MEMPHIS, Tenn.— (BUSINESS WIRE) — Abilene residents are more accustomed to dust storms than snowstorms. In Houston, they have far more floods than ice. But in the Lone Star state, the winter of 2021 has created unique challenges.
The polar vortex that recently plunged through the midwestern United States dipped all the way to Texas bringing record-breaking sub-freezing temperatures, snow and ice to a region that is ill-equipped for Arctic conditions. The cold weather coupled with electrical power grid problems have created a high misery index and a tidal wave of emergency calls to disaster remediation companies.
“We’ve received about 100 times more calls than we normally do this time of year,” said Blake Moak of ServiceMaster by Century, which is headquartered in Houston with offices in Dallas, Waco, Austin and San Antonio. “We’ve dealt with significant disaster events before, but typically hurricanes and flooding. We’ve not experienced anything like this.”
Chris Jeter of ServiceMaster by A-Town in Abilene, said that burst water pipes are wrecking havoc for his customers. The water within the pipes freezes and expands, cracking the pipes. As it warms and thaws, leaks occur, saturating attics, walls, floors and furnishings. In commercial buildings, the most likely culprits are fire suppression systems – fire sprinklers. These pipes create a top-down water source that will continue to cause damage until the water is cut off.
“Pipe insulation is virtually unknown here because it rarely, if ever, is needed,” said Jeter. A check of recent weather in Abilene shows the temperature on February 3 was 80F. On February 16 the high was 13F, the low was -2F.
Ice dams, a common problem in northern states where ice forms on roofs causing leaks that trickle into attics and walls, is virtually unknown in central Texas. Moak said his company had its first ice dam claim ever this week. “The customer didn’t know what to call the problem,” said Moak. “I wouldn’t have known either if I weren’t in the disaster remediation business.”
With hundreds of calls coming in, Jeter, who employees 18 service technicians, has called in help from ServiceMaster Restore’s national network of franchisees. Teams from Utah, Arizona and other states are rushing to Texas to handle the backlog of work.
“We have to triage the calls that come in. Hospitals, nursing homes and similar facilities obviously have priority. Nearly everyone understands that this is an unprecedented situation and they are willing to be patient. Help is on the way, but even getting to Abilene is difficult because of the icy roads,” said Jeter.
The issues in Texas may get worse in the coming days as temperatures rise and frozen pipes thaw. More calls will come and folks like Jeter and Moak will redouble their efforts to restore the damage.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime situation,” said Moak. “Our teams are working hard and we’ve dealt with major disasters before. This one is just different.”
About ServiceMaster Restore
With more than 800 locations around the world, ServiceMaster Restore serves customers through a global network of franchises available 24/7/365 to provide residential and commercial restoration services resulting from damage caused by water, fire, smoke or mold. ServiceMaster Restore is a business unit of Memphis-based ServiceMaster Brands, a leading provider of essential residential and commercial services. More information can be found at servicemasterrestore.com