How much will the winter storms in February cost Denton schools? | Education


February’s winter storms, and accompanying power outages caused by a faulty power grid, could cost Denton-area schools around $ 20 million.

Estimates of damage to local schools before the state’s thaw in mid-February cost millions of dollars.

While that figure was clearer four months later, representatives from Denton ISD, the University of North Texas, Texas Woman’s University and North Central Texas College did not have the full picture.

Estimates are fuzzy in part because damage is not fully repaired, and evaluations are months after completion in some cases. Despite these hurdles, many officials were confident that insurance and federal disaster relief funds would cover most, if not all, of the costs incurred.

The first clues of what was in store for Denton County arrived on February 10, the Wednesday before the ice and snow began to fall.

Meteorologists predicted freezing rain and emergency responders began to prepare for what was initially expected to be simply a dangerous winter.

On February 12, Denton ISD told families to expect a three-day weekend and asked teachers to plan a professional development day on Monday.

“We knew it was going to be cold, we just didn’t know how cold it was,” said Chris Bomberger, DISD executive director of risk management in mid-June.

Denton ISD began limiting utility use in its buildings on the Saturday before the power grid went out, and district officials began inspecting buildings for damage the next day.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, known as ERCOT, instituted progressive blackouts in the early hours of Monday, February 15.

The shutdown was extended Monday to include Tuesday and Wednesday, and amended again Tuesday to extend through Friday.

In a video sent Tuesday, Superintendent Jamie Wilson, filming using a back-up generator, told families in the district to expect in-person classes on Monday and urged people to do what they want. can to protect each other.

The problems increased and worsened for the district over the following days. Frozen water will cause pipes and sprinkler systems to burst. The water would flow and freeze, seeping into the walls and flooding the areas below.

Workers counted a total of 44 water breaks in 23 buildings. Of these, the district rated the damage for 24 of the ruptures as minimal, one as fair, 10 as poor, and nine as very poor.

“You would think the age of the build would be a factor, but the ruptures were hit and miss,” Bomberger said.

Union Park Elementary, the district’s newest campus, had two breaks, but the much older Newton Rayzor Elementary did not.

Workers made patrols to inspect every pipe fitting, water cooler, sink, sprinkler, and other water infrastructure in every building in the neighborhood, but prolonged periods below freezing without adequate power meant that a pipe could burst an hour after being checked.

Those responsible for tackling inclement weather and mitigating damage to schools in the area had similar stories to tell that week. Many left their homes without electricity to drive in uncertain conditions and spent the time they could working under difficult circumstances.

For example, Bomberger recalled when a sprinkler broke at Adkins Elementary, which the district ranked among the worst of those ruptures during that week.

“We couldn’t get the water out of the school because it would freeze,” Bomberger said. “So if you can imagine pushing water out the door and the water freezing on the sidewalk.”

Workers relied on back-up generators to run the equipment, but even that was not a back-up solution.

At one point, Denton ISD officials even had to travel to Gainesville to purchase fuel for the generators after it became apparent that Denton gas stations could not keep up with demand.

In-person classes at eight of the district’s campuses have been delayed due to extensive damage, with Harpool Middle by far the hardest hit.

{span style = “font-size: 1.17em;”} Colleges and universities didn’t do better {/ span} A few miles north in Denton proper, the two local universities were having similar weeks.

Workers trudged along ice and flooded soil all day and night when they could get to campuses.

Rob Ramirez, associate vice president of facilities at TWU, estimated he only got six hours of sleep over the course of a few days that week.

The natural hazards of rocky bottom temperatures mixed with slippery conditions, heavily damaged buildings and long stretches without adequate heating.

“You associate safety with the need to react” to the damage as it has occurred, Ramirez said.

He said the majority of the damage was inside buildings. The story is the same for most of the damaged areas across the state for this week. The pipes would burst, flooding the lower areas which could eventually freeze.

Equipment malfunctioned and at times broke as power was repeatedly cut and turned on by power outages that plagued much of the state throughout the week.

Ramirez said he and his team were tracking nine affected buildings or areas immediately after the storm. At the end of June, only two of them still had work to do.

Hubbard Hall, the student union that was freshly renovated less than a year ago, has been hit the hardest, but Ramirez said there was hope it would be restored by the return of many. students for the fall semester.

TWU actually appeared to have survived winter storms with the lowest damage estimates at the end of June taking into account the schools reviewed for this article.

Ramirez estimated the damage from the storm would be around $ 2.7 million, with most of it damage inside buildings.

UNT, on the other hand, had perhaps the most difficult things of the four schools contacted.

Chad Crocker, UNT’s acting deputy vice president of facilities, has overseen most of the college’s storm repairs since taking office in May.

Crocker, who was senior maintenance manager during the storm, called the event “horrible and exciting at the same time.”

“Horrible in that we had a constant loss of power – it was up, it was down,” he said. “We’ve had boil water warnings, pipes freezing and breaking all over campus. Just a lot of challenges.

The plumbing damage also resulted in campus-wide leaks in almost every building, according to Crocker.

One such leak occurred in the three-story Business Leadership Building. The building’s ventilation arrangement caused the water to flow directly to its lowest level.

UNT also experienced power cuts to its own generators, which resulted in prolonged broadband outages and access to campus servers.

Pipeline repairs were high on the list once things started to thaw near the end of the winter storm.

“Cut pipes, weld and weld new pipes to quickly repair and stop the damage we might,” Crocker said. “It was a tough situation for the team and it was amazing what they were able to accomplish during that time.”

About $ 3-4 million was spent on repairs in June, and university officials expect the total cost to be closer to $ 7 million.

Officials from both universities said there was a backlog of ordered spare parts as many entities suffered similar damage.

The plastic-wrapped furniture is ready to move indoors on July 21 at North Central Texas College in Corinth.

The NCTC, which has campuses in Denton, Corinth and several locations outside of Denton County, has seen most of the storm damage happen at its Corinth campus.

Robbie Baugh, vice president of administrative affairs, said the three-story building had burst pipes and flooded the first floor and part of the second. Water flowed through the ceilings of the library, offices, food court, damaging and destroying much of what it had settled on.

The campus was completely closed for the remainder of the semester and students were transferred to other campuses.

Baugh said the plan is to get the building back to normal by mid-July with some minor renovations.

Overall, he said insurance and mitigation costs are expected to be around $ 3.7 million.

MARSHALL REID can be reached at 940-566-6862 and via Twitter at @MarshallKReid.


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