Texas Cold Snap Breaks Records, Pipes … and Bones

Danny Dees of Acceptance Appliance is on the mend after a double punch from Mother Nature.

By Andy Kriege, YSN

Most people heard about the frigid, record-breaking temperatures that took over the entire state of Texas late last month, and for those living there it was a nightmare they won’t soon forget.

That includes BrandSource member Danny Dees of Acceptance Appliance, who was forced to close his Houston-area store for an entire week in February. People were figuratively frozen in place. “Even if we had power and were able to open, no one could navigate the snow- and ice-covered roads to get here,” he said, reflecting on the freakish deep freeze. “Nor would I want to jeopardize my employees out on the roads trying to get in.”

Dees prepared his business in advance of the approaching weather. He shut off the water, bled the lines, and turned on the fire protection system’s freeze heaters before leaving his store on the eve of the artic blast. “At that point, there was not much to do but go home and wait out the cold and try to help friends and family as much as possible,” he said.

The Houston freeway at the height of the ice storm on February 15th.

The prolonged brutal cold was something Dees, a lifelong resident of the Houston area, had never experienced before. The once-in-a-generation storm plunged temperatures into the single digits across the entire state, and more than 4 million customers lost power for a prolonged period. Many of the outages were caused by a surge in electric demand to warm up homes unaccustomed to such extreme lows, which buckled the state’s power grid and caused widespread blackouts.

As if the cold, snow, ice and power outages were not enough to contend with, Dees slipped on the ice and shattered his wrist. He fell while stepping out of his truck onto the ice-covered driveway of an employee, who needed help turning off his water supply. “I was on the ground before I even knew I fell,” lamented Dees. He now has a plate and 10 screws holding the bones in his left wrist together. The fact that he is left-handed is just another cruel twist, adding injury to the misery that Mother Nature brought to bear. He is now back at work and forced to use his right hand in ways he never had to before.

The brutally cold temperatures combined with the power outages took their toll on appliances throughout the area. As pipes broke and homes flooded, residents were forced to find relief from the cold however and wherever they could. Those with gas ranges used them to provide heat and melt snow for drinking water, which was in short supply.

Texas residents were forced to melt snow as a source of drinking water.

When Acceptance Appliance finally reopened, the store became a madhouse, filled with customers with product failures ranging from washers with busted valves to all manner of water-damaged white-goods.

The dealer would have likely received even more service calls, except much of the local cellular service was down for several days. “They would have had to use a carrier pigeon to get a hold of us,” Dees remarked. “But with parts in short supply and replacement units scarce, there was only so much we could do to help people,” he said.

Irrespective of the recent polar plunge, business has been fantastic. Aside from his busted wrist, the biggest issue Dees is dealing with is fatigue, and his efforts to keep overworked staff from burning out. He continually works to balance the needs of the store and its customers with a crew that has been pushed to the brink. “If I could find more employees, we could spread out the workload and do more,” he said. “But you can’t just find experienced appliance people looking for work. So we try to do the best we can.”

For Dees, the takeaway from all this is simple. “Take care of yourself,” he advised, since “the government surely isn’t going to.” He also learned some valuable lessons from Hurricane Harvey, which ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2017.  “When that storm devastated this area, I purchased a whole-house generator. I didn’t envision this catastrophe when that one happened, but it kept my house and family from freezing. You never know what is next, so be prepared.”

Related: Top Five Things Your Business Should do to Prepare for a Disaster

BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, furniture, mattress and CE dealers.