Ice Storm: Disaster for Area Businesses

Valentine’s Day was admittedly a nightmare this year for Shari McCallister.

The usually busy but enjoyable holiday dealt a devilish twist last week when the worst ice storm in three decades slammed Houston. Electricity throughout the city was knocked out for nearly two days and icy roads shut down schools the entire week, making life miserable for florists like McCallister.

“It was a bang-your-head-against-the-wall type of thing,” McCallister said. “It was very stressful.”

The days leading up to Valentine’s Day are usually dedicated to meticulously designing flower arrangements. This year was different. With just enough heat from a portable unit to keep the pipes from freezing and bundled up to stay warm, employees at D&L Florist were unable to get much accomplished as the holiday approached.

McCallister, who was forced to check the temperature of coolers and a storage room that housed flowers every three hours throughout the night to keep them from ruining, said she worked from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. Wednesday to get everything in order.

Things appeared to be running smoothly until Valentine’s morning, when strong winds knocked the power out again for more than an hour. The biggest detriment was not being able to use a credit card machine on the busiest day of the year.

“It was a nightmare,” McCallister said.

McCallister estimated that the frigid weather, on-and-off power and school closings decreased business by 30 percent. She said walk-in traffic was significantly down as well.

“I think people stayed home. They couldn’t get out,” McCallister said. “Of course, they didn’t know if we would have electricity or not.”

Dr. Joe Richardson, DDS, was working on a root canal patient Thursday morning at his dental office when electricity went out around 9:20. Richardson isolated the tooth and asked the patient to wait for the power to be restored. He resumed working when the electricity came on 20 minutes later, only to stop again when it went out at 10 a.m.

Richardson used natural light through the windows to dry off the tooth and temporarily seal it.

“Enough was enough. With the uncertainty of it, we cancelled the rest of the day,” Richardson said.

With inclement weather on its way from the west, Richardson closed his clinic Monday. He did so again Tuesday, using a generator to turn on computers and call customers to let them know the office was without power. Missing those two days and most of Thursday will put a strain on his office to catch up, he said.

“It wreaked a little havoc on us,” Richardson said. “We’re in a mess because we missed two full days and about two-thirds of Thursday. We had a full day scheduled Thursday and saw about five or six. A couple we didn’t get to complete.”

Power was out Tuesday afternoon at Houston Veterinary Hospital when a litter of

English Bulldogs were ready to be born into the world. Dr. Tom Dunn, DVM, has equipment with battery backups for situations like these. But with little light in his building, he moved everything from the surgery room into the front reception room.

With natural light shining through the doors and curious passersby offering curious sneak peaks, Dunn and his staff performed a C-section on the mother. Fluids normally warmed in the microwave for the surgery were laid on kerosene heaters. The rest of the operation was like normal.

“Part of it is luck, part of it is planning and part of it is a staff that doesn’t freak out,” said Dunn, who performed another C-section in his lobby Thursday.

Dunn said kerosene heaters kept the puppies warm. Animals boarded or hospitalized in the kennel room were warmed by ventless propane heaters.

Patient care continued mostly as normal at Texas County Memorial Hospital, where generators ran most of Monday night and Tuesday. Joleen Senter Durham, director of public relations, said elective surgeries are rescheduled when the hospital is running on generator power. The rest of the hospital, except for some offices, operate normally.

“It’s not always obvious to patients or even employees when the generators are running if they are in many areas inside the hospital,” Durham said.

Durham said not all employees were able to make it to work due to poor driving conditions. But others took on extra duties to overcome a few absences. Some workers stayed overnight Monday and Tuesday night in Houston, including a few who slept at the hospital.

“I don’t want to take for granted, and the people of Texas County need to be aware of the great lengths our staff go to provide care for our patients and their families,” said CEO Wes Murray. “Employees volunteer to stay here or to come in, and not just in times of severe weather. It is commonplace for our dedicated employees to place our patients above their own needs.”

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