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Smith County issues disaster declaration, urges residents to stay home

In preparation of any loss of electricity, make sure your generators are fueled up and your phones are charged.

SMITH COUNTY, Texas — Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran issued a Disaster Declaration for Smith County on Sunday due to the winter storm and the extremely hazardous driving conditions that have already caused partial closure of Interstate 20.

Most of the state is under a winter storm warning through Monday, and emergency management officials are urging residents to stay home if possible, and do not drive on icy roads. Bridges, overpasses and other elevated structures are the first to freeze but other areas of roadways will continue to worsen as temperatures continue to plummet and ice and/or snow accumulation is seen in the area. 

On Sunday morning, the Texas Department of Transportation reported that Interstate 20, between U.S. Highway 69 North and Farm-to-Market Road 14, was shut down in both directions and several motorists were stranded due to icy conditions. Visit www.DriveTexas.org for updated conditions and traffic updates. 

CONSERVING ENERGY

Residents in other areas of Texas have been experiencing rolling brown outs -- temporary loss of electricity -- because of the extra burden on the state’s electrical grid. Smith County officials have been informed that East Texas could also experience brown outs. If this occurs, do not contact your electricity provider.

In preparation of any loss of electricity, make sure your generators are fueled up and your phones are charged.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is asking consumers and businesses to reduce their electricity use as much as possible, through Tuesday, February 16, to help the state with electricity shortages.

"We are experiencing record-breaking electric demand due to the extreme cold temperatures that have gripped Texas," ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said in a prepared statement. "We are asking Texans to take some simple, safe steps to lower their energy use during this time."

Here are some tips to reduce electricity use:

  • Turn down thermostats to 68-degrees.
  • Close shades and blinds to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows.
  • Turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances.
  • Avoid using large appliances (ovens, washing machines, etc.).
  • Businesses should minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible.
  • Large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential production processes.

COORDINATION EFFORTS 

Smith County officials will continue to monitor weather conditions as the area could continue to see ice and snow throughout the week. The County Judge and Fire Marshal’s Office are actively coordinating preparation and response efforts with the Sheriff’s Office, Road and Bridge Department, Emergency Services Districts Nos. 1 and 2, UT Health EMS, Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), the Department of Public Safety, the Red Cross, and other community agencies involved in disaster response. 

“I cannot say enough about the professionalism of each of the organizations involved in our winter storm emergency response efforts, all of which are working hard to keep fellow East Texans safe and to be ready for a variety of any needed activities as this winter weather event unfolds," Judge Moran said, "It’s a continued reminder of the quality of law enforcement and emergency response individuals and agencies that we have here in Smith County who are highly trained and ready to respond. Kudos to those groups.” 

CLOSURES 

Smith County non-emergency offices were already scheduled to close on Monday in observance of Presidents Day, but Judge Moran anticipates that additional closures of county offices will be necessary as the winter storm continues and hazardous road conditions continue. A final decision on any additional delays or closures related to county offices will be made on Monday. 

If you live outside of a city limits in Smith County and you need to report trees down in the roadway, call the non-emergency dispatch at 903-566-6600.

RELATED: LIST: East Texas school districts, colleges delay, cancel classes due to potential for wintry weather

RELATED: LIST: Roadways, areas closed due to icy conditions across East Texas