David and Van Alexander, co-owners of Alexander’s Jewelers in Texarkana, Texas, are in the store today, working with their 83-year-old father, store founder Jerry Alexander. But they don’t expect any customers.
Like many Texas cities right now, Texarkana has been shut down all week due to a once-in-a-lifetime freeze and storm system that brought snow to regions that haven’t seen a major snowstorm in decades (the last significant snowfall in Houston, which dropped 4.4 inches, was in 1960).
The weather system has effectively ground everyday life to a halt in many areas of the state. And though a thaw is expected this weekend, temperatures in many parts of the state are still below freezing today. The high temperature in Texarkana will be an icy 27 degrees.
“The main issue now is pipes bursting,” says David Alexander. “Some places got 21 inches and had a negative wind chill of 10 degrees. The mail in our town is shut down, FedEx is shut down, and the roads are bad. You can’t get anything in and out. We’ve been here since 1966 and have never seen anything like this.”
The effects of the deep freeze have put millions in harm’s way and have resulted in 47 deaths since Sunday, according to the Washington Post. Millions lost power for multiple days, though many regained it yesterday and today. And now the state has an alarming drinkable water shortage. As of today, more than 14 million people living in 160 Texas counties are still experiencing disruptions in their water service, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Jewelers across the state have been forced to close their doors for multiple days. Jewelry retailer Susan Eisen, founder of Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches in El Paso and president of the Texas Jewelers Association, says a number of retailers she’s been in touch with on Facebook aren’t even able to leave their homes. (Eisen did not lose power in El Paso.)
“People are having problems with internet databases, cell phone lines, and getting access to things,” she explains. “There are no trucks, there’s no water…I mean, it’s scary as hell. We’re actively working to try to communicate with people. We can’t send things, they can’t order from Amazon. My daughter in Austin says [grocery app] Instacart is 10 days backed up. Now they’re telling us that in El Paso there will be food and water shortages. Now we’ll go out and buy supplies, and as soon as the roads are clear, we can take provisions to people.”
Burt Reiner, co-owner of Reiner’s Fine Jewelry in Houston, opened his store for the first time this morning after closing it for most of the week because the building didn’t have power.
He and his team drained all the water from the pipes to ensure they didn’t freeze and burst. “We knew there was a pretty good chance we would be closed,” he says, “but we didn’t anticipate the power outages would be so widespread. Everyone is mostly doing well, but we still have a couple of [employees] without power.”
Robert Loving, president of wholesale watch seller Time Delay Corporation in Dallas, opened his company’s doors on Thursday after closing Sunday through Wednesday when the building lost power. “Today we have 90 percent of the staff here,” he says. “The roads are the issue—they were snowpacked and then they melt during the day and ice up overnight, in typical Texas fashion.”
The wholesaler’s also been unable to send or receive any shipments, and the company blasted out management’s mobile phone numbers to clients in an email so they can stay in touch. “But it’s been pretty quiet here,” Loving says. “The industry pretty much knew we were shut down.”
Top: Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches, buried in snow in El Paso, Texas (photo courtesy of Susan Eisen)
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