Tommy Mann Jr. and Dawn Burleigh
The Orange Leader
For the second time in less than a week, Mother Nature has unleashed her cold fury on Southeast Texas.
Freezing temperatures, sleet and, in a few locations, snow impacted Orange County residents for the second time in a week forcing the closure off all school districts in the area, as well as many businesses and city and county services.
Local school districts such as West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District, Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD, Vidor ISD, Bridge City ISD and Orangefield ISD all announced closures for Tuesday and today. All schools urged parents to keep updated via Facebook and school district websites.
Local private schools such as Community Christian and St. Mary Catholic School announced closures for Tuesday and today as well.
Other area school districts such as PN-G ISD, Port Arthur ISD, Nederland ISD and Beaumont ISD opted to remain closed Wednesday as well.
Even the Texas Department of Public Safety was taking precautions with its own personnel as the icy weather rolled into the region causing unsafe travel conditions leaving DPS offices in Orange County, as well as Jefferson, Hardin, Newton, Jasper and Tyler counties on Tuesday.
“The Texas Department of Public Safety will continue to monitor the changing weather conditions through the night and make a determination as to exactly when the DPS offices in the affected counties will re-open to the public,” said Trooper Stephanie Davis in a press release.
Orange County postponed the much anticipated grand opening of the Orange County Convention and Expo Center originally scheduled for Tuesday. The event will now be on Thursday, February 6.
Orange County closed all county offices due to the anticipated weather. All offices are scheduled reopen at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Emergency Management has monitored the storm from the Emergency Operation Center since 7 a.m. Tuesday morning.
In the City of Vidor, Mike Kunst, city manager, announced all non-essential personnel were sent home at noon, Tuesday, and asked to return to work at noon, today. This included employees at City Hall, Vidor Municipal Court, the public library, public works and code enforcement and animal control departments. Sanitation services are expected to run today as usual, but could possibly be delayed until later in the day as temperatures warm.
Waste Management notified the City of West Orange on Tuesday it would postpone all garbage collection services back one day, so trash will be picked up on Saturday instead of Friday this week.
The weather affected government meetings as well. The City of Orange Economic Development Commission and the City of Orange Council meetings have been rescheduled for Thursday, January 30. The EDC meeting will be at 2 p.m. followed by the City of Orange Council meeting at 2:30 p.m.
The City of Pinehurst Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 28 is rescheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4.
According to Sarah Dupre, public information officer with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), crews began monitoring local roadways and bridges prior to the arrival of the winter weather system.
“If roads, overpasses or bridges become unsafe to travel and should need to be closed, they will be reopened to the public once deemed safe and the temperature rises above freezing,” Dupre stated. “Once the temperature rises above 32 degrees, the roads will still need time to thaw from an extended period of time of below-freezing temperatures and moisture.”
Dupre said work crews began applying de-icing materials on bridges and major corridors early Tuesday and reapplied as necessary until many roads were open and safe to travel, but some areas experienced sub-freezing temperatures for much of the day on Tuesday which left some routes closed to traffic because de-icing materials could not be used to help create traction for motorists.
Many bridges and overpasses in the area closed early Tuesday, including the Rainbow Bridge and Veterans Memorial Bridge which connect Orange County to Jefferson County, as well as the MLK Bridge, Intracoastal Bridge and Causeway Bridge in Port Arthur.
In Beaumont, the Beaumont Police Department diverted traffic off Interstate 10 to the frontage roads from Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway to Washing Boulevard as well as the frontage roads on U.S. Highway 69 from Tram Road to Interstate 10 due to icing on the roadways.
The Neches River Bridge remained open most of the day on Tuesday, but police closed the westbound downtown Beaumont exit early in the afternoon following a single vehicle wreck.
In Louisiana, law enforcement agencies enacted a dusk-to-dawn curfew from Tuesday night until Wednesday morning in areas such as Kinder, Oakdale, Rayne, Church Point, Iota and Crowley.