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By Whitney Wyatt/The Red River Sun—
CHILDRESS – Last week’s ice storm knocked out power for the entire town of Childress, knocking down trees, power lines and power poles.
“The ice storm ranks in the Top 5 in recorded history,” said National Weather Service Lubbock Meteorologist William Iwasko. “It also broke two low temperature records.”
The first one happened on Monday, Oct. 26, when it was 25 degrees in Childress. Iwasko said this broke a 63-year-old temperature record of 26 degrees in 1957. The other came on Tuesday, Oct. 27, when it was 25 degrees again. This broke the 26 degrees record from 1997.
Greg Blair, manager of community affairs and customer service at AEP Texas, said it was one of the worst storms they have experienced in recent history. “Some guys who have worked here for 35 to 40 years said they had never seen anything like this,” Blair explained.
It was also unique. Blair said they saw a wide spread of outages in about every area they serve in Abilene and to the north. It started on Tuesday morning. The power went out in Childress that afternoon. At its peak, 5,200 customers in the Childress district, which also includes Paducah, Turkey and Quitaque, had no power.
AEP Texas had 380 employees working to get the electricity back on for customers, Blair added. This included Carl Matthews, Teresa Session, Adam DeArmond, Billy Rekieta, Sawyer Bocanegra, Stratton Bocanegra, Bert Darsey, Brady Lambert, Bradley Cribbs, Payton Eikman, Kase Fairchild, Chris Sanders, Marino Rodriguez, Mike Prince, Ed Moree and John Salazar from Childress.
Crews from the Rio Grande Valley, Corpus Christi and Laredo drove more than 500 miles to help, Blair said. They had restored 95 percent of customers’ power back on by 9 p.m. on Thursday.
“We worked as hard, as quickly and as safely as possible to get the power back on,” Blair said. “It’s paramount. Nothing’s more important than our employees and the public’s safety.”
Blair added how much they appreciate everyone’s patience and the wonderful comments they’ve received. South Plains Electric Cooperative, Inc. echoed this sentiment on its Facebook page: “We thank you all for your patience, understanding and kind messages during this time. We will pass those along to the linemen when this is all over.”
Once the storm passed and residents saw the damage, they turned to Childress City Manager Kevin Hodges, wanting to know what to do with the hundreds of broken tree limbs. Hodges said he had received about 50 phone calls by Thursday morning.
“The City landfill is open and ready to receive broken tree limbs and branches from the storm,” Hodges explained. “As soon as you enter the gate, take a quick left and you will see the designated location.”
He said residents started taking tree limbs to the marked spot at the landfill on Friday.
It was a busy day for many, including TJW Equipment – Dozer & Excavating Inc. employees. Operator Trent Willis, Foreman Bill Wheeler and Equipment Operator Chad Thomas spent the day cleaning up at Treetop RV Park, located at 1610 Ave. C NW.
“A lot of trees are down,” Wheeler said. “It’s not too bad, though.”
He wasn’t the only one with a good attitude. Cleaning up left Childress County Heritage Museum Executive Director Lee Ann Morren and Board Member Ramona Garcia with smiles and laughter.
“I’m running the chainsaw,” Garcia said with a laugh while cutting the downed trees limbs. Morren added how they lost a bunch of branches during the ice storm.
They were not alone. Rudy Delgado, owner of CRS Lawn Service, was bouncing from one house to another. “It’s going to be very busy for the next several days picking up all the limbs from all of the destruction,” Delgado said. “The phone keeps ringing.”
For Childress resident Celso Guerrero, he thinks this ice storm is an omen of what’s to come.
“It’s Mother Nature letting you know this is a warning of what I’m going to bring to you later on,” Guerrero said.