The arctic freeze of February 2021 will be remembered as a time with not only cold temperatures unseen in in the Rio Grande Valley since the 1980s but also as the time darkness descended upon Texas. Massive blackouts throughout the State due to the freezing temperatures left the City of Edinburg, like the rest of the state, with most of its residents in the dark and without heat. Students were left without school and many found their homes unbearably cold, especially when used to 75-degree weather this time of year.
The City of Edinburg City Manager quickly turned to the City’s public library, the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library, for assistance. Library Director, Letty Leija, knowing the staff’s willingness to serve their community quickly agreed to open a 24-Hour Warming Center. The Library Meeting Room as well as a portion of the Children’s area were converted into a temporary shelter with the help of the City’s Fire Department and the Library quickly opened its doors to those who needed a warm place to be and where individuals and families could stay until power was restored at their homes.
Residents had access to the Library’s WiFi and computers and were encouraged to charge their electronic devices. City officials asked residents to bring their own bedding, medication, and food. To ensure the safety of all, residents were screened, and temperatures were checked at the door and all social distancing guidelines were strictly enforced and face coverings were required to be worn. Police and Fire Dept. personnel were always also present for any emergency situation.
Over 220 residents without electricity turned to the Library’s 24-Hour Warming Center to warm up and charge their cell phones, laptops, and other electronic devices or stayed through the night.
To make the space as normal as possible, children were given free books to read and had the opportunity to enjoy movies and complimentary snacks.
The 24-Hour Warming Center was also a great opportunity for the Library staff to reconnect with the community that up to this point due to Covid-19, they had provided services to through virtual programming and curbside service. Despite the cold, in the City of Edinburg, February 2021 will also be remembered as the time the City joined forces to provide for their own.