call 311, option 5, for aid.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg appointed a committee on winter-storm preparedness and responses. The panel includes District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry, and is chaired by former District 8 Councilman Reed Williams.

“While many of the factors that triggered the devastating electrical and water outages in our community were not within our control, it is our duty to report to the community how our emergency-response operations and public utilities got in this situation and what can be done to be better prepared for the future,” Nirenberg said.

During the crisis, councilwomen Rebecca Viagran and Shirley Gonzales and their aides joined volunteers to distribute food, water and other essentials to residents. They also checked on elderly and homebound inhabitants.

Viagran worried about those living in South Side neighborhoods such as Mission Del Lago, who were without power or water for extended periods.

She thanked local relief agencies for their performances under challenging circumstances.

“It just shows when you work together, when you communicate with each other, things get done,” Viagran said.

Gonzales said the scope of the severe cold snap’s aftereffects is a sign to prepare for future events.

“We’ve activated our networks, community groups and nonprofits to be our eyes and ears for what’s needed the most. Truth is, it’s never going to be enough,” she said.

State and local leaders now are scrutinizing the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. The state’s power-grid operator ordered energy providers to implement rolling blackouts to stabilize Texas’ power supply during the storm, which resulted in millions without heat.

Several ERCOT board members resigned.

Texas also aims to help residents worried about exorbitant costs in the aftermath of the disaster. The Public Utility Commission ordered the temporary stoppage of disconnections due to unpaid bills.

PUC also determined there would be no invoices or bill estimates until future accounting issues are addressed. Its board also is in transition.

In addition, Gov. Greg Abbott asked power companies to better shield their equipment against severe winter weather and mandated the 87th Legislature make overhauling the state’s energy preparedness a priority.

“The state of Texas will continue to investigate ERCOT and uncover the full picture of what went wrong, and we will ensure that the disastrous events of (February) are never repeated,” Abbott said.

eortiz@localcommunitynews.com

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