Some Smith County residents still without power

Published on Monday, 3 March 2014 21:39 - Written 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 been 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 4 p.m., 7,700 customers in Smith County were without power. He said the number was down to 6,000 on Monday morning before a transformer failed in one of its substations.

The number is down from the 13,000 customers who 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.

St. Louis Baptist Church, 4000 Frankston Highway, opened at 11 a.m. Monday to help anyone without power to keep warm. The church was stocked with snacks, water and blankets and heat.

“We want people to know we are here to take care of them, and we don’t want people to be suffering because of this (weather),” said Tammy Prater, executive director of The American Red Cross.

Ms. Prater said the shelter was the only shelter in the county opened by Red Cross, and it would remain open as long as there was a need. The organization was watching weather reports and power outages to determine how long it will be open, she said.

“If power starts to come up and people don’t need a shelter overnight, then there won’t be any point in staying overnight,” she said. “We are playing it by ear and we are monitoring things.”

Other warming centers are set up along Interstate 20 for stranded travelers but were not associated with the Red Cross, however the organization was on standby in case those centers needed to remain open overnight. Ms. Prater said if that happened, the organization would mobilize supplies including cots, blankets and food.

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 Monday “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 who 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.

This morning, there's a 20 percent chance of more wintry weather, but highs are expected to be in the 40s and should help melt the ice.

Get all of the latest weather-related delays and closings at TylerPaper.com.