On the afternoon of June 15, a tornado struck the Texas Panhandle town of Perryton. One week later and 180 miles south, another twister hit, this time devastating the town of Matador. In both cases, power outages combined with triple-digit temperatures compounded the suffering of citizens trying to clean up and put their lives back together.
Soon after the disasters struck, EquipmentShare branches in Amarillo and Lubbock sprang into action and continued the company tradition of helping the communities they serve in their time of need.
“My director was in town in Lubbock, and he was amazed at how many people showed up to help, from yard guys to the sales team to our telematics guys,” said Chris Yorek, the EquipmentShare district manager for northwest Texas and eastern New Mexico. “Some went 24-plus hours without sleep to help these people who lost everything.”
Perryton is a town of about 8,000 people near the Oklahoma border. The night of the deadly storm, Matt Follis, general manager of EquipmentShare’s Amarillo branch, assembled a team that loaded a forklift, light towers and generators onto a truck and made the two-hour drive north.
“When we got there, it was just carnage,” Follis said. “I’ve seen some blown-up towns in my life, but this one got knocked out pretty good.”
They provided generators to local restaurants so they could continue to feed the hungry and set up light towers around town that doubled as power sources.
“We let them run 24/7 so people could plug into them or plug their phone in or whatever they needed to do,” Follis said. “When people can’t charge their cell phones, chaos breaks out.”
The town of Matador is home to about 500 people. The day the tornado hit, Chris Wheeler, the GM of EquipmentShare’s Lubbock branch, called the Motley County sheriff to see how his team could help. They loaded up a forklift, light towers, generators and a skid steer with a grapple bucket and made the 1½-hour drive to Matador after midnight.
The tornado hit the town’s electrical substation, and it would take nearly a week for power to return. That created an especially dangerous situation because of the heat, so EquipmentShare provided industrial HVAC units and more generators to power and cool the town’s assisted living center, fire station, school gym and a church.
“The locals were very appreciative,” Wheeler said. “The power and HVACs were a huge deal, especially for the senior citizens facility. It was a good feeling knowing we could comfort people and give them a place to stay out of the heat. Knowing that I work for a company that will provide this, it made it a lot easier to make that initial phone call to the sheriff and ask if they needed help. This was a first for me. It wasn’t like this at the other companies I’ve worked for. It would never be a thought in anyone’s head to call and see if help was needed. I love the fact we do that as a company.”
Learn more about EquipmentShare’s disaster response division here.