Good deeds amid storm
Neighbor helps neighbor as Ellis County digs out from historic Arctic outbreak
Temperatures rebounded quickly into the 60s this week as last week’s historic Arctic outbreak vanished. But the busted pipes, fears of sky-high electric bills and insurance claims were all too real for a North Texas community already reeling from a pandemic and economic downturn.
Ellis County is one of 77 counties in Texas under a major disaster declaration from President Joe Biden. The declaration makes county residents who sustained losses in the storm eligible for individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Applications for assistance can be made at disasterassistance.gov.
Another round of wintry precipitation passed over North Texas late last Tuesday and into Wednesday, adding another 1 to 2 inches of snow and ice to the 4 to 6 inches that were already on the ground.
But amid the chaos, several examples of selfless service emerged as Ellis Countians reached out a gloved helping hand to assist others in need. It’s what Texans do.
Numerous line crews from Texas and from out of state came to the county to fix damage to power lines caused by ice. A crew of about 60 came to repair lines in Midlothian, and there to help repay the favor were local residents who volunteered their time and money to bring them home-cooked meals.
“The linemen are working from dawn to dusk and don’t have time to get food,” said Sammy Davidson, a Midlothian resident. “They get eight hours to go home or sleep in their trucks.”
Helping feed the linemen was Shannan’s Kitchen, a Midlothian business that prepares healthy take-home meals. Davidson said he contacted a number of residents in town who contributed to fund the meals, and D. Bassett Roofing & Renovation, an Arlington business that does lots of work in Midlothian, pitched in to help as well.
“People who didn’t even have electricity were pitching in for these guys,” Davidson said. “It was an awesome sight to behold.”
More good deeds were found throughout Ellis County as residents dealt with the historic cold snap.
After midnight Tuesday morning, one of Waxahachie’s nursing homes had to be completely evacuated due to loss of power and no backup generator. The city of Waxahachie requested handicap-accessible school buses from Waxahachie Independent School District to help move patients from Focused Care of Waxahachie.
WISD director of public relations Jenny Bridges said district transportation director Philip Gurke and another very experienced bus driver immediately went to the bus barn to warm up two buses, and moved all residents safely to a warm location at Baylor Scott & White-Waxahachie.
“This situation is a great example of how blessed we are to have such a great relationship with the city,” Bridges said. “WISD and the city work together regularly to do anything we can to make Waxahachie a great place to live and learn.”
Liquefied propane gas availability was tight, but Pearman Oil & LP Gas Inc. at 101 South Highway 77 in Waxahachie stayed open well past its normal 5:30 p.m. closing time to assist customers in filling propane cylinders.
Power was out, but the owners of the business obtained a generator to power the pump and passed out snacks to dozens of customers waiting in the cold.
“Pearman sincerely wanted to ensure no one went without heat. But here's the best thing ... it was after 7:30 p.m. when my husband got served and he stated the line was not getting any shorter,” local resident Trudy Cooke said. “They could easily have closed shop then and went home. Their choice to get a generator, stay open way past regular hours, pass out snacks, find a way to supply warmth to this community … while giving a caring smile places them as an asset to our community in my eyes.”
Pearman finally reported on Facebook that it had run out of propane last Wednesday afternoon, but not after serving numerous citizens in dire need.
“We thank all of our customers for their patience and attitude toward this cold weather situation that we are going through, especially over the past two days,” the company posted on Facebook.
The temperature last Tuesday morning at DFW Airport reached minus-2 degrees Fahrenheit, tying for the second-coldest low ever recorded at the National Weather Service’s official reporting station.
Adding to residents’ misery were the continuing electricity blackouts, which by midweek could no longer be characterized as “rolling.” As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, almost 3.5 million Texans were without power as the outages expanded because of high demand and low generation capacity. But by the weekend, all but a few thousand of those customers had been brought back online.
As more and more homes fell dark, the Ellis County Office of Emergency Management swung into action, setting up several warming centers throughout the county.
The Midlothian Conference Center at 1 Community Circle was opened for residents. Warming centers also opened in Waxahachie, Ennis, Ferris, Ovilla/Red Oak and Italy; and several churches in the county opened doors on their own to help residents escape the chill.
Even worse than the blackouts were problems with water supply, with as many as 13 million state residents under boil notices on Friday, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said. Major North Texas cities affected included Fort Worth, Arlington and Denton.
Ellis County did not escape the water woes completely. The South Ellis County Water Supply Corporation announced a boil notice on Thursday due to pressure issues caused by the blackouts. Customers west of Interstate 35E served by the FM 308 well were affected.
SECW officials said customers would be notified when the boil notice is lifted.
Black ice on roadways made travel potentially even more dangerous over this past weekend as the sun warmed roadways and then left them to refreeze at night.
But by Sunday night, the ground temperature had risen above freezing, helping travel return to normal and starting the annual watch for when the pear trees would bloom.