Dallas winter storm response needs better coordination, review finds

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An internal analysis of how Dallas officials responded to the winter storm in early February found that several city departments needed to improve coordination with each other and with outside groups, such as Dallas Area Rapid Transit.

Analysis from the city’s emergency management office highlighted more than two dozen areas that need to be addressed in responding to future winter storms, including updating some emergency plans and equipping a more large number of municipal vehicles to drive on icy roads.

One recommendation is for the city to work with DART ahead of inclement weather to ensure the agency knows which bus routes are along sanded streets to maintain public transit. The transit agency shut down all bus and light rail services for the first time in its history on Feb. 4, citing freezing conditions.

Suspend all blind bus service commuters trying to navigate the freezing rain and sleet that arrived in North Texas on February 3. Transit service resumed on February 6.

The city’s winter storm analysis noted that icy roads prevented tow trucks from accessing stranded DART buses. The review also recommends that DART establish clearer guidelines about conditions that cause changes in its level of service.

The review comes after Mayor Eric Johnson requested a report assessing what went right and what went wrong with the city’s winter weather preparedness efforts earlier this month. He also asked that DART and electric utility Oncor be included in the review.

The report was supposed to be finished last Friday, but as of Monday, it’s still not finished. The city council is to be informed of the analysis on Wednesday via a slideshow presentation. It is unclear when the full report will be completed. Rocky Vaz, director of the city’s office of emergency management, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Other recommendations included obtaining tire chains for vehicles belonging to Dallas Animal Services and the city office of Homeless Solutions for traveling on slippery roads, and developing emergency plans that include a list of employees. libraries and recreation centers living closest to each establishment to open them. as warming centers if necessary.

Recommendations also included finding alternative ways to close roads instead of relying on police patrol cars, considering alternatives to using sand to prevent streets from freezing, and clearer communication to the public. advance on when city facilities will be open and closed as well as where resources related to helping the homeless will be located.

Winter weather this year was less severe than in February 2021, when millions of Texans had no electricity or running water or days, and the city was better prepared with plans in place at least a day before the mix wintry knocks for a mass homeless shelter and warming center. options. There were also plans in place for water distribution for residents.

Many of those same plans were in place when freezing temperatures and ice hit the Metroplex last week, though two recreation centers were used as temporary homeless shelters rather than the larger auto buildings and tower blocks. Fair Park which were used as shelters earlier in February.

It remains unclear when the city will receive backup generators to power some city buildings in the event of another widespread blackout. None of the city’s 43 recreation centers and 29 libraries have backup generators, and many are not wired to handle power by one.

The city council last September approved a $1.6 million contract to purchase and install eight backup generators for five recreation centers and three libraries, but they have yet to arrive. City officials said this was due to supply chain issues.

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