Maintaining the integrity of the city’s water supply was of the upmost importance as of Wednesday evening, Feb. 17, according to city of Gainesville Emergency Management spokeswoman Tamara Grimes-Sieger.
As of press time, the city had not issued a boil water notice like surrounding areas had and Grimes-Sieger said she was thankful the city had not reached that extreme.
Wednesday afternoon, city officials did start prompting consumers to conserve water as much as possible after the city’s water system had several breaks in homes and businesses overnight Tuesday, Feb. 16.
Water woes loomed after days of bitter cold and loss of power. Temperatures hovered just above zero degrees Monday night into Tuesday, and thousands of Cooke County residents risked frozen water lines as they went periods without power — and therefore heat. All told, more than 4,500 Oncor customers and over 11,000 PenTex customers were reportedly affected by blackouts as the state attempted to stabilize its power grid, and portions of Gainesville experienced more than a full day in the dark.
Later in the day Wednesday, about 5:30 p.m., city officials notified water customers that the city had been successful in restoring all water wells.
"The system remains at 30 PSI [pounds per square inch] now due to a water main break along with several customer leaks,” a press release from the city’s emergency management team read. “We are isolating these leaks from the system but we continue to barely avoid a boil water notice.”
Then Thursday morning, Feb. 18, officials said in a press release that efforts had been successful: “This morning, the system is up to 45 PSI. The water towers are currently at 30% capacity.” The city was expected to be back to normal operations by Thursday afternoon.
According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, low distribution pressures by 20 pounds per square inch is among the triggers for a boil water notice.
One of the main breaks reported was Tuesday evening at Gainesville High School, 2201 S. I-35, which was also being used as a shelter for the elderly during this week's power outages. Those folks were taken to the public shelter at the North Central Texas College gymnasium, 1525 W. California St. That shelter was opened to the public at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15, after the city’s warming station closed at Gainesville Civic Center, 311 S. Weaver St.
“The extreme temperatures caused a pipe in the fire sprinkler system in the cafeteria to bust, causing the cafeteria to flood and water to go through the doors into parts of the gym,” Gainesville Independent School District officials said. “We are now in a waiting game to see the full extent of the damage to the gym floors to see if it will need to be replaced.”
The weather Tuesday night at Gainesville Municipal Airport, 2300 Airport Road, was snowy with a temperature of 14 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Grimes-Sieger wasn’t able to provide a count of how many people had taken advantage of either shelter as of press time.