“Mother Nature is going to do what Mother Nature wants to do,” said Jim Ricci, Vitro business development manager, US ARG, of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Texas area, as he recalled last week’s snowstorm. “Until it happens you can’t anticipate how you’re going to react to the situation. None of us lost communication with each other and that was good.”
“The initial thought for everyone started out as ‘it doesn’t snow in South Texas, how cool would it be to get a little bit’. Then it went to these temps are going to be brutal. When we woke up and saw what we got was when it started moving more to survival mode and realizing this is going to be a bad week,” said Dave Duensing, Texan Glass & Solar Control president, located in The Woodlands, Texas.
According to Ricci, when the power grid went down the company was unable to open its warehouse doors, but once power was restored in the warehouse the roads were still icy. The company then opened for customers to pick up products, as Vitro “didn’t feel confident putting its drivers out at that moment.”
Duensing said that a post-Hurricane Harvey feeling came back when pipes started breaking and people started seeing their neighbors having leaks and broken pipes. “Then the stores started running out of food and water and the gas stations ran out of gas, we had that post Harvey feeling all over again.”
Both Ricci and Duensing said that they, along with their employees remained safe during the storm and are okay. Ricci said that most of his staff didn’t come in because the company’s warehouse didn’t have power and many were unable to make it into work.
The way the grid works in Texas was also of concern, as many people experienced the rolling blackouts. “It’s crazy how it worked because if you were near a school, a hospital, or a water tower you never lost power, but if you were on the other side of the street you lost power,” said Ricci.
After regaining power for its warehouse, Vitro is seeing a high demand for its glass. According to Ricci, one of the reasons for the increased need is that “no one has done anything yet and during the storm people still traveled and things happened and employees couldn’t install glass at that time.”
Ricci said snow and cold temperatures aren’t new for him, as he’s from Chicago, Ill., but living and working in the Dallas, Texas area brought issues to light regarding snow removal. “That was hard for me because I’m thinking what is this; I mean we got six inches of snow and it was below zero and Texas isn’t use to this,” said Ricci. “Our operations manager, who has lived in Texas for his entire life, told me that there were only five snow plows in Texas. There’s not a lot we could do and we couldn’t put trucks on the road if it’s not clear and if there’s ice. That’s the incredible thing, because you can drive in snow but ice is difficult. Texas isn’t equipped to deal with ice.”
Duensing said that the business went through Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and had about four feet of water that ruined everything inside of the business. Last week had a similar slight catastrophic feel to it for him.
“Being raised in Nebraska, I understand ice and snow. The initial precaution we did over the weekend of the 13th-14th was to ground all company trucks and employees from coming into the locations,” Duensing explained. “We really had no idea if we would wake up to nothing, or ice or snow. In Texas, a big problem is overpasses and bridges getting iced over and there is no means of salting or getting them cleared so it will shut the towns down. As things did melt a little and more severe cold hit, they ended up icing over worse so we were shut down Monday through Wednesday.”
He said the business had a partial crew working on Thursday and as the week continued things began to get closer to “normal.”
Prior to the storm’s arrival Ricci said leaders were keeping track of it and kept constant communication with the company’s employees and customers.
“This is an event you can’t really plan for like you would a day-to-day business,” said Ricci. “I don’t know that you can do anything differently because it’s the infrastructure. If you can’t go out and make deliveries what are you going to do? In the future, we’ll continue to monitor what’s happening and choose the safest option.”
He noted during last week’s snowstorm he and members of his team were watching hour-by-hour before they finally said “we can’t do it and we’re not going to put people in jeopardy.”
“No matter how much revenue you gain it never equals the cost of somebody getting hurt, and I’m glad we made that choice,” said Ricci.
“Overall we feel blessed. Yes people had a week that was bad, some more than others,” said Duensing. “We had multiple employees that were in their car to keep warm and some actually slept in them. But we all came out of it with our health and safety.”