Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Mayor Ivy Taylor said Tuesday that she is asking Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a disaster declaration for San Antonio so the city can receive state and government assistance following Sunday night’s storm and tornado damage.
“Those directives include individual assistance in the form of grants or small-business loans that can be used for the replacement of uninsured costs and assistance while conducting a more detailed damage assessment in the community,” Taylor said. “… We are here to reassure those affected by Sunday night’s tornadoes that they are not alone – that we are here to help and will not stop working until their homes and their lives have been put back together.”
The National Weather Service confirmed Monday that four tornadoes hit the San Antonio area – three in the city and a fourth in the Garden Ridge area of Bexar County. They were categorized as EF-0 and EF-1 tornadoes with wind speeds ranging from 80-110 mph. The twisters left behind miles of destruction in several zip codes across the city.
In order to get state and federal assistance for infrastructure needs, the city has to meet a $6 million threshold in damage cost estimates, city officials told the Rivard Report, and the state has to meet a $35 million threshold.
“We don’t have an estimate on the costs yet, but we will have that in the upcoming days,” City Manager Sheryl Sculley said. “Right now we’re focused on how do we help the residents that need that emergency assistance.”
Sculley said over 4,000 homes in the area were impacted and more than 100 are confirmed to have sustained damage from the storms. The damage assessment is ongoing, and the City plans to put cost estimates together to submit to the state and federal government.
More than 84,000 CPS Energy customers lost power during the storm, said Felecia Etheridge, CPS Energy’s chief customer engagement officer. The CPS call center handled more than 48,000 calls Monday, Etheridge added, and issued more than 2,000 outbound service calls for those customers affected for the longest length of time.
CPS employees and contractors have replaced 51 poles and 140 transformers and repaired 150 spots where power lines were down, she said. However, Etheridge said approximately 750 customers remained without power Tuesday morning.
“Our work is not finished,” Etheridge said. “This is an unprecedented event in anybody’s book.”
Taylor got an opportunity to survey the damage firsthand Monday morning. Councilmen Roberto Treviño (D1) and Mike Gallagher (D10), whose districts were most severely affected, were also on hand to assist residents in the area.
Detailing the scene at Linda Drive, a street near Highway 281 and the Alamo Quarry Market, Taylor described roofs ripped off homes, 50-year old trees uprooted, and windows broken by branches at several homes. Most homes lost power, while others were so damaged they are not inhabitable. Many families and friends of those affected have started online donation campaigns seeking help.
Taylor and other city department officials thanked first responders and more than 300 city employees who helped with debris pickup. The mayor also expressed gratitude to the local businesses and families who assisted city workers and checked up on their neighbors, especially senior citizens.
Bexar County also deployed several departments to affected Northeast neighborhoods to aid residents during the storm and after the tornadoes struck. The Public Works and Emergency Services departments reported to the scene around 2 a.m. Monday morning and helped remove fallen trees and other debris from the roadways and yards of neighbors, County officials said, and they continued that work Monday morning.
“We’ve seen in other states cases where it takes a long time to respond, and we’re here to say that we’re proud of the city employees and the CPS employees who responded immediately to help the community,” Sculley said. “Staff across all city departments helped with hauling 2,600 cubic yards of debris, which is one football field covered with two feet of debris – all of which has been recycled.”
Sculley thanked the American Red Cross and San Antonio Food Bank for providing meals to those affected. She added that city employees have restored and replaced 162 traffic signals and removed over 100 downed trees to provide safe access.
“[The cleanup will continue] as long as it takes,” Sculley said. “…Residents should place their brush and debris at separate piles outside their homes. The Bitters Road brush recycling center will remain free of charge for residents in the affected areas until the city is back to normal.”
“Thank you to the community at large who pulled together in these times of devastation and unprecedented damages and the men and women at CPS Energy who worked tirelessly around the clock to restore service for our customers,” Etheridge said.
Woodridge Elementary School in Alamo Heights Independent School District canceled classes Tuesday due to a continued power outage at the school, but all other schools in the Alamo Heights ISD area continued normal operations after being closed to students Monday for Presidents Day. CPS Energy hopes to restore power in time for classes to return to regular schedule by Wednesday.
“We fully expect the power to be restored today, and for classes to return to regular schedule by tomorrow ,” AHISD Superintendent of Schools Kevin Brown stated in an email. “Thank you to everyone in our community who came out to help our schools and our families clean up and recover after the storm yesterday. It was inspiring to see our community come together and help those in need.”
The heavy rainfall from the intense overnight storms also resulted in multiple sewer overflows across the city, according to a San Antonio Water System news release. SAWS crews were responding to three sewer spills, one on the Northeast side of the city and two on the far Westside.
“The spill amounts are estimated to have exceeded the need for public notice,” the release stated. ”
The spills occurred on Holbrook Road between Austin Highway and Rittiman Road, Chappie James Way Road at Lackland AFB and on the 6600 block of Swiss Oak Drive, according to SAWS. Officials said the spills would not adversely affect Leon Creek and Salado Creek since the sewage was heavily diluted by storm water.
Sculley said there were 43 street closures due to Monday’s flooding, with all expected to be reopened by the end of the day Tuesday.
“This has certainly been an incredible team effort,” Taylor said. “I think we all owe all those folks a great round of applause. The response, the work, and the commitment is further proof that we are one San Antonio, and every day we work as one.”