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Helicoptersmbring water, MRE packs to city “in dire need”
Bearing a disaster declaration that had been handwritten because electricity had been turned off in the aftermath of a snowstorm and hard freeze last week, Dilley city authorities secured deliveries of emergency food supplies and water by the Texas National Guard and the US Air Force Reserve.
Helicopters arrived Wednesday in Dilley, bearing military-issue meals ready-to-eat (MRE’s) and water. City Hall and the police department had determined a number of essentials were in greatest demand as temperatures plummeted below freezing for the third consecutive day and night.
Last week’s winter storm systems wrought havoc to South Texas, and small communities were particularly hard hit, as residents found municipal water supplies cut off and intermittent power failures becoming permanent by Monday, February 15. Stores were forced to close, having to power to run lights or cash registers, fuel stations of all sizes likewise; restaurants, grocery stores and retail suppliers were unable to remain open for business.
Snowfall across Frio and La Salle counties between Sunday, Feb. 14, and Tuesday, Feb. 16, was recorded at varying levels, some residents reporting less than two inches while others reported more than seven.
Frio County Judge Arnulfo Luna signed a disaster declaration in order to help secure state and federal resources of foods, emergency supplies and water, but Dilley Police Chief Homer Delgado and City Administrator Juan Estrada saw on Tuesday and Wednesday that local residents’ needs for relief were immediate.
“We recognized that the city was in dire need,” the police chief said of the effect that last week’s storm had on Dilley. “All the services were down, and the people were freezing.”
Delgado said lists of needs included heaters, blankets and food.
The city administrator said he believes State Representative Tracy King was instrumental in helping direct necessary supplies to Dilley.
“We were in touch with Judge Luna and with Ray Kallio, our county emergency management coordinator,” Estrada said. “While the county judge was signing a disaster declaration for the county as a whole, we needed one for the city of Dilley. We had to write it all out by hand and get the mayor’s signature.”
“The city of Dilley is in need of water to provide to citizens, maybe with a water truck from the Army Reserves,” city staff wrote in the disaster declaration. “The city of Dilley has been without water and electricity for the past three days.”
“Due to the ongoing inclement weather, local citizens have been relocated to hotels in the city,” Mayor Mary Ann Obregon wrote. “Those who can’t afford hotels are requesting shelter. We currently have the convention center available, but with no electricity, only running on a small generator.
“Local restaurants are also running out of food,” the mayor added, “and the only grocery store in town is without electricity.”
Applying for emergency relief proved easier than actually obtaining the materials, according to both Delgado and Estrada, who said the storm system that had caused Frio County’s disaster was crippling the supply chain across the state.
“We were told to expect supplies in 24 hours,” the city administrator said, “but then there was a delay, and then another… it turns out the trucks were stuck in the ice. The supplies were available but couldn’t get to us.”
City Hall learned Wednesday that helicopters would be dispatched with the most urgently needed supplies.
“We had to do everything possible to ensure our citizens were cared for,” the police chief said. “We are not out of the woods yet. A lot of people are still suffering the effects of the dangerous winter storm, and they still need help.”