March 4, 2021

Kind Cards, From Your Neighbors

As I emphasized when I first introduced it as our theme for the year, and again in my State of the City Address last month, #OneBellaire belongs to all of us.  While the City will be offering several opportunities for us to come together and reunite as a community, residents are expressly encouraged to bring forward their own ideas as well.  I’m delighted that a group of our neighbors have answered that call, and are reaching out to all of us to ask for our participation in creating and sending Kind Cards.

This is a strictly citizen led initiative, brought about by the recognition that much of what we have in mind for #OneBellaire will involve in-person interaction, once it’s safe to resume public gatherings.  Until then, or even concurrently, the organizers see Kind Cards as a way to reinforce our interconnectedness through a simple act of kindness among neighbors.  Their goal is to reach every single household in Bellaire, as well as every member of the city staff, by creating and distributing postcards with original art and messages of kindness.  They’re on a mission to unite our community and spread the neighborly spirit throughout Bellaire.

March 1, 2021

A Winter Storm Lesson Learned

The City has released, and at tonight’s Council meeting staff will formally present, an After Action Report on the winter storm response.  The Report includes a detailed chronology of emergency operations and departmental activities throughout the event, and identifies both strengths and areas for improvement.  Public Works features prominently in the Report, given the issues we encountered with our water system, and these are documented with full transparency as previously promised.

One thing in particular I want to highlight—(1) because folks have asked about it, and (2) frankly, I’m sensitive to it given my role as the messenger—is the Report’s open acknowledgement that there could have been other causes for the initial loss of water pressure (before the systemwide drop), beyond what was included in our messaging at the time.  “Retrospectively, it is very fair to assume that there [were] other causes” that “should have been considered in the messaging regarding this issue.”  So, it seems, we didn’t get that part quite right.  We take responsibility for that, and count it as a lesson learned.

February 21, 2021

Boil Water Notice Lifted

Great news!  Our test results have come back from the lab and we’re good to go.  Bacterial and chemistry testing, performed by an independent certified laboratory following TCEQ-mandated protocols, have confirmed Bellaire’s system water quality to be of the same high rating as it was prior to this week’s disruption due to the severe winter weather event.  The boil water notice has now been lifted.

Because regional subsidence regulations allow us to source only 50% of our water supply from groundwater, the other half is surface water purchased from the City of Houston.  For so long as their boil water notice remains in effect, we will not be using any water coming from Houston.

To safely resume your water use, turn on both the hot and cold water at each tap (all faucets, showers and bathtubs) and let it run for at least five minutes.  Please note that the water may initially appear cloudy or discolored; this is normal as sediment will have collected in the pipes during the service interruption.  If you use a water dispenser, whether in your refrigerator or mounted on a sink, run it until clear or consider changing the filter.  Inline water filters should also be changed.  Automatic ice dispensers should be cycled and the ice discarded for a full 24 hours.  Run your dishwasher empty one cycle to flush the supply line.  Clothes may be washed as usual.

Being able to use our water again without restrictions is a big step toward regaining a sense of normalcy.  Kudos to our Public Works crews for everything they’ve done this week to bring the system back online as quickly as possible.  We thank you for your patience during this extraordinary time, and should you have any questions or need assistance, please feel free to contact Public Works at (713) 662-8170.

February 20, 2021

Bellaire Bottled Water Distribution - 1:00 p.m. Today

Just a quick post to help get the word out.  The City of Bellaire has received a shipment of bottled water for distribution to residents who need it.  One case per household, first come, first served.  We’ll be out in the parking lot beneath the water tower, across the street from the Fire Station, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. today while supplies last.

Our municipal water system has been flushed, and pending test results we hope to be able to lift the boil water notice sometime tomorrow.  In the meantime, please do not assume the water is safe to drink.  Continue boiling city water before using it, or use bottled water as an alternative.  For those residents with their water currently shut off due to broken pipes—and there are a tremendous number of you all across Bellaire—please do come pick up a case of bottled water if you’re running low.

