Some military families displaced as freezing temperatures cause pipes to burst at several bases – U.S.
Some families at military bases trapped in this week’s freezing temperatures are forced to pull out of the base enclosure due to broken water pipes and lack of utility lines, while others band together to support each other during the crisis.
At least eight bases remained closed Thursday in states like Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, and many prepared to remain closed on Friday. Most will spend a full week on the base with only essential personnel as extremely cold weather has created dangerous conditions in the southern parts of the country. The region is not used to multiple days of sub-freezing weather, snow, or significant ice build-up, which has resulted in inoperable roads, broken water pipes, and overloaded utilities.
Winter weather hit the region a week ago, bringing unusually cold temperatures that will last a week. As of Thursday, more than 100 million people had been exposed to some form of winter weather warning, watch or advice, The Associated Press reported.
On Tuesday, when the winter storm hit much of the lower 48 states, more than a dozen bases across the country, including Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Drum in New York, and Fort Campbell, Kentucky, were closed due to dangerous conditions. While some have gotten a break from the storm, the system is forecast to stay bitterly cold on southern Thursday before moving northeast, The AP reported.
By Saturday it is expected that much of the cold air will flow through and temperatures will return to seasonal averages.
However, the circumstances have created significant demand for emergency services in basic accommodation in conditions that make it dangerous for maintenance teams to reach families.
Fort Hood Family Housing, which is managed by the private company Lendlease, had 238 active emergency calls on Wednesday, mostly related to plumbing, officials from the military base said. The grassroots public works department that manages barracks and work facilities received 400 priority work orders Tuesday. An average day brings in 40, base officials said.
According to Lendlease, six families have moved and another seven are pending.
“We are working closely with the Fort Hood Emergency Department to ensure our teams can safely travel by post to respond to residents,” a statement from Lendlease said. “We are adding external contractors to our current team as the weather affects the region and we respond to calls.”
Melissa Sampson, an Army wife at Fort Hood, said a pipe burst in her communal kitchen and laundry room on Monday.
“In a matter of seconds, water just started to pour from the ceiling,” she said.
Sampson, her commander in chief, and her 13-year-old daughter began cleaning up the mess while trying to call the shelter maintenance line, but water quickly flowed into most of their closets as they fought to keep it from spreading to others Rooms in the house.
The first worker arrived with the wrong key that was used to shut off the water so it kept bubbling for about two hours, Sampson said. After the shutdown, the crew immediately went to work on similar problems in two other houses on their street.
The family stayed in the house despite being without water and having no idea when it will return.
Sampson said she didn’t know how long her family would have to live like this. Lendlease emailed residents saying if they don’t get a call by Friday to wait another week before trying to reach housing office.
“I know that in the fact that a large amount of our belongings were not lost altogether, we are in a good place. We lost food, but when we didn’t have it [wet and dry vacuum] and as teenagers we would have been a lot worse, ”said Sampson. “We’re fine in our circumstances, but I know there are families who don’t.”
Fort Hood has opened warming stations and other resources to provide assistance. Some military families on the base band together to help each other weather the storm.
Leighann Morris, an Army wife at Fort Hood, said she had taken in neighbors, some of whom she had not met before.
“It takes a village,” she said. “Not only are they overwhelmed, but they also consider young children. Cleaning the water alone, packing items, drying things and entertaining the children. Sometimes you can’t do everything. “
At Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Megan Wells, a Marine Corps wife with a 6-month-old baby, burst pipes in her home that flooded her garage and several rooms, including her bedroom. Her husband, a sergeant in officer training, is gone and she cannot contact him. Wells was alone.
“I went down because it sounded like it was [water] was in the wall. I opened the garage and a waterfall came down. When I got back upstairs, a pipe burst and started shooting into the master bedroom, ”she said.
About 49 houses in Kirtland had burst pipes this week and five were still in need of repair as of Wednesday, base officials said. It snowed again in the area on Wednesday, but conditions have improved enough that the base is open.
Wells said Hunt Military Communities, the private company that manages the homes on the base, told her her home was habitable, despite 15 industry fans running around the clock to dry the walls and carpet. After speaking with Air Force personnel on Wednesday, she was able to receive financial assistance to move while the house was being repaired.
“I was super patient for the first 24 hours because I knew it [the weather] affected many people. On the second day, I was frustrated that no one had come back to me. [Then] I was just angry, ”Wells said. “We live on the grassroots because when our husbands are gone we are taken care of and that’s not what’s happening at all.”
Hunt said they are working with grassroots leadership to address the situations created by the storm. Three families decided to move after pipes broke in their homes.
“A family has already returned to their homes and we are continuing to work on restoring the full functionality of the utilities for the affected homes. National disaster management companies and local vendors will perform any necessary repairs on site, ”said Hunt. “The storm also affected the operation of plants in the southeast. We are working with local resources to help families struggling as a result of the storm. “
Officials at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, which has been closed since Friday, said they might not know the scope of the problems there until the pipes thaw, said base spokeswoman Angelina Casarez.
More snow is predicted to fall in San Antonio on Thursday and about 10% of Lackland Air Force Base residents reported power outages, Casarez said. Many parts of the state are in a similar situation.
Approximately 7 million Texans are on the alert for boiling water and an additional 560,000 households and businesses have no electricity, the AP reported.
Fire stations have opened their doors for service members and their families to fetch water, and portable toilets have been placed throughout the base.
“We understand and acknowledge the many concerns of the community and work continuously to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the JBSA team. We value the flexibility, determination and cooperation of our team members and ask our mission partners and installation managers to maintain an open line of communication with their staff on and off the base in order to find an optimal path for any problems, “said Casarez.
Texas governor Greg Abbott mobilized more than 300 service personnel in the Houston, San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth areas on Wednesday to help at heat stations serving those without electricity or water.
About 100 soldiers also support the Texas Department of Public Security in the Austin, Waco, Amarillo, Abilene, Wichita Falls, Tyler and Dallas-Fort Worth areas. These teams include personnel and equipment who can deal with dangerous road conditions and bring stranded motorists and transport personnel to safety, according to the Texas Department of Defense.
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Fort Hood Family Housing had 238 active 911 calls Wednesday, mostly related to plumbing, as the Texas Army base grapples with freezing temperatures that have hit the area for nearly a week. At some base houses, including Melissa Sampson, the pipes have frozen and burst, although precautions have been taken to prevent this from happening.