By Wyatt Goolsby
MIDLAND - What happened? Why did it happen? How can it be done better? Those are the questions Tall City firefighters and emergency crews are asking after last weeks severe storms rocked the Permian Basin. On Friday, everyone meet for a debriefing in Midland to sort through the good and the bad.
"We were just overwhelmed with the number of calls that were made, and our available resources," Battalion Chief Vince Hancock, with the Midland Fire Department, recalled thinking about the severe storms one week ago. "That's when the city comes in with transportation, traffic, and utilities, and the P.D. and we just kind of work together as one and it really, really showed."
When the storms hit Midland and Odessa, it left drivers and homeowners with extensive flood damage. The flash flooding also resulted in the drowning of Teresa Townsend. As horrific as last Friday was for some, it also meant emergency, rescue, and fire crews were stretched thin.
"We're just wanted to improve," Hancock said. "If you don't learn from those mistakes, you're destined to repeat them."
Hancock said the Friday fire, city, and other crews all met to talk about last week, taking in the good and the bad. Hancock said the good news is that in the middle of all the trouble, everyone was able to work together.
"There was a time we lost radio communication," Hancock explained. "I guess one of the downtown towers was hit, and took out our communication, and so the guys functioned independently, and the guys fell back on their training, and everybody did a great job."
But Hancock said their are also room for improvement. He said all of the fire departments resources were tapped out, with two ambulances and one rescue fire truck damaged. Most of the vehicles have been fixed, but he said some of the firefighters just aren't use to so many high water rescues.
"There's guys that need more swift water training," Hancock said. "We've had guys retire. We replace the guys when they retire, but we got a lot of new guys on the fire department now, and we just got to get them through the swift water training."
The fire department and city officials will take the information from Friday's meetings and see how they can get better in these situations. They are also warning West Texans who knew about the severe flooding and drove out in high waters anyway. The Battalion Chief told NewsWest 9, they reported numerous drivers going around barricades thinking they could get through flood waters, then got stuck and had to be rescued. He said when they put a barricade up, it's there for a reason.