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Disaster of magnitude

Snow, ice wreak havoc on life 

By Sahar Chmais

Car collisions, days without electricity, slipping on ice, water and food shortages — all caused by an unprecedented snow storm. Many reveled in the first day of the soft snow, but five days in, new issues continue to arise.

First responders have been on the front lines, performing new duties, witnessing how the freezing temperatures are wreaking havoc on Hays County. On Sunday, there were a lot of calls for car collisions. That subsided, but more problems pummeled residents. Today, there have been many calls concerning water pipe damage.

In between the issues every county member is experiencing, loss of power and reduced water usage, people have been slipping on ice, causing bone fractures. On top of the physical damage, access to grocery stores has also been significantly reduced.

San Marcos Hays County EMS has been receiving calls three times the normal volume. The Kyle Fire Department went from receiving 20-25 calls a day to 70-80. These calls are mostly in connection to the plethora of problems caused by the subfreezing temperatures. Kyle Fire Chief Kyle Taylor said that 90% of calls are temperature-related.

Other issues caused by limited transportation have also been uncovered. Dialysis patients who heavily rely on buses are unable to make it to their appointments, explained Scott Robinson, San Marcos Hays County EMS Battalion Chief. He also said that the EMS has been responding to humanitarian calls. While some people have been out of power for days at a time, EMS has been providing transportation to warming stations.

Delivering food to older adults who are stuck at home with little to no supplies is another response from EMS.

Robinson said this is the first snow disaster this pressing in Texas since 1985. Some of his team have never been in a disaster of this magnitude. He also counted the floods that hit the state, but this is different.

While there is an emergency declaration taking over the entire state, including Hays County, to deal with immediate danger, another one lurks close behind — COVID-19.

Rolling blackouts created a need for warming stations, managed with COVID-19 safety precautions in mind. But, taking care of people before they become hypothermic is a more immediate issue to resolve.

People who need purified oxygen are being moved to Christus Hospital. But, there is a limited supply due to COVID-19 patients who also need the oxygen.

Taylor said they are receiving an influx of calls from COVID-19 patients for hospital transportations. On a normal day, these patients would drive themselves, but conditions have taken a turn and they are relying more on first responders.

First responders are under a magnitude of pressure. Some have not been able to work due to road conditions, making others cover longer shifts. Taylor said firefighters have not gone home since the storm started.

They are not alone in this dire situation. Robinson explained that electricity and water technicians deserve praise. They have been working underground and above ground in subfreezing temperatures to try and resolve the issues.

Robinson and Taylor ask that residents be patient and stay home when possible. Many people are living without electricity and power, but workers are trying to restore it, Robinson explained.


About Author

Megan Navarro (formerly Wehring) graduated from Texas State University in May 2020 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. In June 2020, she started a summer internship at the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch through the Dow Jones News Fund and Texas Press Association. She then earned her way to a reporter position later that summer and now, she serves as the editor of the newspaper. Working for a small publication, Navarro wears multiple hats. She has various responsibilities including managing a team of reporters, making editorial decisions, overseeing social media posts, fact checking, writing her own articles and more. Navarro has a heart for storytelling and she believes that journalists are equipped to share the stories that are important to the community.

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