Super Bowl XLV

My personal experience and comments about volunteering with the Arlington Office of Emergency Management during Super Bowl XLV Week and Super Bowl Sunday. It was fun, despite the weather.

• January 29 - Saturday - Assisted credentialing of CERT volunteers for access to the EOC during Super Bowl week. Lovely special ID cards which we got to keep when our week-long volunteer activities were completed.

• January 30 - Sunday – Start of Super Bowl week and first full day of EOC activation. First 4 hours: checked ID’s and issued EOC access credentials required for all staff and volunteers. Second 4 hours: answered phones and made myself generally useful while otherwise staying out of the way. I think this is the day that the teams arrived in town. Among the repeated glaring and extremely aggravating comments about the Super Bowl is the fact that no one outside this area seemed to care where it was actually held. In general it’s been the DALLAS Super Bowl. Hey, Dallas didn’t want Cowboy Stadium. The City of Arlington, itself approaching 400,000 in population – a megalopolis if located in certain other parts of the country – decided it should be built here and went about accomplishing that – with it firmly in mind new big stadium would attract future Super Bowls. Then due to the implementation of an extra sales tax, we Arlington citizens proceeded to pay a good portion of that cost. Therefore, Cowboy Stadium is OUR ARLINGTON stadium. Despite that fact I voted against both it and the sales tax increase, *I* helped pay for the thing. Give the City of ARLINGTON and us citizens due credit and recognition for goodness sakes! Reporters consistently misidentified the location as Dallas when commenting, that happened even when interviewing ARLINGTON Mayor Cluck as well. How he managed to remain civil in face of yet another slight, blood boiling I suspect – I don’t know. As could be expected, Green Bay and Lions players touted they were going to Dallas for the Super Bowl. Okay, generic north Texas is deemed by those unfamiliar with and/or without concern for socio-political geography (or plain simple facts), to be Dallas - no matter the actual name of the location, but still … One of the stupidest remarks I heard (in addition to the reporter standing in front of Cowboy Stadium with our Mayor stating it was in Dallas) was the Detroit player who pumped his fist declaring the Lions were glad to be in Dallas – while standing center lobby in his Fort Worth hotel. Civic leaders in Fort Worth weren’t happy either. At least ESPN usually got both cities right.

• January 31 - Monday - EOC - 7pm to midnight - One of the organizations with onsite personnel was the Fort Worth National Weather Service: Bill Bunting, Mark Fox and/or Jennifer Dunne, doing what they normally do (I perceived) from laptop computers. A wicked winter storm was headed in, timing was the only issue. At midnight, when the EOC shut down for the night, we were told it should start raining about 3am, change to sleet by daybreak then snow a bit later. I made a special trip to the store for deicer and scraper. On the short drive home it started sprinkling. Even before we left, the fed govt guys from more northern climes just laughed at us and proceeded out and about all week as if nothing was amiss.

• February 1 - Tuesday - ** RAIN *** SLEET ***** SNOW ******* ICE - everywhere. By dawn there was such a level that I knew I probably wasn't going anywhere, even if I could have gotten out of my drive-way. But I did try. Even with the deicer my car doors were frozen shut. Volunteers were instructed to make their individual decisions as to whether to venture out on to surfaces we rarely encounter. I tried more deicer and hot water later and did finally manage to get the back door open, but the curved and inclined street in front of my drive was a sheet of solid ice (which remained icy through Super Bowl Sunday and did not completely melt for another 8 days). Buildup of same on roof of Cowboy Stadium would quickly become a real hazard to those on the ground as the roof warmed from inside out and large chunks started falling off (who designed the thing anyway?) Very hazardous driving conditions - keep in mind we rarely get this type of weather so though we have some but in times like this, insufficient public and individual means to cope with it.