As we have only a limited supply of bottled water, this distribution is for residents urgently in need.  We are working to secure more shipments and will announce additional distribution opportunities if and when available in the coming days.  Be sure you’re signed up to receive our updates through PrepareBellaire and Notify Me.

February 19, 2021

From Response to Recovery

With the power back on and staying on (though we should continue to conserve), and the worst of the freezing weather behind us, the City has transitioned from response to recovery.  Here is what to expect over the next few days:

Boil Water Notice Remains in Effect Through the Weekend

System pressure is back up, and repairs to the chemical feed lines and other water production equipment are proceeding as planned.  Public Works anticipates they can begin flushing the system sometime this morning, and continuing throughout the day.  You will see large volumes of water draining from a number of fire hydrants across the City.  Bacteria testing is scheduled for tomorrow, with the results expected on Sunday.  Once we’ve gotten the all-clear the boil water notice will be lifted, and at that time we’ll communicate instructions for safely resuming water use.

February 18, 2021

Thank You, Bellaire Emergency Response Team!

They’ve got their own problems to deal with like everyone else, but they’re always there for us, especially in times like these when we need them most.  We’re often quick to think of our first responders in Police and Fire, but emergency response also involves personnel from other city departments who have been hard at work, many of them behind the scenes, doing everything they can to help us through this terrible ordeal.  We’re lucky to have them and appreciate all they do for us.

There’s Light at the End of the Tunnel

Literally.  We’re in the homestretch and the finish line is in sight!  Most of Bellaire currently has power, and if there are any further rolling outages they should be of much shorter duration.  There has been substantial improvement overnight in statewide electricity generation and millions more Texans have power again.  Here in our area, CenterPoint is reporting over 98% of its customers are back online as of this morning.

Our water pressure is looking good, too.  We still feel we’re on track to be fully operational by the end of today, but importantly, the boil water notice will remain in effect until the system is flushed and tested to ensure the water is safe to drink.  We will of course let you know as soon as the notice is lifted.

This is all welcome news, but we’re not out of the woods just yet.  We’re under another hard freeze warning for tonight, and though we’ll warm up a bit during the day tomorrow temperatures will be back below freezing again tomorrow night.  Please continue taking precautions for yourself, your family and your plumbing, and let’s all keep doing our part by conserving electricity as much as we can.

Also, we’ve got a massive number of homeowners throughout Bellaire with busted pipes, and many may not even know it.  Public Works is assessing the situation and assisting those who need help with shutting their water off.  Please check for leaks around your own house and your neighbors’ as well, and call Public Works at (713) 662-8170 or the EOC non-emergency line, (713) 668-0487, if you’re unable to stop the flow.

February 17, 2021

Water System Progress, CenterPoint Resumes Rolling Blackouts

Bellaire Public Works crews have made good progress today in bringing our water production facilities back online, and system pressures are steadily increasing.  We’re optimistic service will be back to normal by later in the day tomorrow, but different parts of the City may see improvement at different times.  For now, the boil water notice remains in effect.

All of our wells are at least partially operational again and currently have power.  We’re also starting to get some surface water from the City of Houston and hoping that will continue.  Crews are working to thaw out frozen chemical feed lines, and the boil water notice cannot be lifted until that’s done, the system is flushed, and the water is confirmed to be safe.

So overall the prognosis is pretty good, but if we should lose power again at these facilities all bets are off.  We have identified to CenterPoint these locations as critical, and thus far they’ve been able to prioritize them and have kept us up and running.  Public Works is closely monitoring every aspect of this situation.

There are no known problems with the sewer system.  Our wastewater treatment plant and all lift stations are operating normally.  Any residents experiencing blockages should contact Public Works at (713) 662-8170, or the EOC non-emergency line, (713) 668-0487.

