Turmoil in Texas: Associates persevering amid winter wreckage
They say everything is bigger in Texas.
But Tom Salvatierra, who has called Dallas home since 2018, never imagined witnessing a winter storm this big sweep through the Lone Star state. Snow dropped at a record pace. Temperatures plunged to below zero. Ice blanketed every major street and highway. Most people lost water, heat and electricity.1
Now, like the millions of locals who endured last month’s massive whiteout, Salvatierra is left to pick up the pieces.
In his case, quite literally.
“You don’t expect it to get that cold here,” said Salvatierra, a senior vice president serving Personal Capital’s private client group. “I can’t believe the amount of damage we experienced in such a short period of time.”
Salvatierra isn’t exaggerating. It takes one look inside his kitchen to see the type of wreckage caused by the blizzard.
As the polar conditions worsened throughout February, the main water pipe above the kitchen in Salvatierra’s house suddenly burst and slowly began leaking water from every light fixture on the ceiling. With most plumbing companies in the city flooded with service requests, Salvatierra, his wife and his 5-year-old daughter used every bucket they owned, along with plenty of beach towels, as a short-term fix to contain the spillage. But they could only do so much while waiting for the line to be restored.
Eventually, the ceiling completely collapsed, drowning the entire room with debris, insulation and, of course, H2O.
“For my wife and me, it was truly an ‘oh-no’ moment,” Salvatierra said. “We were like, ‘What in the world just happened?’ Water was everywhere. You would have thought the Kool-Aid Man had splashed through a giant hole.
“It was huge mess.”
So huge, in fact, that multiple maintenance crews are currently in the middle of a four-week project to repair everything that was destroyed. Despite the inconvenience, though, Salvatierra is keeping a positive mindset.
“We’re very fortunate and lucky, to be honest,” said Salvatierra, who is now relying on his outdoor grill for cooking most meals. “A lot of people have had it way worse. We never felt like we were in any danger.”
Following the recent devastation in Texas, our organization made a financial contribution to the American Red Cross to help aid and support the ongoing relief efforts across many of the impacted communities. So far, nearly 100 individuals have perished as a result of the arctic blast and the frigid elements, with some deaths being attributed to hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning and vehicle accidents.2
Meanwhile, many more Texans are still struggling to access basic necessities like food, clean water and medicine.4
“It’s tragic and unfortunate,” said Michele Floyd, director of the private client group for Personal Capital, who lives near Dallas. “That’s why it means a lot that Empower is so committed to making an impact in our communities, especially in areas where catastrophes have occurred. It’s not just talk — it’s action.”
Empower employees also had an opportunity to give blood or submit their own donations to help deliver essential supplies to those in need. Currently, the company has more than 150 colleagues based in Texas.
“It feels like this is a natural disaster,” said Luke Samuels, a sales associate team leader for Personal Capital. “It’s very serious. What we’re dealing with right now definitely isn’t on the brochure when you move to Texas.”
The bitter weather was so severe that it effectively turned Salvatierra’s backyard swimming pool into a giant ice cube.
“It was rock solid,” he said. “You could walk on it.”
In February, many counties in Texas were forced to implement rolling power blackouts for several days to help conserve energy due to the high — and historic — demand. For the majority of households, that meant having brief cycles of heat, electricity and internet followed by surviving countless hours in the dark. “Warming centers” were even set up to provide some residents with temporary shelter.3
Because of the unique location of Samuels’ apartment building, the power in his unit remained on throughout the deep freeze. So he and his girlfriend opened their doors and welcomed two close friends who were without common and consistent utilities. “Our guest bedroom finally came in handy,” he said.
“We’re all in this together,” added Samuels, who resides in Deep Ellum. “With everything going on, we wanted to make sure they were safe. We were happy we could offer them a comfortable place to eat and sleep.”
1 Christina Maxouris, CNN, “Here's how a week of frigid weather and catastrophe unfolded in Texas,” February 2021.
2 Janet Shamlian, CBS, “Frigid temperatures devastate Texas power grid as death toll climbs,” February 2021.
3 Shawn Mulcahy, Texas Tribune, “Many Texans have died because of the winter storm. Just how many won’t be known for weeks or months,” February 2021.
4 Paul O’Donnell, Dallas Morning News, “Here’s a running list of companies putting big bucks into Texas storm relief,” February 2021.