The ice storm that rolled through the area on the night of Dec. 5 spelled trouble for Van Alstyne police as the department was kept busy over the next four days with stranded motorists, motor vehicle accidents and major road closures.
VAPD Chief Tim Barnes said the situation was not as bad as it could have been.
“I think a lot of people took note and stayed inside,” he said. “It could have been worse.”
As it was, dealing with the effects of the storm were no walk in the park. Barnes stated that his department was forced to close U.S. Highway 75 at least 10 times, while the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDot) closed the highway three times of its own accord. The problem was ice on and under bridges that caused hundreds of motorists to be stranded. In particular, semi-truck drivers had a difficult time negotiating the roadways and caused several shutdowns on their own. In fact, according to Barnes, several of the truck drivers ran out of fuel while waiting on the highway to open back up which caused further delays.
VAPD officers had their own issues to deal with, as well. The ice got so thick and slick that their Dodge Chargers could not get around town, forcing officers to use one of the oldest vehicles in the fleet, a very well-worn Ford Expedition. As a result, the department has since ordered cable tire chains for their units.
Barnes said his department and the fire department worked closely with the Grayson County Office of Emergency Management to deal with the ice storm. He credited a coordinated effort for helping the city get through the weather crisis, and in particular the men and women who made it happen.
“They worked some long hours, everyone has, including communications,” he said.
Barnes urged drivers to take to the roadways with caution as the ice begins to melt over the coming days. Once that ice begins to disappear drivers will get comfortable once again with the speed, but there can be unseen patches of ice that linger and those can spell disaster for someone’s commute. Barnes also warned the public to watch out for ice sheets falling off of buildings and homes as some of that ice can be between two and three inches thick.
Overall, VAPD officers responded to 143 calls for service. The majority of those calls were motorist assistance calls involving accidents or drivers who had slid off of the roadway.
Aside from the weather situation there was one major incident to report. On Dec. 7, in the 300 block of S. Douglas, officers responded to an assault against an elderly or disabled individual call. A charge of interfering with an emergency call was also added. The incident is under investigation, and the suspect’s name has not been released.