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The deadly winter storm, which swept across 22 states — from Texas to Maine — the week of February 14, 2021, delivered large amounts of snow and ice, and established numerous low-temperature records. While over 140 million Americans were impacted, Texas was particularly hard hit. The Arctic chill caused about 60 percent of the state's energy sources to go offline and water pipes to freeze and burst, leaving millions without electricity and water.
While the brutal weather tested Texans' mettle, it also brought out the best in humanity. Here are a few of the many heartwarming acts of kindness reported throughout the week.
Homeowners shelter stranded delivery driver
When Chelsea Timmons left home on February 14, 2021, she had her day perfectly planned. The Houston-based math teacher, who augmented her income by making home grocery deliveries on weekends, intended to complete all her runs in the morning and spend the afternoon relaxing with some chocolates and a glass of wine. However, the weather turned for the worse just as she reached her last delivery at 11:00 am, and her car stalled, making it impossible to complete the three-hour drive home. Upon hearing her dilemma, the homeowners, Nina Richardson and Doug Condon, immediately invited Timmons inside, initially to wait for the AAA tow truck, and then, as the weather worsened, to stay the night.
Timmons suggested moving into a hotel as the storm lingered on, but Richardson and Condon refused to consider the idea. “Every morning, when I suggested leaving to a hotel, [they say], ‘Could you make it there safely? What would you eat? What if they lose power? Isn’t the guest room better than the Hampton Inn?'” she wrote in her Facebook post. “They basically have refused to let me leave. Every morning after they say, ‘No worries, stay a bit longer,’ I go to ‘my’ room and shed tears of joy.”
The educator was finally able to return home five days later on Friday, February 19, 2021. Timmons says she will forever be grateful to Richardson and Condon for opening their doors to a complete stranger during a pandemic and sharing their meals when food was in short supply.
Truck owner rescues over 500 strangers from icy roads
On February 14, 2021, Austin resident Ryan Sivley was on his way to the neighborhood store to stock up on some storm essentials when he noticed many vehicles stranded on the roadside. “It was like a sea of cars,” he told the Washington Post. “Some people were stuck in snowbanks and ditches.”
Fortunately, Sivley, who owns a four-wheel drive 2010 Chevrolet Silverado nicknamed, "The Beast," was fully-equipped with hooks, chains, and recovery tow straps, capable of pulling over 40,000 pounds. "I had all my gear, so I thought, ‘let me just help," he said. In most cases, Sivley secured the vehicle to his truck and towed it to an area where the owner could safely drive away. However, in some instances, the 40-year-old pulled the cars all the way to the final destination. By the end of the day, the endeavor to help a few stuck vehicles had turned into a full-on rescue mission involving hundreds of cars. “I went from helping one person to three people, to five people,” Sivley said. “At 434 cars, I stopped counting. So many people are still stranded.”
While that would have been enough for most people, Sively was just getting started. Over the week, he transported hundreds of healthcare workers to and from work and helped relocate residents who did not have electricity and running water. As news of his generosity spread, other truck owners reached out, and Sivley was soon managing a network of rescuers. The best part? While some people helped pay for the gas, Sivley never asked to be compensated for all the hard work he did!
Volunteers rescue thousands of sea turtles
The freezing weather particularly impacted the five endangered sea turtle species found in the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas shore. Unable to regulate their own body temperatures, the cold-blooded creatures remain awake but lose their ability to move when water temperatures fall below 50° Fahrenheit (10° Celsius). The condition, called "cold stun," often causes the turtles to die due to injury, stranding, or drowning. To prevent that from happening, hundreds of volunteers braved the freezing weather and rescued more than 4,500 turtles throughout the week.
The animals, sheltered in a combination of tarps, kiddie pools, and boxes at Sea Turtle Inc., a nonprofit education, rehabilitation, and conservation organization in South Padre Island, are now gradually being released back into the ocean. "After an exhaustive 24-hour effort that went through the night and has just ended this morning, Sea Turtle Inc. was successfully able to release more than 2,200 previously cold-stunned turtles into the open ocean of the Gulf of Mexico," the nonprofit said in a February 21, 2021, Facebook post.
While this week's balmy 70° Fahrenheit (21° Celsius) temperatures have melted the snow and ice, recovery from the vicious winter storm will take some time. Though the power has mostly been restored across the state, millions remain without running, or safe drinking, water due to damaged pipes. However, with support from the federal government — which has promised to do everything possible to help the state's hardest-hit residents and to rebuild public infrastructure — we have little doubt that the Lone Star State will recover from this natural disaster in no time.