As the area prepares for whats’ predicted to be one of the coldest winters in years with temperatures possibly dropping to single digits, the Harrison County Emergency Management department has partnered with various agencies to make sure residents stay warm and safe.
“As the temperature (drops) in East Texas, frostbite and hypothermia are our concern,” Harrison County Fire Marshal/Emergency Management Coordinator Duana “DJ” Couch said, Saturday.
“This is an unusual, extreme situation here in this county and our emergency coordinators, local emergency planning community — County Judge Chad Sims as senior emergency management (director) and me as emergency management coordinator — have been in close contact with our Texas Department of Emergency Management Region VI district coordinator Deaun Stinecipher,” Couch said, noting Region VI is headquartered in Tyler.
According to the National Weather Service-Shreveport, a winter storm warming is currently in effect through Monday night. Ice and sleet accumulations will cause some slick road surfaces, particularly on bridges and overpasses. Sunday night through Monday, the forecast calls for additional heavy snow, sleet and ice accumulations that is expected to cause hazardous road conditions, even of non-elevated surfaces, in addition to power outages.
“Look for a mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow during this event, with significant impacts to travel and power outages expected,” National Weather Service-Shreveport officials warned.
To prepare for conditions, Couch said she’s also been in touch with Harrison County Sheriff Brandon “BJ” Fletcher, County Road Administrator Luke Davis and Marshall Fire Chief/City of Marshall Emergency Management Coordinator Reggie Cooper.
“Reggie Cooper and I are looking for volunteers that may want to come and volunteer and help open the Lion’s Community Center,” she said.
She said they need volunteers to help oversee potential facilities that can possibly open to provide overnight shelter and warmth.
“Manpower is what we need,” she said. “We’re really struggling to try to find some volunteers.”
Couch said she also reached out to Bro. Will Sherman with the Baptist Ministry Association for assistance with those needing necessities.
“He’s reached out to churches. They gave a really nice donation,” the emergency management coordinator said.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure everybody is safe and warm and not have anybody freeze.”
The county emergency management team has also partnered with Mission Marshall, who is temporarily converting the organization’s Little Library boxes into food and cold weather prep boxes.
“We’re trying to spread the word and let our community know that we are accepting donations in regards to hats, gloves, scarves and blankets,” said Couch. “Mission Marshall has several locations that will be utilized.”
The warm apparel, blankets and non-perishable food items will be stocked and available at the Little Libraries for those in need. The locations that will be stocked are City Park, Lions Park, Bella Wyatt Park and West End Park.
“The public is welcome to add to the Little Library boxes on their own, or non-food donations may be dropped off on the front bench outside Mission Marshall,” organizers said.
Mission Marshall will restock as donations are available, weather permitting. In addition to Mission Marshall, Couch said she’s also been in touch with Red Cross.
“A lot of the homeless don’t want to go to shelters,” said Couch.
She said all law enforcement, including the Department of Public Safety, have teamed up to provide a blanket for anyone they see in need while out on patrol.
“Our concerns are the freezing weather we’ll have,” Couch said.
Couch noted that the county’s road and bridge department are also prepared for harsh conditions, making sure the county’s roads are safe.
“They’ve got equipment locations, four zones set up throughout the county so that we can make sure we’ve got things covered,” she said.
The fire marshal said the county’s Emergency Service Districts are also on standby to help where needed and report any incidents of hypothermia.
“They are alert; they are aware; they know to call me,” said Couch. “We’re trying everything we can (to help).”
Residents are also encouraged to report any downed power lines to the appropriate power company, the county road and bridge department or dispatchers.
To volunteer for possible shelter opening, contact Harrison County Fire Marshal Duana Couch’s office at (903)935-4870 or email Duana@co.harrison.tx.us; or call Fire Chief Reggie Cooper’s office at (903) 935-4580 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
FIRE SAFETY TIPS
The Harrison County Fire Marshal’s Office also urges residents to use caution while heating their homes during the inclement weather. The office posted the following tips on its “Harrison County Fire Marshal’s Office East Texas” page:
Do not put space heaters close to anything flammable; keep a distance of at least 6’ from the front and sides of all space heaters; do not plug space heaters into extension cords for power, plug them directly into a wall receptacle.
If the power goes out and you need to use propane to heat your home, make sure to have a working carbon monoxide detector.
When using a generator please ensure correct ventilation to prevent emissions build-up and carbon monoxide poisoning. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poison are dull headache, weakness, dizziness, confusion, blurred vision, nausea/vomiting, shortness of breath, and sudden onset of feeling sleepy.
If you think you have been exposed, get outside to fresh air and call 9-1-1 immediately.
“As always, the Harrison County Fire Marshal’s Office and the Red Cross encourage you to be cautious and safe during inclement weather,” Couch said. “Stay safe.”