Although there are still operational issues preventing power restoration for some customers in our area, as statewide electricity shortages continue CenterPoint has begun implementing rolling blackouts again.  Though it’s obviously hugely frustrating to get power back, only to lose it again, hopefully this means each outage will be of shorter duration than what we endured earlier in the week, and residents will have an opportunity to warm up a bit and charge their devices.  CenterPoint cautions, however, that outages could persist longer or even expand if ERCOT orders further load reductions, and customers should be prepared for that possibility.  Earlier today the City passed along this CenterPoint press release providing additional details.

Questions About the Water Supply

We’ve been getting lots of questions about the water supply.  Thank you, and please keep them coming—we’re doing the very best we can to disseminate timely and accurate information, and it’s helpful to hear from you what you’re experiencing at your location and what questions you have.  In this update I’ll attempt to answer some of them.

February 16, 2021

Boil Water Notice Issued as a Precaution

Things can change very quickly in the midst of a crisis.  After I posted what I thought would be my last update for the night, we’ve had a major new development.  Residents are being advised through our PrepareBellaire emergency alert system to boil water until further notice.  Please be assured no contaminants or unsafe conditions have actually been detected, but you are being asked to boil your water before use out of an abundance of caution.

Here’s what happened:  Early this evening one of our water wells went down due to the extremely cold temperatures we’re experiencing, and another is currently operating at a reduced capacity.  We rely on surface water from the City of Houston for half of our water supply, but at the moment we’re not receiving any, for the same reason.  The combined effect has been a sudden drop in system water pressures below recommended levels, and low enough to trigger a boil water notice.

Again, this being done as a precaution per TCEQ requirements, and we’ll let you know just as soon as the situation is resolved.  You should boil city water and then allow it to cool before using it, or use bottled water as an alternative.  Please help us spread the word to your friends and neighbors who may not be receiving our messages, and thank you for bearing with us through this incredibly challenging and frustrating extreme weather event.

Quick Update

Not a whole lot has changed since my last post early this morning, but here’s a quick update before we all settle in for another cold night.

Municipal Water Supply

Bellaire water is safe to drink, although you’re likely not getting much of it right now as residential connections remain mostly frozen.  (To be clear, as I’m hearing there may be some confusion about this, it’s the supply pipe running from the street to your house; the water mains are functioning properly with normal pressure.)  Public Works is monitoring the system and addressing any other issues as they arise.  What water you do use, please use sparingly.

Power Outages

CenterPoint advises that they have identified and are performing some equipment repairs that will allow them to begin restoring power to more customers.  However, they are also concerned about the next icy weather system coming in overnight and the possibility it could cause further outages.  Due to the ongoing statewide power generation shortfall, CenterPoint is required to follow ERCOT’s directive to reduce the load by continuing to implement controlled outages.

City Services Suspended

As you’ve probably guessed by now, city services will remain suspended tomorrow (Wednesday).  Please hold your trash and recyclables until your next regularly scheduled pickup day.  If the situation improves such that we can resume city services on Thursday, we will let you know as soon as possible.

First It Was Power, Now Water Too

Adding insult to injury, most of us are now without water, or have very low water pressure, on top of the prolonged power outages.  Once again this is a regional problem not limited to Bellaire, as the City of Houston and other area jurisdictions are reporting similar issues with their water systems.  Residents are asked to be patient and to conserve water as much as possible.  Bellaire’s municipal water supply remains safe to drink.

Bellaire water mains are functioning properly and water pressures within the mains are normal.  The reason homeowners are experiencing limited supply is that the smaller diameter pipes running from the mains to individual homes have frozen over.  Bellaire Public Works crews are working nonstop and doing all they can to ensure that the water will flow again once the residential connections have thawed.

As for power, we’ve maintained direct communications with CenterPoint but unfortunately don’t have much new information to share.  As of this morning, more than 4 million Texas households are without power, 1.3 million here in the Houston area.  CenterPoint’s online outage tracker, which crashed yesterday, appears to be working again but only tells us what we already know.  A few Bellaire residents have reported their power was restored last night, so that does give us some measure of hope.  We’ll of course keep you posted as new information becomes available.

Please continue to check in on your neighbors and stay safe.  We’re all in this together.

