8,000 Smith County ONCOR customers still without power

Published on Monday, 3 March 2014 13:16 - Written by

BY FAITH HARPER, fharper@tylerpaper.com

Typically busy Tyler roads are sparse with traffic, but several Tyler residents are still getting out and about in the icy snow.

Diane Marvels, manager of the Food Fast at the intersection of Vine Avenue and Houston Street, said business has steady but not quite as busy as normal, but the station has served as a sort of safe haven for neighborhood residents, serving up hot coffee and selling gallons of water.

Nashonda Johnson, 26, and Henry King, 35, walked to the gas station to grab a beverage.

The couple said they just bought a new car and wasn't going to risk wrecking it in the ice.

"We are going to stay in the house, snuggle and watch movies," Ms. Johnson said. "There's nothing else to do."

The pair said they felt fortunate to have power.

Charles Hill, ONCOR spokesman, said as of 1 p.m., 8,000 customers in Smith County were without power. He said the number was down to 6,000 before a transformer failed in one of its substations.

The number is down from the 13,000 customers that were out Sunday night. Hill said there are only a few new outages caused by falling limbs, and crews are primarily cleaning up Sunday's storm damage.

The company brought in crews from several other offices in the state and are working 18-hour shifts until all power is restored.

Robert Sheppard, 37, of Flint filled up the tank of his new Mustang. The retired military man said he wound up stranded in Tyler overnight and was debating driving home to his home on Lake Palestine.

"I have a fireplace and I want to get to it," he said.

Larry Krantz, spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation, said "today would be a good day not to drive."

TxDOT brought in additional crews from neighboring counties to help, and crews are working 12-hour shifts until the roads clear up. He said the crew's primary concentration is on Interstate 20, but sanding trucks are also on other frequently-used roads.

"Even the simplest thing can become difficult..." Krantz said. "Weather like this greatly degrades your ability to react to situations in front of you."

To anyone that has to drive, Krantz suggests leaving early and allowing time for the typical travel time to double or triple. He also suggests being patient and avoiding the interstate if possible.

"The interstate in conditions like this is a slow-motion train wreck," he said.

KYTX CBS 19 Meteorologist Scott Fossey said the roads are not expected to get any better until between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

Today's high is expected to be 34, and tonight's low is anticipated to be 26 degrees. There's a 20 percent chance of more wintery weather tomorrow morning, but all the ice should melt with highs in the 40s.