There is a running gag among many Texans that anytime someone drops a cup filled with ice, it’s enough of a reason to cancel school — major winter storms are so rare that authorities don’t often have the means to clear and salt icy streets.
However, what happened last month in the Lone Star State was no joke. Millions of people experienced a week-long storm with sub-zero temperatures, many impassable streets, burst water pipes, and days without power. In mid-February, The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, had been forced to shut down large areas of the state’s independent power grid, leading to people burning furniture, bundling up with every piece of clothing they owned, or pitching tents in their living rooms to stay warm.
Want to know how cold it is in Texas? Check out this photo from Thomas Black. The ceiling fan INSIDE his Dallas apartment is frozen solid, with icicles hanging off it.— Michael Pegram (@MichaelNBC12) February 17, 2021
: Thomas Black pic.twitter.com/pWuXAVotMj
Water was one of the biggest concerns. As temperatures dropped below freezing overnight and stayed there for days, many homes and apartments flooded, completely destroyed by water damage, leading to people displaced in the middle of a storm in which many roads were unsafe and stores unable to provide basic necessities, cut off from supply trucks.
Unfortunately for Texas, the now rising temperatures — it was over 70 degrees Fahrenheit in Austin only one week after the start of the winter nightmare — are hiding the financial difficulties people are facing following the storm. However, crypto could offer some of those affected at least partial relief from the economic fallout.
In the capital of Texas, the Austin Disaster Relief Network, or ADRN, set up crypto donations in response to the storm. The organization now accepts Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Zcash (ZEC), Gemini Dollar (GUSD), Basic Attention Token (BAT), Chainlink (LINK), 0x (ZRX), Storj (STORJ), Dai (DAI) and Amp (AMP) to help uninsured families that were forced to leave damaged homes, or are otherwise suffering financial hardship following the storm.
Since crypto donations went live last Wednesday, the organization has received only one payment in Ether, worth roughly $700. This donation (as well as those made in fiat) have allowed the ADRN to assist more than 1,000 families displaced by the storm due to water damage to their storms. The organization says there may be more than 4,000 households in the Austin area still in need of help, however.
“We intend to accept donations via cryptocurrency essentially forever,” said Michael Gish, ADRN’s chief financial officer.
One of the services the organization provides is giving funds directly to families to use on gas and other essentials in the form of prepaid Visa gift cards. Many Austin residents do not have the option to work from home, and were unable to commute for up to a week while the streets were icy, leading to many lost paychecks.
However, Daniel Geraci, executive director for the ADRN, considered the possibility that sending crypto may be an option for future disaster scenarios like the recent storm, when neither the organization nor those affected can safely travel to deliver funds in person. Geraci said he had “never thought [of] crypto up to this point,” as the organization seemingly had more pressing concerns. However, he considered the technology to be a means to ”get funds out in a catastrophic disaster fast enough to assist all of our families in need.”
The Giving Block is also doing its part for victims of the Texas winter storm. The donation gateway set up a $100,000 page titled Bitcoin for Texas. When organizations integrate with the Giving Block, they can choose whether they want to keep their donation in crypto, or convert it to fiat. The ADRN has reportedly decided on the latter.
“It’s an uphill battle raising funds when all the cameras are gone,” said Geraci. “We’re preparing for more catastrophic events [...] We’re going from a centralized plan to a decentralized plan.”