During last week’s winter storm, law enforcement not only responded to their “normal” calls for service but assisted in other ways to help protect residents and businesses.
“Since the police department is the main Public Safety Answering Point for the City of Weatherford, we answered a wide variety of calls related to the weather last week,” Weatherford Police Comm. Jason Hayes said. “In addition to what we consider the ‘normal’ police, fire and emergency medical calls, our telecommunications division took all of the overflow calls for utility outages.”
Hayes said their telecommunicators did an “outstanding” job of fielding the high volume to ensure that residents and businesses received the assistance needed, adding that because of the road conditions and school closures, they responded to very few traffic collisions.
“From [Feb. 14] at midnight to [Feb.] 18 at 11:50 p.m., our officers responded to only two major accidents and 10 minor accidents in the city,” he said. “The week before the storm during the same time frame, we responded to eight major accidents and 17 minor accidents under normal roadway conditions.
“This speaks volumes as to how the community took the conditions seriously and how the vast majority of those that did drive, did so cautiously.”
Hudson Oaks Police Chief Michael Baldwin said their department experienced the same pattern with accidents, with an increase in calls to assist other agencies.
“However, due to low traffic volumes and people being out, our call load was not overwhelming,” he said.
In Mineral Wells, Police Chief Dean Sullivan said his department saw an increase in collisions.
“As conditions deteriorated, a majority of calls for service shifted over to fire or EMS-related calls with officers assisting when needed,” he said. “Days into the declared disaster, many calls related to utility outages and that like were received.”
Law enforcement agencies also performed checks on businesses and roadways looking for stranded motorists in the winter conditions.
“Motorists that were located were provided assistance,” Willow Park Police Chief Carrie West said. “Officers were also dispatched to welfare checks at specific locations due to widespread power outages and conducted officer-initiated welfare checks on employees at businesses without power.”
Palo Pinto County Sheriff Brett McGuire said their department responded to many welfare check reports for both people and animals.
“Several of the deputies and other staff, both on and off duty, also made welfare checks on residents that they knew were elderly, or ill, to make sure that they were as safe as could be and in some instances took them some food or water if necessary,” he said.
The department also answered quite a few “alarm” calls, which turned out to be false.
“Apparently, the surges in the power and water supplies caused many burglar and fire alarm systems to malfunction,” he said.
The Parker County Sheriff’s Office also received many calls for welfare checks.
“We were happy to perform those and make sure our community is safe,” PCSO Public Information Office Deputy Danie Huffman said. “We are very proud of our deputies for pulling together and continuing to do their jobs to the best of their ability during that week.”
Departments were also tasked with ensuring that normal staffing levels were maintained throughout the week.
“Our personnel have the most amazing servant hearts,” West said. “They show extreme compassion, empathy and a true desire to help others. They always step up and take care of our community.”
Following power outages and water issues, warming stations were opened in Parker County to allow residents a warm place to stay and charge their phones.
“Once we opened the shelters [Feb. 16], my staff was providing transport to people in our area — including outside of Hudson Oaks — that needed to go to a shelter,” Baldwin said. “We saw on midday [Feb. 16] that a shelter was required as this was going to be a long-term crisis. City officials worked with county officials and that night, we opened a shelter at the old [movie] theater with the assistance of the church.
“Fortunately, more shelters came online by Wednesday night.”
Sullivan said he’s heard references calling last week’s winter weather event “historic” or “unprecedented,” which he believes most would agree with.
“What is most remarkable is the resilience and community spirit many have witnessed as people pulled together to get through this crisis,” he said. “Neighbors helping neighbors and strangers alike. That’s the good stuff, in my opinion.”
McGuire said last week was truly a “team effort” by Palo Pinto County agencies, residents and cities.
“Everyone pulled together for the common good, in spite of the terrible conditions and circumstances that impacted most of our state,” he said. “We did not have to answer calls regarding violence or looting. We did not have to answer calls regarding folks trying to steal from, or take advantage of, their neighbors. Folks hunkered down and did what needed to be done to get us through it.”
Parker and Palo Pinto County cities have now been taking the time to thank staff and first responders during city council and commissioners court meetings.
“Many of those men and women were without electricity or water themselves, but they showed up and did their part to help our citizens,” Hayes said. “This event is a great reminder of what a truly great place many of us live and work in. The efforts of everyone over the last week have shown what a strong and giving community we have.”