A RUN ON GASOLINE -- Sheriff Jason Chatham and his deputies were called to Shell Star Stop (above) and Stripes stores after both sold out of gas on Tuesday and had to shut down their pumps. Customers from Sonora came in droves to fuel up after gas pumps there were rendered inoperable by a power outage. The long lines led to several verbal (and a couple of physical) altercations. -- KATHY MANKIN | THE ELDORADO SUCCESS
A RUN ON GASOLINE -- Sheriff Jason Chatham and his deputies were called to Shell Star Stop (above) and Stripes stores after both sold out of gas on Tuesday and had to shut down their pumps. Customers from Sonora came in droves to fuel up after gas pumps there were rendered inoperable by a power outage. The long lines led to several verbal (and a couple of physical) altercations. -- KATHY MANKIN | THE ELDORADO SUCCESS

Temperatures plummeted across Texas as arctic cold swept southward from Canada late last week and swept through the central states, all the way to the lower Rio Grande Valley and northern Mexico. By Monday morning the temperature dropped into single digits with a couple of zero-degree readings being reported in Eldorado.

Locally, the icy cold caused widespread power outages that canceled classes at SCISD through Thursday of this week, and postponed the COVID-19 vaccine clinic that was planned for Saturday, February 13th, at the Schleicher County Civic Center. The clinic was held on Tuesday of this week.

The wintry weather arrived here early on Thursday morning, February 11th in the form of dense icy fog. Freezing rain took over later in the day and continued through Friday. Most of the county was blanketed in ice even before the strongest part of the storm blew in late Saturday evening. That’s when temperatures dropped into the low teens and intermittent sleet turned to snow.

The National Weather Service repeatedly issued blizzard warnings, cautioning drivers to stay off the road. And, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas warned that the demand for electricity would likely exceed supply and result in rolling blackouts across the state. Texas Governor Greg Abbott even declared an emergency on Friday, February 12th for all of the state’s 254 counties.

Compounding the problem for Texas consumers was the fact that the icy cold idled most of the state’s wind farms, including the Live Oak and Langford wind farms in northern Schleicher County. Just when the state most needed the power, wind turbines across the state ground to a halt, their long blades encased in thick shrouds of ice.

Power went off in Eldorado early Sunday morning. AEP Texas crews were able to restore service to most of the town by early afternoon. Many rural customers were not so fortunate, however, as Southwest Texas Electric Cooperative (SWTEC) suffered storm damage across much of its vast system.

Buff Whitten, SWTEC’s general manager, said on Monday that he believed more than 200 power poles were down and expected work crews to find even more.

“I don’t know how many cross arms there were, but we lost a lot,” Whitten said.

An outage map on the SWTEC website indicated 2,788 of its customers were affected on Monday with 1,004 of those being in Schleicher County. By noon on Tuesday the local number was down to 934. Menard County was also hit hard by the storm.

Much of the damage the cooperative experienced in Schleicher County was northwest of Eldorado in and around the Reynolds community.

Whitten said that SWTEC crews went to work almost immediately and were being assisted by a James Power Line crew from the Boerne area.

“There’s a limit to how long someone can be out in cold this extreme, or up in a bucket with the wind blowing the way it was,” Whitten said.

Two five-man crews from New Mexico were due in Eldorado on Tuesday to assist SWTEC work crews with repairs.

Farther south, much of Sonora continued to be without electrical power on Tuesday with stores unable to open and gasoline pumps inoperable. The Sutton County Civic Center was opened as a shelter Sunday and Monday evenings for Sutton County residents with no electrical power, as well as many truckers and motorists forced off of Interstate 10 by icy conditions.

By Tuesday morning, many Sonora residents made their way to Eldorado in search of gasoline. At least one fight was reported at the gas pumps at the Stripes store on South Divide. The

Sheriff’s Office sent deputies to the store, as well as the Shell Star Stop, when each of them sold out of gas and had to shut down thier pumps. Meanwhile, Lowe’s Market and the Dollar General store were also doing a brisk business.

The National Weather Service is predicting another blast of cold air for Thursday and Friday of this week with temperatures rising back into the 60s and 70s by the middle of next week.