All five of the elevators serving floors two through 10 were out of commission at one point Tuesday morning. Security personnel say something happened when there was a fire alarm here around 7:30am, and it took hours to get things rectified.
The line of people stretched all the way around the building, even a block away.
On the coldest day in three years, hundreds of people were forced to wait to get into the Harris County Justice Center -- some say up to three hours.
"Waited in the cold. We could actually get pneumonia being out here, but the cops don't care," Fidel Tlamanal said.
Five of those elevators that serve the first 10 floors were all down at one point, creating confusion and a backlog of people clamoring to get upstairs for court.
"I been in line two hours," Donnell Poullard said.
We first saw Poullard shivering as he waited to get through security. The jacket he wore while outside he, ironically, had to give up to get inside and past guards.
"They need the line to move faster. There's kids out there. It's cold. People gonna get sick man," Poullard said.
Extra constables were brought in to keep the peace. Frustration festered.
"This right now is just a real inconvenience. People are in there mad, pushing. It's just really crazy inside," Robert Martin said.
It was close to lunch time before the elevators were all back in operation, too late for many to even make their court appearances. Some judges were offering leniency, not revoking bonds and simply resetting cases. Those who endured this chaotic and bone-chilling morning say outside the courthouse that's the least the county could do.
One theory on the elevators is that they were out of commission because of a breaker that tripped when the fire alarm went off. The Harris County Facilities and Property Management Offices failed to respond to our repeated calls for further detail.
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