FORT HOOD, Texas -- This sprawling Central Texas Army installation is on the road to recovery following an unprecedented winter storm that blanketed Central Texas under several inches of snow and ice.
“We had to deal with it a little differently,” Jose Ancira, supervisor for roads and grounds for Fort Hood’s Directorate of Public Works, said about the winter weather. “We’re not really used to getting snow and ice combined together. This time the ice stuck around and then it snowed on top of the ice … then it rained and froze on top of the other layers.”
The DPW roads and grounds crew worked 12 hours daily clearing roads using construction equipment, followed by spreading layers of sand to help give the roads some traction. Ancira said they ended up using more than 150 tons of sand on the Fort Hood streets to keep people safe.
He said, although Fort Hood has a snow and ice removal plan, the work did not go according to plan because of the severity of the storm and because some employees could not make it into work because of dangerous road conditions across the commuting area. Ancira’s road crew consisted of 13 people, but he said none of it could have been done without the entire DPW team working together.
“Because of our unique skills, the great team and effort, we were able to accomplish everything we needed to do,” he said proudly.
Brian Dosa, director of the Fort Hood DPW, said he’s never seen anything like the storm, even after living in Texas for more than 20 years, so he was impressed by the “tremendous work” of the roads and grounds crew for clearing the snow and ice. He was also impressed that Fort Hood fared so well in the storm.
“We actually made out really well,” Dosa added. “Throughout the week-plus-long storm, we never lost (complete) power on Fort Hood, which is incredible.”
Dosa said there were a couple of transformers that blew, causing power to go off on a street, but Dominion Energy, Fort Hood’s energy partner, was able to restore the small outages quickly. Although power outages were not a big issue for Fort Hood, the freezing temperatures wreaked havoc on the water pipes, fire suppression systems and heating systems on the installation.
“Having those pipes exposed to the extreme cold weather caused them to freeze and break, which caused flooding,” Dosa explained.
The DPW director said that 16 eight to ten inch water mains broke, which have since been repaired by American Water, Fort Hood’s water and wastewater partner. Additionally, he said breaks in pipes, water-based heating systems and fire suppression systems in buildings have caused significant damage to ceilings, floors and walls, as well as items in the affected areas.
“It’s going to take us some time to clean up, but our priorities are to fix all the water leaks, get the fire suppression systems restored, get the heat restored and then we’ll start working on some of that collateral damage,” he added.
DPW is currently tracking 40 barracks that have some sort of heating or hot water outages. Dosa said repairing those is one of their top priorities. He explained that seven barracks in the 87000 block, which house 1st Air Cavalry Brigade and 3rd Cavalry Regiment Soldiers, suffered a break to a main hot water line Saturday night, which caused hundreds of Soldiers to lose heat and hot water.
Because the weather is already warming up, the Soldiers elected to remain in their rooms and will be able to take hot showers at Starker Physical Fitness Center.
Two Child Development Centers, the Burba Physical Fitness Center and the clubhouse at Courses of Clear Creek were among the buildings that suffered from flooding. He said some of the damage was not discovered until after the pipes had time to thaw and begin leaking.
“We’ll have all the water restored in early March” Dosa explained. “I think it will take us several weeks to get all the heat repaired. Some are easy, but some are going to take time … Cleaning up the collateral damage, that’s going to take us months. We’ll do the triage and the initial cleanup and then we’ll get the projects in place to get fixed.”
He said while they are still assessing everything, he estimates that it will cost millions to repair the damage. To submit a work order, Soldiers can call 254-287-2113 or, for barracks issues, visit www.armymaintenance.com.
“On a typical day at Fort Hood, we might get 35 or 40 Priority 1 (emergency) requests,” he explained. “We were in the hundreds per day. One day, we had 400 emergency work requests come in.”
Dosa said he could not be happier by the hard work from his employees, who took work orders, worked tirelessly in the cold and ordered supplies needed for repairs – all while they were struggling with their own power and water issues at home. He was also impressed by all the Soldiers who have stepped up to lend a helpful hand, in their barracks and around the installation. The tremendous work by American Water and Dominion Energy cannot be overstated – we would not done as well as we did without them.
“Lots of good folks out there working hard and doing the right thing.”