Texas-Sized Hearts Come Through During A Texas-Sized Storm

Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the past 10 days, you probably heard about the recent winter storm that covered all 254 Texas counties. From what I’ve read, it’s a first for ALL of our state to be under a weather event at the same time. For those of you from Texas who follow my blog, you experienced this phenomenon yourself so I’m preaching to the choir.

Texans were living in a winter wonderland.

For the first few days, we watched as ice and sleet arrived. Then it started snowing…and snowing…and snowing. While those of you from the north may have looked at the news and thought, “Big Deal. What’s a half a foot of snow? Wimps!” What you may not know about our state is a vast portion of the 254 counties either NEVER see snow or might average an inch a year. Most of these communities don’t have snowplows. Some communities in the valley of Texas and along the Gulf coast are lucky if they have equipment to shovel a side walk much less clear a road. They seldom, if ever, get snow and ice.

Like many of our family and friends around the state, we experienced no electricity, rolling blackouts, and limited water and, sometimes, none. When we finally had the power return on a regular basis, I read about celebrities, late night talk show hosts, news media, and politicians bashing our state and our leadership for a variety of reasons. Some may have been warranted, some maybe not. Quite frankly, I didn’t care and still don’t. My concern, while these non-Texans were talking about us as if we weren’t in the room, was for my fellow Texans and whether they had shelter, heat, running water, electricity, and food to eat. I’ll save the blame game for another time, but that’s just me.

I’m happy to say there is no shortage of positive stories from Texans helping their neighbors weather the storm. I decided my blog would be a great place to share these stories, starting with people in my community of San Angelo.

Let’s start in my neighborhood, which is 15 miles outside of the San Angelo city center. We had neighbors offering free fresh eggs from chickens tucked away from the cold. Some neighbors brought water in tanks and shared it in a centralized location so everyone could have a little for their homes. Another neighbor chopped firewood and gave it away to those without heat but with a fireplace. One neighbor even hooked up kayaks to his truck so kids could go ‘sledding’ to provide them some time outside after being closed in during the extreme cold. We knew before we ventured out, which stores had groceries and which did not, thanks to caring neighbors.

In town, several restaurants helped out even after having such a challenging year of being shuttered during Covid. Old Central Firehouse Pizzeria and Taproom gave away pizzas and Reyna’s Tacos made and delivered tacos to those in need. The Association of Mexican-American Students at Angelo State University helped set up cots at Fort Concho so that people could go there to warm up or have a place to rest comfortably.

What about when the power went out at an H-E-B in Leander while people were shopping? They were allowed to take home their groceries without paying.

A friend of mine in Austin said the H-E-B she shops at had very limited items for purchase and gave out free fresh flowers to try and brighten people’s day. I have always loved H-E-B but this makes me love them even more.

One of my favorite stories came from South Padre Island where nearly 5,000 sea turtles were rescued from the frigid waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The turtles were housed at Sea Turtle, Inc. and the South Padre Island Convention Centre.

An Austin couple took in a young woman from Houston who was a weekend delivery driver in the Texas capital city. She was bringing them their groceries when her car got stuck in the storm on Valentine’s Day. She ended up staying five days with the couple before she could get her car out.

Also in Austin, Texas Longhorn head coach, Steve Sarkisian, donated meals to the Austin/Travis County Emergency Ops team and to employees at St. David’s Health Care.

And, of course, there’s the story of the gentleman who rescued well over 100 stranded drivers in the Live Music Capital of the World.

In Texas largest city, Houston, deputies from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office covered the cost of a hotel room out of their own pockets, when a stranded family didn’t have the money to pay.

And our favorite furniture guy, Mattress Mack, was at it again, opening his store as a shelter to those who had no electricity or place to go. Known for his generosity, Mattress Mack did a similar thing back in 2005 and 2017 during hurricanes Katrina and Harvey. What a guy!

Jeep clubs from San Angelo, Longview/Kilgore, and North Texas, assisted in transporting staff to hospitals, residents to warming centers, and getting the elderly to shelter.

In the Rose Capital of America, Tyler, the Tyler Street Team bought out hotels for locals to use for heat and water.

Texas State Troopers worked to help a woman from Abilene after her daughter in Frisco was concerned about her mom’s power being out for 24 hours. DFW Trooper Peters reached out to Abilene Trooper Salas. Salas got the woman’s mother hot food, water, and hand warmers.

Zoo animals are not used to the frigid cold so zoo keepers across the state from San Antonio to http://wacoheartoftexas.comco had to find safe places to keep their animals to protect them from the frigid temperatures. The San Antonio Zoo dealt with alligators and flamingoes, while Cameron Park Zoo in Waco needed to keep their snakes, fish, and more safe.

A local businessman in Brownwood, Kris Sparks, and his wife, Nicole, donated firewood to their citizens by placing it outside his business. It went immediately so they reached out to the man they purchased their wood from and he donated more so the community could keep warm. Also in Brownwood, OrderToGoDelivery waived all delivery fees to power outage customers needing food or essentials.

Here’s one more Austin story I think we’ll put a smile on your face. Republicans and Democrats came together, yes, you read that correctly. The Texas House Republican Caucus and the Texas House Democratic Caucus collected water to distribute to a women’s shelter, low-income apartments, and others in need. That’s what I call progress.

I know I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on the kindness of strangers and the big hearts of Texans during this unprecedented weather in our state. I’m very grateful to the first responders, the workers who had to be out in these horrific conditions to take care of us, the public information officers who were always giving us updates on the progress in our towns and cities, and the leadership in the communities who worked tirelessly to help our citizens.

A special shout out to my friends at the TxDOT Travel Information Centers across the state, who fielded calls of those on the roads needing to know about the conditions as they traveled.

The snow has melted but I’ll never forget the storm that hit our state and allowed us to show just how big the hearts of Texans can be. I am blessed to call Texas home and I’m so proud to share these BIG Texas stories with you.

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