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Colston retires as emergency management director

ALTUS  After more than 10 years of leading the City of Altus through emergencies such as a major ice storm and a prolonged drought, Lloyd Colston is retiring as the city's emergency management director.

Colston, who has served in that position since July 30, 2007, led the city through a massive ice storm in January 2010 that damaged trees and power lines and caused widespread electrical outages for several days.

A little over a year after that ice storm, Altus and surrounding areas of Southwest Oklahoma and Northwest Texas entered a prolonged drought that started in 2011 and lasted until April of 2015. During that time, the city instituted severe water use restrictions due to low water levels at Tom Steed Reservoir. In response to the lake running dangerously dry, the City of Altus enacted projects to improve its water infrastructure and reactivated its former primary water source  the Round Timber Well Field just south of the Red River in Wilbarger County, Texas, between Altus and Vernon, which went online in early 2016. 

The drought ended with torrential rainfall during April and May of 2015 that refilled Tom Steed Reservoir and Lake Altus-Lugert back to "100 percent and over" capacity after water levels dropped to dangerously low levels in the "9-20 percent" range.

"Altus has come a long way since the drought and learned a lot from it," he said. "We're returning to drought conditions, but the lakes are still full and Altus has more water sources."

During the height of the drought and enforcement of stringent water-use restrictions, Colston coined a phrase to encourage water conservation in Altus  "use the water you need and need the water you use." He continues to encourage residents to conserve use of water when possible.

In addition to the ice storm and drought, Colston also led Altus through emergency management efforts in response to a downburst that resulted in widespread storm damage and several large wildfires during the drought.

"I wanted to impress on citizens of Altus the need to be resilient and 'take ownership' of the first 72 hours of a disaster and of that timeframe until help arrives," he said.

Colston said being prepared for a disaster is necessary due to length of average response times.

"The Altus Police Department has an average response time of seven minutes for each call, but a victim can die in just three minutes," he said. "You need to be able to take care of yourself and your neighbor. Always be prepared."

The Lawton Constitution

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