Energy CEO says most Gillespie County residents should get power back by the weekend — but not all


Local volunteer firefighters fill in the gap for residents going on two weeks in the dark

WILLOW CITY, Texas (KXAN) — The fallout from last week’s storm is far from over.

Many people in Gillespie County are still waiting for their power to come back on.

The Central Texas Electric Co-op’s outage map shows nearly 3,000 are still in the dark.

“We’re using fire trucks to transport water from the fire station to the water troughs for the cattle,” says Dale Heimann, a firefighter with the Willow City Volunteer Fire and Rescue.

It’s become a new routine for them since most of the town lost power nearly two weeks ago. They’re also delivering water and firewood and offering showers.

“Nearly everyone that you saw today, they have no electricity, they have no water, so it’s a … it’s a major, major deal here,” says fire chief Stanley Rabke.

He says with cell phone batteries running low, his crews are also doing welfare checks.

“We have a lot of elderly people living here and their kids live either out of state or in Houston, Dallas, wherever and they had no cell phone service here, no telephone landline service and their kids couldn’t get a hold of them,” Rabke says.

“Our focus is really on those people who went out first,” says Bob Loth, Central Texas Electric Co-op CEO.

Loth says he’s got nearly 80 crews on the ground but adding more wouldn’t necessarily make rebuilding quicker.

“I went out personally today and met a crew and took them from one job site to the next. And you have to do that with people that are unfamiliar where they go.”

He estimates they’ve already identified hundreds of poles that need work due to the sheer weight of ice — and there could be more.

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“We probably lost somewhere between 800 and 1,200 three-phase poles, which are the main feeders,” he explains. “In addition to that, though we probably have got another, I don’t know, 1,000, 1,500 poles that the cross arm at the top of the pole is broken, so we don’t have to replace the pole but we still have to get a truck up next to the pole.”

Loth pushes back on accusations from some residents that the poles were already in bad shape before the storm.

“One of the lines where we have 30 poles down, that line was built last year, with brand new poles, and they’re all snapped off the ground,” he says.

Loth adds that CTEC also serves Mason and Llano counties but the winter storm hit hardest in Gillespie County, with about 10,000 to 12,000 people without power when they started the rebuilding process on Sunday.

Restoration timeline

Many Gillespie County residents told KXAN News that CTEC wouldn’t be able to get some people back online until Easter.

Loth says that estimate was given during the ice storm when the full extent of damage or conditions on the ground were not yet known.

“We were telling people earlier, you know, it could be a week and it could be four weeks and people were latching on to the four weeks,” he says.

The CEO says he faced a 25-hour outage and some of his employees are also still in the dark. He says he doesn’t expect that to last until Easter.

“I would say that that is very unlikely unless there is a problem that we don’t know about or that we haven’t foreseen. I just don’t think that’s accurate,” he says.

Loth says, “the vast majority of these people will come up probably by the weekend,” but couldn’t offer a timeline for the rest.

“It’s difficult for me to say when the last person, the last meter is going to turn on,” he says.

Until then, Rabke says his crew will be here to help.

“Until people get electricity and we have no more calls, we will have — we will man this station,” he says.

Rabke also adds that many ranchers need hay.

Loth says their power lines were up to code to accommodate for a quarter-inch of ice. But he says the winter storm brought an inch.

Still, he says they are making improvements to prevent a hit like this from happening again.

“We have some wire that needs to be upgraded and we’re doing that as we’re doing this rebuild,” he says. “As we update lines, they will be built better.”

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