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Emergency generators won't arrive in time if there's another killer storm soon — but Dallas has a plan

winter storm uri.jpg
Alejandra Martinez
/
KERA
Cars drive down the icy streets in Dallas' West Village neighborhood on Feb. 15, 2020. Winter Storm Uri brought record low temperatures, ice and snow to Texas.

City of Dallas officials had ordered electric generators so residents could stay warm if there was a repeat of Winter Storm Uri — the February 2021 storm that left thousands in the dark and shivering. But they may not arrive any time soon.

Now, emergency response leaders are shifting gears and thinking of a backup plan.

“Emergencies do not give us any notice,” said Rocky Vaz, Director of the Office of Emergency Management.

If needed, charter buses will be deployed to targeted areas as needed to provide warmth and electricity to residents. That was done last year.

The city has also arranged for local vendors to provide water and food in an emergency. OEM said it has approximately 1,000 five-gallon buckets to store water that’s not for drinking. It can be used for tasks such as washing clothes or flushing toilets.

Vaz said residents also should make their own preparations. He recommends stocking up on at least a three-day supply of food, water, flashlights, batteries, medication and blankets.

“Immediately after the February event, we started looking at putting fixed generators at our libraries, parks and rec centers,” he said.

The city had funded the purchase of eight backup power generators to be used at three libraries and five recreation centers across Dallas last year, as well as six mobile power units that could be moved around and “heat up a large room of the 5,000 square feet with lighting and everything that we would need,” Vaz said.

But supply chain issues delayed both shipments.

The backup generators are scheduled to arrive in the next three to four months. That’s after January and February, typically the coldest months in Dallas. And the mobile power units will arrive later this month.

"It seems very inefficient that we would have purchased these and not installed them and that it would take so long to do so," Council Member Cara Mendelsohn said at a city meeting earlier this week.

Although temperatures haven’t dipped as low as they did in 2021, the OEM said some warming centers are opened for people who don’t have homes. Additionally, the Oakland Methodist Church and other churches have a greenlight to provide overnight sheltering to become emergency shelters if needed.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.