The string of winter storm-related outages and property damage that occurred the week of Feb. 15 was the fifth major disaster that Interfaith of The Woodlands has responded to in five years, said Missy Herndon, who has been president and CEO of the nonprofit for those five years.
“We jumped into crisis mode, which we have had to initiate multiple times over the last several years and being in COVID-19 response mode as well,” Herndon said, counting the pandemic among the recent disasters.
Interfaith provides crisis assistance for rent or mortgages as well as providing gas cards or vouchers for stores where recipients can purchase essentials such as clothing. According to information on its website, Interfaith helped 19,370 individuals receive crisis assistance in 2020, and 62,322 received assistance from its food pantry.
The nonprofit opened its doors Feb. 18 after coming through the storm with minor damage and a temporary power outage, Herndon said. Other effects in the region included boil-water notices in many areas and significant dangers for the homeless population, officials have said.
Interfaith was able to provide drive-thru food delivery and use its emergency shelter program to get displaced people into local motels while they waited for damage to be assessed and repaired at their homes, Herndon said.
“There is always a need on a regular day, let alone disaster; that’s what our focus will be as we go over the next several months," she said.
Herndon said she had heard preliminary statistics indicating more homes were affected—not destroyed, but in some way damaged—by the aftermath of the winter storm than in Hurricane Harvey in 2017, but those details had not yet been released by local emergency authorities as of Feb. 22.
Damage to homes included water pipes bursting, which can cause household water damage. Herndon said some residents were also displaced by fires, which fire officials in The Woodlands also reported at a higher rate during that week.
"As you go into the second week, assessing recovery can last from six to 18 months depending on how widespread [the damage] is," Herndon said. "When you look at so many families, a lot of them can’t even get a plumber out until mid-March; everyone’s got the same issues. ... We do believe this is going to be a long-term problem."
One of the most urgent needs is food, she said, as power outages also caused widespread food spoilage.
Interfaith of The Woodlands is seeking the following food pantry donations:
- Mixed vegetables
- Pasta sauce
- Canned pastas
- Peanut butter and jelly
- Powdered milk
- Rice and rice mixes
- Macaroni and cheese
- Baking mixes
- Peanut butter crackers
- Fruit gummies
- Goldfish crackers
- Granola bars
- Helper meals
Interfaith of The Woodlands is located at 4242 Interfaith Way, The Woodlands, and can be reached at 281-367-1230 and www.woodlandsinterfaith.org.