Here in southeast Texas, we joke that we don’t have the typical four seasons that occur in other parts of the country. We have hurricane season, crawfish season, and football season. Everything else is typically “how hot is going to get today?” When the groundhog said “6 more weeks of winter” little did we know it would be 6 weeks crammed into a matter of 6 days!
Roads were iced and closed. There was no driving and no way to monitor the office. Did we have power or damage from burst pipes.? Our corporate neighbors next door (who have the same city services but have employees 24/7) kept us informed. The issues with ERCOT are well documented with millions of Texans losing power in unprecedented cold temperatures. Rolling blackouts, randomly chosen power shutdowns, ERCOT’s unpreparedness for this event was responsible for over 600 carbon monoxide cases from people trying to stay warm and at least 10 hypothermia deaths.
With other weather events, losing power is not unexpected, however, what was not anticipated was having water issues. Between thousands of homes with pipes bursting and issues at the distribution centers, people went for days without the basic necessities. It wasn’t just in one location, there were water issues throughout the entire state! Adding insult to injury, it was not just electricity and water. In rural Texas propane was in short supply. Unpassable roads prevented truck delivery and worse, distribution was non-existent. Grocery stores had empty shelves throughout the state. Gasoline purchases became limited because of limited supplies.
As a small business, we have more experience than we care to admit to in preparing for hurricanes and floods. We evaluate after each event in part to learn from mistakes to prevent repeating them. We have it down to a science on preparing the building, equipment, communication with our clients, remotely providing services, and delivering payroll.
However, this past week was different from all other events. It is hats off to the health care workers who slept in the facilities and stayed for many days to provide services to patients Our team got consultants to their destination, conducted an initial training course with attendees from Alaska, Texas, and Louisiana, broadcast routine webinars, staffed correctional medicine and hospitals. It required thinking out of the box when there is no power, there is no Wi-Fi to broadcast or ability to receive timesheets to process payroll. The AHEC/MRS team found an answer for each challenge.
There are so many stories of people who helped their neighbors and the community at large. Our city leadership kept everyone with power informed with what they knew. This disaster will probably be worse than Hurricane Harvey. Coming back is going to take some time. We are back in full operation and working on serving our clients whose services were interrupted. We are fortunate and have survived. Our staff are back on the Covid testing and vaccination lines today. Thank you for your patience and understanding through this entire period.
Now, I think that there is only one question that remains unanswered to most Texan’s satisfaction, what are we going to do about that stupid groundhog???