Sunday, July 21, 2024

Gatesville first responders, staff honored for service during Temple storms


After two tornadoes hit the Temple area on May 22 and caused destruction to several businesses and homes, first responders and staff from Gatesville went out of their way to help their neighboring communities.

 Interim City Manager Brad Hunt recognized several individuals for their service, including members from the City’s Water Office, Street Department, and the Gatesville Fire Department. They were presented with Meritorious Service Awards at a Gatesville City Council meeting on Tuesday.

Hunt said the City of Gatesville responded to the emergency in two ways.

First, three crews set out to assist in the search and rescue efforts in Temple on the night the storm hit. Water Distribution Superintendent Chad Newman, Street Department Supervisor Brent Kirchmeier, and Fire Chief Billy Vaden answered the call and quickly gathered the crews and the heavy equipment that they needed.

“Those crews then worked through the night, into the morning of May 23, in Temple, providing crucial support to the efforts there,” Hunt said.

According to the National Weather Service, an EF1 tornado and an EF2 tornado touched down in the Temple area.  The EF2 tornado had winds of up to  120 miles per hour and traveled for three miles on the evening of May 22.  The area also received damage from straight-line winds.

Several local broadcast channels reported that at least 30 people were injured during the storms.

Due to the severe weather, the Water Intake Plant on Belton Lake lost electricity and caused hundreds of power outages, including in Gatesville. The damage in West Temple directly affected Oncor’s service to the intake plant, because it receives electricity via a line across the lake, Hunt explains.

Water Production Supervisor Zeb Veazy and his crew, along with Newman and his crew, worked throughout the night to maintain water production and ensure that water storage tanks would not run empty before power was restored. 

“Throughout the night and into the day on May 23, we became aware that it could take an extended time to restore electricity to the intake plant,” Hunt said. “While working to address this emergency, your city staff faced extreme challenges with continuing severe weather, sleep deprivation, flooded roadways to the intake plant, and a non-functional back-up generator.”

Hunt adds that Oncor was able to restore power about an hour before the water storage tanks ran dry, and a water emergency was averted.

 The service awards were presented to the following staff:

  • Water Production Supervisor Zeb Veazy and crew, including Andrew Cullar, Bodie James, Chris Barr, and Matt Hlavinka
  • Water Distribution Superintendent Chad Newman and crew, including Crew Supervisor Dale Allen, and Water Maintenance Operator Nic Ortega
  • Street Department Supervisor Brent Kirchmeier and crew, including Equipment Operator Garrison Shaffer, and Street Maintenance Operator Steven Mitchell
  • Fire Department Chief Billy Vaden and crew, including Firefighter Phil Gregory and Lieutenant Sam Hendricks