Thursday, December 7

Dallas Emergency Management: City is prepared for winter storm

Even director Rocky Vaz admitted he is anxious because of the 2021 crisis, but he is confident the approaching winter storm will not be near the same magnitude.

DALLAS — The City of Dallas will open its emergency operations center at noon Wednesday as a winter storm approaches North Texas.

The forecast calls for temperatures to fall most of the day Wednesday, with precipitation starting as rain then changing to freezing rain, sleet, and possibly snow through Thursday morning.

Sub-freezing temperatures will also be in place.

It is an anxiety-inducing forecast because of what Texas experienced almost one year ago.

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In February 2022, millions of Texans lost power as an historic arctic blast kept its grip on the state for days.

Natural gas froze, power plants shut down, and millions of people went days with no heat or water. More than 200 Texans died.

On Tuesday, as a new storm was inching closer, even the director of the office of emergency management for the city of Dallas admitted to feeling “anxiety.”

“But we are much better prepared than we were last year,” said Rocky Vaz. “We do not expect this event to be the same magnitude we saw last year.”

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Vaz said Oncor, the largest electricity provider to North Texas homes, is most concerned about ice causing power outages in neighborhoods.

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Iced over tree branches could fall and take down power lines, or lines themselves could experience ice accumulations.

“We do not anticipate any large-scale citywide power outages that we saw last February, but we have contingency planning and we are prepare to deal with that if that does happen,” Vaz said.

A new overnight shelter will open at Fair Park’s Automobile Building for the city’s homeless.

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If people lose power in their homes or apartments, libraries and rec centers could become daytime warming centers.

But backup generators bought after the 2021 storm to ensure these sites have power have not yet arrived due to shipping and supply chain issues.

Last year, the city chartered buses to use as warming shelters, driving them into neighborhoods where widespread power outages had occurred.

New contracts have been signed with bus providers and if there are prolonged power issues in certain areas of the city, buses will be moved in.

RELATED: North Texas Tollway Authority crews start round-the-clock shifts, road treatments ahead of winter weather Wednesday

Around 6 pm Wednesday, the city’s public works department will launch crews they call scouts. They will drive the city looking for slick spots.

At midnight, the department’s “ice task force” will begin a 24-hour sanding operation, said Tina Richardson, assistant director of public works.

“We have staff in trucks ready to go, two to a truck. If it gets really bad like it did last year, they’ll jump out of their truck – one of them – and get in another truck. Then we’ll have double the trucks out to serve the citizens,” Richardson said.

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Major thoroughfares, bridges, and DART routes get sanded first.

If areas near hospitals or fire stations turn slick, they are sanded next.

While residential roads do not get treated, downtown streets are, with a special sand and salt mix.

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