They came for the cookies and stayed for the door prizes at the 2019 Annual Meeting of Magic Valley Electric Cooperative. In between, members had time to hear details of their cooperative’s rapid but manageable growth. The cooperative is strong and vibrant thanks to its loyal and diverse membership, President Martin Garcia told the assembly. The third largest cooperative in Texas now has over 103,000 members (almost 4,000 new members joined in 2018) and more than 5,000 miles of energized line. The energy to power homes and businesses comes from hydro, natural gas, solar, wind, and coal.
The meeting in Mercedes also gave the approximately 1,000 attendees time to talk with cooperative neighbors about their shared experiences and to open the 2019 insulated goody bags. Emphasizing hurricane preparedness, the bags came packed with weather emergencies essentials, including a first aid kit, flashlight and batteries, pill box, hand sanitizer, fly swatter, and more.
So, it was a good time to ask, “Are you prepared for an emergency?” “Have you been through a hurricane or flood?”
Delia Herrera of Edinburg remembers Hurricane Beulah in 1967. “The water was in our house. My dad had to carry us out.” The family took shelter at Lincoln Elementary School and couldn’t return home for several weeks. “It was hard. My dad had a tractor and would go into town for food. He told us railroad ties were floating in the street.” Because she realizes disasters happen, Delia and her husband Beto, an MVEC warehouse man in Edinburg, we’re prepared when last summer’s storms caused heavy flooding in her neighborhood near Monte Cristo Road. “Our neighbors were underwater. My brother, who’s a farmer, had water coming in his house. His cows were in the water, and his metal tanks were floating.” The water stayed high for a couple days, although the Herreras lost power only briefly. “We have important documents and medications in little insulated lunch boxes given out by MVEC that we can take. As soon as we hear something is coming, we get ready with food and water. We were telling my niece to be prepared. You never know if we will get a storm.”
In La Feria, back in 2008, Alicia and Alberto Barbosa tracked the approach of Hurricane Dolly. “I was scared. We weren’t sure we should take off,” says Alicia. Alberto had survived an Arkansas tornado in 1952 and kept a healthy respect for the damage Mother Nature could bring. So they were prepared with water, supplies, battery-operated radios, raincoats and boots, and a generator. Watching the Category 2 hurricane from home, they saw “the trees were going almost to the ground. We wondered how strong the light poles were.” (Power lines are designed to withstand winds up to 150 mph.) Without electricity for two days, Alicia recalls seeing power company trucks coming in from all over. “I like how they all help in a disaster.”
During heavy rains last June, the Weslaco house of Jackie and Joe Hinojosa was flooded by nearly a foot of water. “We could see it rising, rising, and rising some more. We walked in water from room to room, picking up things, trying to save them. It happened real quick, so we didn’t have time to get everything. But we had talked about it before.” They saved insurance papers and car titles from the flood waters, but didn’t think of photographs. They lost almost all their family photos. Their street was flooded for 48 hours. When the water went down, they opened all their windows. To their surprise, the power was on. “We hadn’t turned anything on when there was water.” But they turned on the fans and started to rebuild their lives. The Hinojosas lost vehicles and appliances to water damage. “You don’t know how bad it is going be,” Alicia added. “It’s a hard decision, to stay or to leave. It’s a good thing nobody lost their life.” After their experience, the Hinojosas are more prepared and have acquired a water-resistant safe.
MVEC customer service agent Letisha Tamez took a break from helping at the meeting’s cookie table to recall last summer’s flood waters that left her stranded in San Juan. “They (MVEC) had to send one of the guys in his truck to pick me up. I was the only one who made it to the Magic Valley office in Pharr. All the other girls were stuck at home.” Tamez learned some lessons. “I had a big scare: the water was so close to getting into my car. I’ve bought a truck now, and I have more co-workers’ phone numbers to call when I need help.”
Winter Texans Bill and Sharon Landers mix optimism and realism when it comes to tough Valley weather. “We have hurricane shutters, a brick home with a new roof, and we leave nothing outside. We keep documents in one spot, so we know what to grab right away,” she said. They also keep 10 sandbags on hand.
Of course, weather disasters are not limited to Texas. Leroy Ripplinger, who served on his regional coop board in Wisconsin, recalled being on a train with his wife Mildred when a blizzard marooned them in North Dakota. The experience of two days with limited food, water and heat on the immobilized train taught them to always travel with food…and not go north in the winter.
Hurricane season begins June 1. Prepare now for an emergency. Include your Magic Valley account number in your important documents. Stay informed about outages on Facebook, the MVEC app, or on the website magicvalley.coop.
During the official meeting, MVEC Board President, Martin Garcia informed attendees that in 2018, MVEC returned $5.5 million in capital credits. “We have outgrown our current facilities,” he said. A new operations center, complete with warehouse, system control center, and call center, will be completed in the next two to three years. One outstanding student in each of the seven districts received a $15,000 scholarship.