Last week Texas, like many other places across the United States, was hit with a massive snowstorm. The difference between Texas and the Midwest in this case is that the Midwest is used to these storms, is prepared with equipment for clearing streets, etc., and … the Midwest relies on a large power grid that covers half the nation. Texas, however, has its own power grid, and isn’t prepared for such a severe snowstorm, so at one point, tens of millions of people were without power in the freezing cold. Add to that frozen water pipes, so millions were without water, and food shortages, and icy roads that most Texans have never had to contend with, and it was a recipe for disaster. But there is one thing you can count on in a disaster … there will be those who go out of their way to be the ‘better angels’ that are needed. Today, I have a few such stories and I think you’ll find there are some really good people down there in the Lone Star State.
They opened their home to a stranger
Chelsea Timmons delivers groceries on weekends to make extra money, and she was making her last delivery of the weekend the Sunday the storm hit, February 14th. As she slowly made her way up to a client’s long, sloped driveway in Austin, things suddenly took a bad turn: Her car began to slide uncontrollably toward the client’s house. Luckily, she did not hit the house, but instead she crashed into the homeowners’ flower beds, then took out a small tree before her Toyota RAV4 came to a rest.
The homeowner, Doug Condon, came out and tried to help Timmons, sprinkling birdseed around her tires for traction, but to no avail. Condon and his wife, Nina Richardson, told Timmons to come inside and get warm while she called AAA and several towing companies. After making calls for several hours, Timmons said she finally realized that help wasn’t coming. Nobody could come out because the roads were terrible and accidents were piling up all over, and her home was three hours away, in Houston.
At this point, Condon, 58, and Richardson, 62, realized they could send her back out into the storm, or they could invite her to stay. They invited her to stay. Long story short, Chelsea stayed with Condon and his wife for five days before she was finally able to get her vehicle out of the ice & snow! For five days, snowed in, they got to know each other and became almost as family. After goodbye hugs all around, the three vowed to stay in touch …
“We’re definitely going to stay in touch. How could we not? I know their address.”
Speaking of better angels …
Ryan Sivley deserves a hero’s medal, for he is absolutely a hero to some 500 Texans. When the storm hit on Sunday, Sivley headed to the corner store to stock up on supplies. On his way, he saw several cars stuck in snowbanks and ditches on the side of the road. Well, Ryan just happens to drive a 2010 4-wheel drive Chevrolet Silverado, equipped with equipment such as chains, hooks, and recovery tow straps. Now, Ryan doesn’t work for a towing company, but he does like to go off-roading with his buddies on weekends, hence the equipment.
Ryan’s adventure began that Sunday when he stopped to help ‘a few people’ …
“I had all my gear, so I thought, ‘let me just help.’ As fast as I was clearing cars out, people were pulling in and getting stuck. I went from helping one person, to three people, to five people. At 434 cars, I stopped counting. So many people are still stranded.”
Sivley secured each vehicle to his truck, then pulled it past dangerous terrain, until the driver could safely take the wheel. In some cases, such as a young woman stranded 3 miles from her parents’ house, Sivley even towed the person all the way to their destination!
Sivley’s rescue efforts extended beyond towing cars. When he saw how treacherous the roads were, he began driving health-care workers to and from work and single-handedly relocating people who didn’t have electricity or running water. He hasn’t charged a dime for any of what he’s done, though in one day he went through three tanks of diesel fuel for his truck. He estimates that for 5-6 days that week, he was out from 4:00 a.m. until midnight rescuing people. Damn, but I do so want to shake this man’s hand … if there is such a thing as a hero, Ryan Sivley is one!
C’mon in out of the cold
Jim McIngvale is known for his showmanship. Jim owns a chain of furniture stores in Texas known as Gallery Furniture, and he’s been known for some showy television ads, such as one where he is actually wearing a mattress! But when the power grid failed in Texas, leaving millions freezing in their homes, some with medical conditions that required equipment that depends on electricity, Jim became a hero.
He opened the doors of his furniture stores to anyone in need of warmth and shelter. Anyone is welcome to use the beds and sofas in his showrooms, take in a movie or basketball game on his big screen televisions and sit down to a hot meal, said McIngvale, 70.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of angst among the community coming in here. They’re shellshocked. They’ve been home for days in the cold with no electricity, no heat, no water, no plumbing.”
While the store has power supplied by a generator filled with 15,000 gallons of diesel fuel, only one faucet is working because of frozen pipes, said McIngvale. He brought in portable toilets and rigged a special flush system in the restrooms with extra water.
McIngvale has also paid food vendors to bring in tacos, enchiladas, hamburgers, hot dogs and breakfast burritos.
“To whom much has been given, much is expected. We’ve benefited from public support over the years, so it’s our obligation to open our doors and let people come in to get a respite from the storm. It’s the right thing to do.”
This isn’t the first time McIngvale has done this. He opened his Gallery Furniture stores to people who fled Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Tropical Storm Imelda in 2019. Jim McIngvale is another whose hand I would like to shake … he is a good people for sure!
These are just a few of the good people who have opened doors and hearts to the people of Texas – I had bookmarked at least 5 other stories of people being the ‘better angels’ in this time of crisis. As of five days ago, at least 58 people had died as a result of the storm and related power outages, icy highways, lack of water, etc., and it is said that the full death toll may take months to determine. I suspect that the three people highlighted here saved a lot of lives last week. Thumbs up to them, as well as others who were too busy helping people to escape to Cancún (sorry, I couldn’t resist).