Commissioners: We Need to Learn from February Freeze

Wichita County Commissioners and county leaders discussed exactly what went right and what went wrong during the "February Freeze".

Sheriff David Duke was the first to speak about some of the problems in Monday's Commissioner's Court meeting. He explained that while many offices were closed, the jail still had inmates that needed to be fed.

"That operation never stops, no matter what kind of weather it is. Whether its snowing or raining or hailing, we got to continue our operations," said Sheriff Duke.

Sheriff Duke explained the roads around the Annex were not clear and meals were not able to be delivered. In fact, two meals had to be served "bag style". He also said that if there was an emergency, an ambulance or fire truck would not be able to get to the Annex.

"In the case of a medical emergency with the inmates, we have to have an ambulance go in there, we have to move that inmate out and if you are snowed in, you can't get them out there's a problem,"said Duke.

The Sheriff said the pathway to the Annex was so blocked that an ambulance became stuck and emergency workers had to trek through the snow. When the Sheriff brought his concerns up to Commissioners, they told him the area was paved, once.

"The Commissioners had gone through there, cut them a pathway through," said Judge Woody Gossom. "Later the day, it all blew back in there and filled it back up."

Sheriff Duke and County Commissioners plan to increase communication so that road crews know when they have to dig up an area more than once.

However that's about all they can do. Judge Gossom said currently there are no plans to invest in more equipment or more man-power to help dig the Annex or any other building out from under snow.

"I don't see us making great expenditures for something that might be called on once every 5 years," said Judge Gossom.

The Texas Department of Transportation ended up clearing the way into the Annex which the Sheriff credits the state, county, and city working together to help an area stranded by the storm.

The Sheriff said there was some good news out of the "February Freeze". About 40 people were pulled out from the storm by Sheriff's deputies. That's drastically less than the amount of people who had to be helped in the Christmas Blizzard of 2009.

The County Commission applauded the amount of communication between the county offices. Judge Woody Gossom said "closing schools helped keep people off the roads, which is a good thing."

He also said common sense kicked in for many. "There was a lot more common sense by everybody to not get out there and be out and causing more problems than solutions. So people stayed in, they did as we requested, traffic was pretty minimal and that saved a whole lot on resources taking care of things that shouldn't have happened," said Gossom.

Mary Moloney, Newschannel 6