Williamson County emergency response officials said the county is better prepared for any potential icy weather this year following Winter Storm Uri, which left millions across the state without power, water and heat.

During a Dec. 15 press conference, representatives from the county's road and bridge, emergency management and EMS departments discussed what they have done to improve their response to winter weather and asked residents to prepare their homes now while conditions are still good.

“The lessons learned—and we spent about six months going through an after-action review—from Winter Storm Uri, I absolutely feel better prepared," EMS operations division commander Ed Tydings said.

Emergency Management Director Michael Shoe said the county learned the importance of coordination and being more proactive in the wake of Uri. To this end, he said the county is already communicating with utility providers and identifying dialysis centers and fueling stations that will be open during bad weather.

Tydings said during Uri, the biggest challenge facing EMS was mobility, particularly in the hilly western portion of the county. EMS has invested in $100 tire socks for each of the county's 21 ambulances, Tydings said. Each vehicle is also equipped with sand for short-term traction.

“The geography of Williamson County, you have Hill Country on one side and rolling farmland on the other and the roads freeze differently on both sides," Tydings said. "On one side of the county, it's flat, so you can drive nice and easily. On the other side, there's hills that quite frankly, you can't get up and down when it freezes.”

Likewise, County Engineer Terron Evertson said they have doubled their supply of sand and deicing materials.

Just as the county has gotten ready for potential bad weather, Shoe stressed the importance of personal preparedness. All residents should have seven days' worth of essential supplies on hand, including flashlights and batteries, a gallon of bottled water per person per day, nonperishable food items and a can opener, medication and medical equipment, diapers and wipes, and pet food, Shoe said.

He said by having seven days' worth of supplies on hand, the county's emergency response team can focus on vulnerable populations and those who experience medical emergencies.

“If you can take care of yourself for seven days and we've done all these improvements, that allows us that flexibility and to be agile enough to go ahead and take care of those things pretty quickly,” Shoe said.

Additionally, Tydings asked people to stay off the roads and indoors during icy conditions to avoid traffic crashes or preventable injuries caused by slipping.

“This is not Western New York; we are not set up to clear snow like they are in the upper Midwest, so stay off the road,” Tydings said. "Even if you think you’re a good driver, you’re not. And, the other people on the road are also not.”

Williamson County provides more information on how residents can be ready here, and residents can sign up for local emergency alerts at www.warncentraltexas.org.