As police, county deputies, fire and EMS crews brace for the storm, they urge the public to consider hunkering down rather than sightseeing.
Ice means cars sliding off roadways, collisions, fires when efforts to keep warm get careless and virtually anything else.
For the law enforcers and emergency crews it also means working on the side of a frigid roadway while hoping their ears and toes don’t freeze.
“The public will need to understand if there is an ice storm our response to emergency will be slowed or if conditions are very bad we will not be able to respond,” El Campo Volunteer Fire Chief Jimmy George Jr. said.
El Campo PD and Wharton County Sheriff’s Department have put normally off-duty crews on notice – they may be needed.
“Currently, the plan is to maintain the normal coverage on patrol, but that can and will most likely change at a moment’s notice,” Sheriff Shannon Srubar said.
ECPD continues to monitor the storm.
“If we get word from weather outlets and TXDOT that roads are expected to be unsafe to travel, then we will have our personnel stay at the police department to make sure we have all shifts covered,” El Campo Police Chief Gary Williamson said.
Highway overpasses are a concern, he said, recalling 2014. “We had multiple accidents where vehicles slid off of the highway or into each other. At one point, U.S. 59 was shut down for a period of time due to the road conditions and two 18-wheelers sliding off of the roadway. The highway, with the ongoing construction, is a major concern,” Williamson said.
Both departments will patrol and answer calls for help as long as possible, but there’s a point when even emergency vehicles can’t roll.
“If the ice builds up where vehicles are unable to stay on the roadways we will stop the response due to safety, like when we have to stop response during a hurricane when wind speeds go over 50 mph sustained,” El Campo Fire Chief Jimmy George Jr. said. “The fire department will try to respond as best we can to all calls for help.”
Firefighting volunteers were asked Wednesday to plan on garrisoning at the station Sunday through Tuesday.
“We will ask firefighters to man the station. ... (It’s) a big concern on if they could respond from home,” George said.
El Campo EMS keeps personnel at the station routinely working 24 hour shifts, always prepared to race to help.
Ice, however, makes traveling roads rough to impossible for ambulances, fire trucks and police cruisers.
The public should take a hint, officials said.
“I urge those that do not have to get on the roadways, starting Sunday evening into Tuesday, to please avoid it. We care about your safety and the safety of all first responders,” Srubar said.