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Unprecedented storms wreak havoc on Texas

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    Examiner photo by Ana Cosino: This snowman in Navasota is symbolic of the winter storm endured by Grimes County. A week after being built, the snowman remained standing as temperatures reached freezing temperatures or below for seven-consecutive days.

A season of love turned into a season of cold, darkness and death as winter storms plummeted through Texas beginning Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, dumping over five inches of snowfall.

The winter weather caused lengthy power outages, water pipes to burst flooding homes and leaving residents without water. It also accounted for many deaths across the state due to below freezing temperatures that lasted seven consecutive days with windchills dipping below zero.

Across Texas more than 4 million people lost power and 22 people died in connection with winter weather. Over 22 million Texans were placed under a “Boil Water Notice.”

Many Texans were not prepared for extreme weather forecasts that are often exaggerated in these parts. The reality of just how unprepared was evident with statewide power outages forcing businesses to close, suspending grocery and fuel deliveries due to unsafe roadways and customers forced to sit in lengthy lines attempting to fill propane tanks. In Navasota, propane lines extended two blocks. Chad Ross said the last time that happened was 37 years ago. Mail delivery was suspended from Monday, Feb. 15 till Friday, Feb. 19.

Grocery store shelves were left empty with essential food items such as bread, milk, eggs, water etc. unavailable. Most restaurants closed and even the popular fast-food chain McDonald’s closed.

During the storm, COVID-19 testing centers and vaccination hubs were forced to close, many remained closed for a week.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott requested all 254 counties in Texas be granted an opportunity to apply for federal assistance through FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). Grimes County was one of only 77 counties originally approved for the disaster declaration. As of Monday, Feb. 22, an additional 31 counties were approved by FEMA and added to the President’s major disaster declaration.

Residents residing in any of the counties approved by FEMA can begin applying for help online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362 or 1-800-462-7585.

Community helping community

During difficult times across the county, many members of the community helped in a variety of ways.

James Harris opened the Progressive Outreach Center to residents in need as a warming center. While many residents were without a warm meal due to power outages, KoKo’s Star of Texas offered free homemade chicken and rice soup to anyone wanting a hot, fresh meal. Those who needed warm clothes were offered free winter clothing by Pretty Things Resale Shop store in Navasota.

Water outages began for Navasota with a water main break Thursday, Feb. 11, and frozen and busted water pipes across Grimes County meant many residents were without water for extended periods of time. Southern Charm Boutique and Salon offered free hair washing and styling to residents without water. They also provided free drinking wa ter for their clients.

Many other members of the community stepped up in a variety of ways including Anderson Volunteer Fire Department that offered free bottled water to the community.

Mass water leaks in Navasota

Navasota Police Department, utility crews, Navasota Fire Department, Navasota Animal Control canvased Navasota to help locate water leaks Thursday, and Friday, Feb. 18 and 19.

Navasota has 3,162 active water meters across the city and as of Thursday, Feb. 18 there were a total of 1,580 water leaks with 432 being critical. There was a total of 504 critical leaks during a seven-day period.

Turner Pierce & Fultz Inc. opened its doors for customers to purchase materials to fix water leaks. Many neighbors assisted each other and the elderly trying to repair leaks as quick as possible to restore water.

School Closures

Monday, Feb. 15 was scheduled to be a holiday for students for Presidents’ Day. Treacherous road conditions caused the closure of Navasota, Anderson-Shiro, Iola and Richards school districts for the remainder of the week. Due to busted water pipes from cold temperatures, Richards was unable to resume classes until

Tuesday, Feb. 23.

Navasota, Richards, and Anderson-Shiro anticipated transitioning to learning virtually during the winter storm but due to the widespread power outages, virtual learning was not feasible.

Warming up

Temperatures began warming Saturday, Feb. 20, and have reached highs near 80-degrees throughout the county. Texans have traded in layers of clothing for short sleeves and shorts. The warm change is welcomed.

Many Texans continue to repair and clean up from flooding caused by busted pipes and try to return to some sort or normalcy.