Brown County deals with issues left by winter storm

Slow warming trend predicted; busted pipes leave plumbers with backlog of calls

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
South Brownwood yards are pictured earlier blanketed with snow.

Power continued to come back on Thursday morning for Brown County residents who had been without heat and lights since the beginning of the week, and gradually warming temperatures are predicted by the National Weather Service in San Antonio.

After more than 4,000 electricity customers suffered through a week of widespread outages, 15 remained without power as of late Thursday morning, according to the website poweroutage.com.

Area schools remained either closed outright Thursday or continued with remote learning.

In Bangs, utility crews were working Thursday to repair a water line break, and the city would be issuing a boil-water notice, Mayor Eric Bishop said. Earlier in the week, storm-related water issues left Bangs residents residents without water for 30 hours, according to Bishop.

Thursday morning, the Brookesmith Special Utility District issued a boil-water notice following a systematic shutoff of all water to customers Wednesday evening. Frigid temperatures caused power outages that led to the system's pumps not being able to run and fill its towers. There was a loss of pressure while the water district tried to provide water to customers, believed to be caused by a large leak or excessive consumption, the district told its customers.

Local plumbers are scrambling to respond to reports of busted water pipes, Ed McMillian, who owns Ed McMillian plumbing and is a member of the Brownwood City Council, said by phone Thursday morning.

“We’ve got many, many busted pipes, and it’s only beginning, because when it warms up it’s going to be worse,” McMillian said. “Every plumber in town is backed up. I’m backed up for several days.”

Referring to the power outages, McMillian said, “I don’t know why it happened. I read different stories but it was a bad thing. I know people that had been without electricity for three or four days and that’s ridiculous.

“We’re nearing the end, I hope, but the damage is great and there are so many people that’s suffered from this cold spell because they were left without any utilities. My wife has patients who have to have oxygen. They have to have electricity for the oxygen machines.”

Earlier Thursday morning, Brown County Judge Paul Lilly said a small number of Oncor customers in Brownwood and at the Shamrock Shores area of Lake Brownwood remained without power.

Lilly said he’d made numerous calls to Oncor representatives throughout the power outages. “I’ve never lobbied so hard in my life,” Lilly said. “I called every person I know and then some.”

He said shortages of fuel and groceries were the result of trucks being unable to travel to Brown County because of icy roads.

“The problem is not here,” Lilly said. “Our streets are fairly clear now. The problem is up in the Metroplex where most of our supply trucks come from. Same thing with fuel trucks. Most of those come from the DFW or Houston area, and they’re having trouble getting here.”

Lilly said he’s spoken to the governor’s office about the power outages.

“They have assured me that there will be an investigation, and there are going to be some changes,” Lilly said. “That doesn’t help us now, but hopefully in the future this will never happen again.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other elected officials have called for investigations into the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and for resignations in ERCOT’s leadership.