History-making cold temperatures across the Fort Bliss community last week, now known locally as "Arctic Titanic," has lead to more than $1 million in damage according to reports.
Within 24 hours of the first chill at Fort Bliss and in greater El Paso Feb. 2, temperatures hovered around zero degrees Fahrenheit and caused more than 500 homes in Balfour Beatty Community neighborhoods, Fort Bliss public-private venture housing partner, to suffer water damage from both frozen pipes and ones that ruptured after the thaw two days later.
With help from Fort Bliss' Directorate of Emergency Services, Army Community Service, Soldiers filling post Unit Reaction Force duties and others, eight emergency relief centers were set up across post and offered both potable and non-potable water to those living without. Also, Fort Bliss Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation's Milam Athletic Facility was converted to a relief center and shelter which was manned around the clock by ACS employees and many more volunteers to help organize sleeping arrangements as well as distribute supplies and water for those who needed it.
While Bliss families victimized by the weather continue to cope with their current situations, BBC employees, many of whom are also dealing with their own homes issues, stayed dedicated to their customers as leasing officials were moved into maintenance division facilities to help field the influx of calls which continually came in from their residents. Also, according to BBC, their maintenance specialists logged 20 to 30 hours of extra work hours per person in responding to trouble calls. The company has also hired Belfor Property Restoration to augment their forces in assessing home damage and continuing the recovery process. See page A3 of this issue of The Monitor for details on Belfor's efforts.
According to BBC, as of Feb. 9, water restoration and repairs have been completed to 227 homes. Twenty-seven of an original 35 Army families remain lodged in El Paso-area hotels due to extensive damage to their homes. BBC officials estimated that 16 more of those families will return to their homes Feb. 9, and the remaining 11 will be relocated to other BBC properties. Damage to the homes of those 11 families (eight from BBC's Aero Vista neighborhood, and one home from each of the Beaumont, Logan Heights and South Main Post neighborhoods) is estimated at more than $500 thousand.
BBC reported that every Fort Bliss housing neighborhood had homes with some sort of water issue, ranging from the La Noria and Hayes communities, which suffered two apiece, to the Aero Vista community which recorded 161 homes in need of repair, more than twice as many as any other neighborhood. Water had been restored to almost half of Aero Vista as of Feb. 8.
While Aero Vista homes had the most trouble calls, the post's Historic Red Bricks neighborhood received the most damage by percentage as 64 of its 96 homes were affected by the weather, two-thirds of the homes in that community.
According to Chief Charles Butler, chief of Bliss Fire Department, as of Feb. 4 approximately 55 fire sprinkler systems had frozen with lines broken, and 27 fire alarm systems had to be shut down due to water problems. East Fort Bliss' Centennial and Banquet Conference Center, an FMWR facility, along with the post's commissary, received fire sprinkler damage during the cold snap. DeCA also reported leaks in the commissary's ceiling.
DES reported all access control points fully operational as of Feb. 8. All roads on and around post, as well as across El Paso, are fully operational.
All Army families who have leased a home with Balfour Beatty have renter's insurance as part of their housing agreement. Insurance adjusters arrived at Kelly Park Community Center Feb. 9 and asked that affected families bring as much documentation as possible pertaining to water-damaged items from last week's storm.
For the most current information on Arctic Titanic's recovery effort, visit www.bliss.army.mil and click the Facebook link on the main page. There you will find links to the official social media pages of Headquarters Fort Bliss, Fort Bliss' garrison commander, Fort Bliss Garrison command's Public Affairs Office and 18 other Bliss-affiliated organizations. Almost all of these pages are updated multiple times a day.