On the coldest day of winter so far, dozens of people were left out in the cold for hours at the Harris County courthouse. A glitch with one of the building's elevators caused lines outside.
On most mornings, getting into the Harris County Criminal Justice Center building requires patience. But Tuesday morning, the coldest so far this season, it was a real endurance contest as hundreds of people waited for hours in the cold.
Blame it on the elevators. There have been complaints about the inefficiency of the elevators ever since the Criminal Justice Center opened a dozen years ago. But Tuesday morning was the worst ever. All but one of six elevators servicing the misdemeanor courts stopped running, leaving hundreds of people out in the cold.
"Been out here two hours waiting to get into court. And I got upstairs and they made a reset. They only got one elevator working in there. It's just ridiculous, all these taxpayers' money," said Robert Martin.
At 8 a.m., the temperature was about 28 degrees.
"I've got on this big, old Texans jacket and it's still cold. It's cold, believe me. A lot of these people are cold," Fidel Tlamanal said.
Despite the cold, plenty of people in line were hot.
"I guess they don't care if we freeze out here. It's taking too long," said another witness.
Apparently the elevators shut down at around 7 a.m. when a fire alarm sounded. A false alarm as it turned out, but it took hours for county workers to get the elevators back on line. Extra county deputies were sent in to help keep order.
By 11 a.m. the elevators were operating again, and the crowds were gone.