Texans, punched by the weather, pull together

This column published as "Ray of Light" in March 2021 issue

Brian W. Budzynski / March 04, 2021 / 3 minute read
Brian W. Budzynski

It mystifies me that water services were being shut down in Texas after the pummeling deep freeze and massive snow engulfed much of the state. 

What were these companies thinking? Sure, Texas is not generally prepared for these types of events, but those in charge of such services are still in possession of common sense, yes? Decency? Frigid temperatures and relentless snowstorms have sparked water and food shortages, widespread power cuts, and treacherously icy roadways. Cities like Austin have seen ice storms before, but it seems like little has changed in terms of readying residences and roads for another such event. Most, if not all, homes still have water pipes running through the attic, sitting atop but not running within, insulation. So pipes freeze, pipes burst, and cutting off water service only exacerbated the trouble.

Consequently, many people found themselves going out onto the roadways in search of friends or relatives they could stay with, or places to buy water and sundries, when they would otherwise be content to stay at home and wait out the cold.

Such was the case for Jenny Ventimiglia, a resident of Austin, who, dog Stella in tow, braved the snow and ice in her Honda Fit (a warm-weather vehicle if ever I saw one) in effort to get to her parents’ house across town. What she got was stranded, along with some 30 other drivers, in ice several inches thick on a dangerously slippery road.

As reported in the Independent, Ventimiglia was in a cell signal dead zone with no access to 911. People around her were screaming for help, completely unsure how to handle their predicament. Just when it seemed the situation was simply hopeless, however, a fellow Texan stepped in—or rather, rolled in—and offered respite and rescue.

A man named Ryan Silvey was out trolling the streets in his “Beast,” a four-wheel-drive 2010 Chevrolet Silverado, on a mission to help as many stranded drivers as he could. Silvey tethered Ventimiglia’s car to the Beast and towed her not just out of the ice, but the entire three miles to her parents’ house.

According to the article, Silvey barely survived a motorcycle accident in the recent past that left him with a traumatic brain injury, and he has been unable to go back to work because of his injuries. Movement is difficult, but he said, “the driving part is easy.” Before the day was out, Silvey helped 98 drivers—and more than 400 others overall since the brutal blast hammered the Lone Star State.

His attitude about it all is remarkably clear: “I’ve been in a place of begging for help and feeling powerless, so being able to do something to help others makes me feel like I’m part of something again.”

And that’s it, isn’t it? Being part of something, making a contribution and not expecting or even caring about what comes out of it aside from the act itself.

A lot of ink has been spilled about the respective actions of “Cancún Ted” and AOC, but the truly telling tales of this cruel weather event have been the acts of kindness and support common Texans have been showing one another.

About the Author

Budzynski is senior managing editor of Roads & Bridges.

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