Ice storm cost Fort Worth about $200,000 as of Tuesday

12/10/2013 8:22 PM

12/11/2013 9:25 AM

After spending an estimated $200,000 as of Tuesday morning, the city is finally emerging from under a blanket of ice.

Transportation and Public Works crews worked 5,650 hours at a labor cost of about $125,000, Juan Ortiz, the city’s emergency management coordinator, told the City Council at Tuesday’s pre-council meeting.

They dumped more than 2,000 tons of sand and 110 tons of salt as of 7 a.m. Tuesday.

City employees worked continuously at the emergency operations center from 5:30 p.m. Thursday through Tuesday at 5 p.m., city spokesman Bill Begley said.

They’ll do another night of sanding and other road services through 7 this morning.

And after the ice fully melts or is cleared, crews will start repairing potholes and other road damage. That cost that has not been estimated, Begley said.

“To say this was a major event would be understating it,” Mayor Betsy Price said.

“There is always room for improvement and I hope you will do some lessons learned and work on things, because on a major event like this you can take the best and build on it and go from there.”

City employees, many of whom brought bedrolls to stay the night at the emergency center over the weekend, did an amazing job monitoring the weather, Price said.

However, she said, she thinks city officials need to look further into some problems, such as the “cobblestone ice” that developed when ice melted slightly when sanded and then refroze.

“Could we have gotten involved TxDOT here sooner? Is it worth purchasing equipment? ‘Probably not’ would be my response at this point because we don’t have this kind of event very often, and that is expensive equipment, but is there a way to modify equipment we already have?” Price said after the meeting. “We just need to look at the ‘what ifs.’”

Also, she said, the emergency shelter for the homeless at Bertha Collins Community Center did not have a firm plan for providing food, which is something that could have been managed ahead of time.

The shelter housed between 31 and 43 people a night, starting Friday night. The emergency shelter is expected to be open again Tuesday night, Ortiz said.

The Jingle Bell Run, which was scheduled for Saturday but was canceled, donated 5,000 water bottles and fruit to the emergency shelter. The run, which benefits the Arthritis Foundation, had a goal of raising $250,000 but was about $100,000 short Tuesday afternoon, according to their website.

Central Market and Albertsons grocery stores also donated food to the shelter.

Police responded to an 18 percent increase in overall calls and the fire department responded to 52 percent more medical calls and 111 percent more fire calls, Ortiz said.

Reports of injuries from falls were up 220 percent over the weekend.

“We had icy conditions all over the city,” Ortiz said. “No place was left uncovered.”

Assault reports were down 22 percent, Ortiz said, probably because fewer people were venturing out to public places.

The initial cost estimates do not include overtime from the police and fire departments, and the costs are expected to rise as city employees continue to work around the clock and use costly materials to clear the ice, Begley said.

The city also gave more than 500 cots to DFW Airport, which had to accommodate about 4,000 stranded travelers at the highest point.

Sean Donohue, the new chief executive of DFW Airport, joked at the council meeting that the airport “bought every cot in the Metroplex area,” and appreciated Fort Worth’s contribution.

“I can tell you, I would take a foot of snow over 3 inches of ice any day,” Donohue said.

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