• February 2 - Wednesday - ditto; Teams and guests from the north were already getting really frustrated with most businesses and almost all of the pre-game Super Bowl fun venues being closed, extremely poor driving conditions, and DFW just in general about conditions over which none of us had any control. We were all truly sorry. We employed measures we do not normally take (like bringing in a convoy of snow plows to clear the highways and iced over bridges) doing our best under extremely difficult circumstances! It was many times more likely that fans would have experienced temps in the 60's and 70's along perfectly clear blue skies, instead of our worst winter weather in 25 years! Of all the worst case scenarios, I don't know that frigid snowy, icy weather and normal traffic at a stand-still was one of them. Adding to the discomfort and major problems, temps dipped to the low teens and stayed below freezing for days. Power consumption was at record highs. Because so many electricity plants were shut down by the ice and cold weather (who designed those things???), that the Texas Power Grid went to rolling black-outs throughout the State - with NO ADVANCE WARNING WHATSOEVER, including to local governmental entities. I happened to be watching the early a.m. news when an entire section of Dallas went black in front of a helicopter new report on air – live. It was the media who called the Commission find out What the HE___?” And THAT’S that's how local officials learned what was going on – not just locally but state wide. Legislative investigations are ongoing. The black-outs were only supposed to last 2 to 3 hours. Many lost power for 8 or 10. Apparently I am on some grid deemed critical and I never lost power, perhaps because an Oncor fleet parking and dispatch center is only 1.5 miles from here. The OEM wasn’t affected – so I assume no City Offices in that area were. Nor was Cowboy Stadium – that itself a ripe source of consternation and considerable criticism. Explanation was that to shut power to the Stadium meant it would only take that much more to restart equipment and reheat once it began cooling and would seriously affect ongoing efforts to get ready for SBLV Sunday. Still ....

• February 3 -Thursday - Volunteers volunteer at their own risk and cost. The City does not insure nor compensate for injuries received during the course of one's volunteerism. I slowly risked the 2.5 miles to the EOC. My driveway and neighborhood street were still solid ice but the major neighborhood street at the end of mine was mostly clear. Great! I thought, but quickly discovered that the major road I decided would be the safest route was instead still twin ruts between 4" ridges of ice and frozen road melt. The parking lot in front of the OEM was a combination of sheet ice and chopped up ice from caused by those with chains – thus inexcusably hazardous. There are no local laws in place that require individuals, merchants, nor governmental entities to clear ice and snow from side walks much less a parking lot right in front of it. Some sort of something was distributed on the sidewalk right in front of the building, but getting there was decidedly dangerous. Another winter storm was already moving in to the area and it being just above freezing a couple of layers up in the atmosphere, it was raining VERY cold rain. The EOC shut down an hour early. Steve, sans umbrella, waited a long time at the light then ran across the 8-lane-wide intersection then another block to his car then came back to pick up us 2 ladies and drove us back to our cars parked next to where his car had been. Truly a very generous and kindly and gentlemanly thing to do – especially in REALLY REALLY COLD RAIN! THANK YOU, STEVE!! Rain had turned to sleet and snow before I got ½ way home. We had another 3" of snow overnight.

• February 4 - Friday - Not scheduled for a shift or 2 at the EOC today. Good thing. By afternoon I was running a temp over 102. I called Gerry ,who had taken on the gargantuan task of organizing, assigning and tracking volunteers, to let him know I would not make it Saturday and doubted I would be in Sunday either. After having already had 2 days of many missed shifts by numerous volunteers, I felt really bad about putting even more pressure on him to find another replacement.

• February 5 - Saturday - Gerry was able to locate a last minute replacement. Fever was dropping. By late evening it was back to normal. I still have no idea what it was.

