Freezing temperatures take hold of Crossroads
Jan. 16, 2018 at 9:30 p.m.
Updated Jan. 17, 2018 at 11:44 a.m.
Bone-chilling winds and icy roads wreaked havoc for Victoria residents Tuesday, canceling schools and triggering several driving mishaps throughout the Crossroads.
The freezing temperatures also prompted homeless advocates to scan parts of the city to persuade the area's most vulnerable to relocate to warmer shelters away from the dangerous weather conditions.
The city's public works employees began treating bridges, box culverts and major roadways at 10 a.m. Tuesday and continued throughout the day, said Donald Reese, public works director.
"If ice is going to form on a roadway, it typically forms on a bridge or a box culvert," he said. "We put rocks down to keep it from forming as easily and to help the driving public drive safely over those bridges."
The Texas Department of Transportation began that task Monday, preparing major roads with salt, saltwater and sand for the cold weather, said James Stevenson, TxDot Yoakum district director of operations. Tuesday afternoon, Yoakum district officials said they didn't have to close any roads except when crews were treating the streets.
But despite the prep work, the weather had a solid, icy grip on the region. Wind chills as low as 16 degrees blanketed the area with winds between 15 and 25 mph.
Victoria police officers responded to about 10 vehicle wrecks between 4 and 5 p.m. on Zac Lentz Parkway, prompting authorities to ask residents to avoid the loop from Houston Highway to Main Street. Authorities asked TxDOT to send crews to spread sand and de-icer materials on the overpasses along the roadway.
"It doesn't matter if they were driving fast or slow, it's because of the weather," said Sam Garza, senior police officer.
Lisa Griffin, president of the Victoria Homeless Coalition, surveyed the city's pockets of homeless residents Tuesday. She shuttled about 25 people to the coalition's overnight warming shelter at Pine Street Community Center, 803. N. East St.
Tuesday night was the fourth time this year that cold weather has required the warming shelter to be open. With cold weather expected during the next couple days, the shelter is expected to remain open Wednesday night and possibly Thursday night.
Christ's Kitchen made about 190 meals Tuesday, and more people in need came to the kitchen than normal, said volunteer Joe Gonzalez.
He kept the center open until about 6 p.m., which is four hours longer than usual, so people who didn't have a place to go could remain warm.
When dark fell, those in need went to different shelters across town, he said.
"There are people who don't really have homes that (they) can call homes," he said. "They don't have a place to go, so instead of having them go around and ask for food, we try to provide them with hot meals."
American Electric Power had a few sporadic outages in Victoria on Tuesday, but the number of customers affected was not large, said Vee Strauss, AEP spokeswoman. Tuesday afternoon, about 600 people in Port Lavaca lost power because of a breaker that went out. AEP crews began monitoring outages and powerlines early Tuesday morning and continued throughout the day.
Tuesday, Janak Plumbing didn't experience a busy day, but owner Brian Janak said he expects Wednesday to be very hectic. One customer called about his faucets being frozen outside, and Janak told him to heat them up with a blow dryer.
Most likely, many people will find problems with their pipes Wednesday, because if they cracked while frozen, they'll start leaking when the temperature rises.
"A lot of people probably have frozen facets outside their house and just don't know it," he said. "They won't know it until the temperature goes up above freezing (and) it thaws out and starts leaking."
Victoria spokesman O.C. Garza said Tuesday the city has had no problems with its water system. He said if residents are experiencing water issues, it may be because their pipes are frozen.
Advocate reporter Ismael Perez and Advocate photographer Evan Lewis contributed to this report.