February 15, 2021

Residents Urged to Shelter in Place

As those without power are painfully aware (myself and my family included), the situation has only gotten worse today.  What we were originally told would be rolling blackouts lasting maybe 30 to 45 minutes, are now prolonged outages that could continue through the night.  CenterPoint had earlier expressed some optimism that many customers would see their power restored sometime today, but that’s now looking increasingly unlikely, especially as a further drop in temperatures will only drive electricity demand even higher.

We’re obviously not alone here in Bellaire; millions of homes across the Greater Houston area (and indeed across the state) are without power.  These extremely cold temperatures for our region have at once caused both record demand, and severely limited supply as generating units have shut down.  Some one-third of Texas’ electrical capacity has reportedly been knocked offline, whether from natural gas supply disruptions or frozen wind turbines.

As the situation has worsened, it seems CenterPoint has been forced to give up on its intended rolling blackouts, which is why so many of us have been without power all day and might not get it back tonight.  There just isn’t enough available capacity statewide.  It’s not that they’re not trying, but we shouldn’t get our hopes up.

That being the case, emergency management officials are recommending people shelter in place and conserve as much heat as possible.  You are at far greater risk attempting to travel elsewhere, especially as the snow and ice that melted somewhat in today’s sunshine is only going to refreeze as temperatures drop again.  Plus, anywhere you might try to go could also lose power as well.  Instead, you are strongly urged to stay home, and to help your neighbors if you can.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it looks like those of us without power are in for a rough night with no heat against the near-record cold.  Bundle up and do what you can to stay warm, and know you’re not alone.  Above all else be safe.  For non-emergency assistance contact the Bellaire EOC at (713) 668-0487, or for life-threatening emergencies call 911.

Stay Safe, Stay Warm and Stay Off the Roads

This severe winter weather system is living up to expectations.  The kids (and many adults) were delighted to wake up to a Bellaire blanketed in snow, but our winter wonderland has come with some real headaches, too.  So far, the primary impact has been widespread power outages in several areas throughout the City, as the constrained supply and delivery infrastructure struggles to keep up with tremendous demand.  Authorities have asked us all to do our part by conserving electricity as much as possible.

Some things to know, now and over the next few days:

February 3, 2021

The Importance of Community in Tough Times

In presenting my 2021 State of the City Address Monday night, it was my privilege to share with you some of the highlights of our activities and accomplishments in responding to the many challenges we’ve faced over the past year.  With all that’s going on across our nation, and the world, we’re reminded how fortunate we are to live in Bellaire.  Times are tough, but the City has been there for us every step of the way, doing what it takes to maintain the essential services on which we all rely and which have given us some measure of stability even as we’re surrounded by chaos.

Something I submit we can all take from the past year is a renewed appreciation and gratitude for our many blessings, and for each other, and a sharpened focus on what really matters.  Like maintaining our sense of community as #OneBellaire, especially when times are tough.  We have much to be thankful for, all things considered, and we’ll come through just fine.

I hope you’ll take a moment to catch up on the State of our City.  I invite you to view the playback at your convenience, and download the accompanying State of the City Report.

January 6, 2021

We Are #OneBellaire

Given the political climate across our country in recent years, it’s no surprise we too have become increasingly polarized here in Bellaire.  The sidewalks charter election in November, which was never really about sidewalks, only underscored the point.  Down-ballot of the presidential election, we achieved a nearly 84% turnout, with 2,000+ ballots more than were cast in our last three City Council elections—combined.  And our voters split pretty much right down the middle.

But even more than the incredibly close outcome, it was the conduct of the election that laid bare the depths of our division.  It got intensely personal, heated and sometimes downright nasty.  People said stuff online to and about their neighbors they’d (hopefully) never say to their faces.  And this has been going on for some time now.  Sadly, we’ve been allowing our political disagreements to tear at the fibers of our social fabric.

Our beloved hometown's turning against itself is for me a call to action.  We have so much to be proud of, and thankful for, and I know Bellaire can do better.  I ask you to join me, in resolving this New Year, to begin the process of healing our divided community.

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