• February 6 - Super Bowl Sunday – As much as I would like to share the experience, I am prohibited from relating who was at or what specifically went on behind the scenes (none of which I know about anyway) or between security personnel in general at the EOC, other than what I personally did. I’ll just say that the years-long preparations and extra security precautions taken are routine for large public events - which I find that a very very sad and very scary statement to have to make. My 1st of three 4-hour shifts was scheduled for 8am. After making sure no more fever and I felt generally okay and was not contagious, I arrived at 11. Various local restaurants had provided an evening meal during the week. Sunday an Italian restaurant had donated a huge quantity of lasagna for lunch and more lasagna and pasta something for dinner (far more than could be eaten), In addition, Lake Arlington Baptist Church arrived before lunch with 200 or 300 pounds of wonderful things like boxes of yummy croissant sandwiches, fresh fruit, bags of chips and snack items like trail mix, boxes of cookies, etc. There was so much food on site that everyone in the entire building in which the OEM is located had their pick and more than could be eaten, including the cleaning staff. The leftovers were stored as could be in the fridges in the EOC and lunch room for weekly employees to finish off. This was even after the Italian restaurant returned to retrieve its hot box and ½ of what they’d delivered uneaten. It was an interesting day in the fact that it was Super Bowl Sunday and so many different agencies were represented, and I could observe what was going on – even though I knew little or nothing about what WAS going on. The traffic and outside stadium cameras were on screen as they are on for every sports or major event. (For those not familiar with the area, the Ballpark, where the Texas Rangers play, and Cowboy Stadium are only 4 blocks apart and share some of the same parking lots.) Displays of the inside stadium cameras were not on in the main part of the EOC where I was. Just before the game started a small part of the room-wide digital multi-segmented screen was devoted to the game, volume kept low. I don’t know how many filters the signal had to go through, but the quality of the picture was not that good. One of the fed govt guys suggested that they should have scrolled the words to the Star Bangled Banner across Jerry's overhead big screens. That got a hearty laugh. I'm quite sure had that been me standing there my mind would have gone blank after “Oh …. “ Most having no emotional stake in either team, the sentiment in the room seemed to be for the underdogs – whoever that was. No one seemed to do more than glance at the screen from time to time. I'd call the atmosphere definitely profession, busy but subdued. Something seemed to be going on behind closed doors, but I had no idea what that might be. It obviously wasn't something of an full emergency nature. The game ended. The SBLV trophy was handed out. Champagne was sprayed and dumped. At the EOC various local, state, and federal personnel packed up and left shortly thereafter. The last of that day’s CERT volunteers busied ourselves putting as much food as they could fit into fridges, dumping what little was left of the dozens of pots of coffee consumed during the week, washing serving utensils, gathering up and emptying the trash into bigger plastic bags to be taken to the dumpster next morning, wiping off counters, tables, phones, OEM laptops and other permanent EOC equipment with sanitizing wipes, straightening the chairs back into position under the tables. We were some of the last to leave at about 8:15. The EOC itself remained activated far later into the night.

• February 6 - Sunday evening - here I want to break and describe this. As we volunteers were walking down the hall toward the elevator, Fire Chief Don Crowson came up the stairs. We said hello as he passed, he then turned around and with much sincerity thanked us as volunteers for taking time out of our lives to be there and so ably assist them throughout the week making their jobs easier. We had already been thanked by Irish Hancock, head of the OEM, but WOW! I got a catch in my throat. I started to make some inane comment, then stopped and we all said a heartfelt "thank you, glad for the opportunity.”” Or to that effect. We were still talking about that when we reached our cars. It wasn't until after I got home and learned the upsetting news about the seating problems at Cowboy Stadium. I already knew he was a class guy, but learning that it was Chief Crowson who had had to make the decision to close the unfinished/unsafe section and had taken much undeserved personal flack and been under attacks all day about it.. WOW! I felt extremely humbled he had taken that moment out of what must have been a horrendous day to stop to thank us. That sincere gesture on his part brought a real lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. Chief Crowson has since been impliedly exonerated for having had no choice but to do his job. At least comments about and news stories featuring him quickly faded from the brunt of criticism and the spotlight. Lawsuits immediately filed by angry, disappointed fans. Still pending.

• February 7 - Monday - All had gone so well that my volunteer shift at 8am was cancelled. Whew – WHAT A WEEK!!


Abbreviation Key

AARC - Arlington Amateur Radio Club
- Amateur Radio Emergency Service
- Community Emergency Response Team
EMST - Emergency Management Support Team
- Emergency Operations Center - part of the OEM
FEMA - Federal Emergency Management Agency
- National Weather Service
NWS FWD - National Weather Service - Fort Worth/Dallas
OEM - Office of Emergency Management
- Public Service Event - ARES Net
RACES - Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services
- TExas Severe Storm Associaton