A storm that deposited snow, ice and 450 stranded motorists on this tiny town overnight, nearly doubling its population, didn't strain Texas hospitality as residents opened their homes, churches and cupboards to the beleaguered.
"I've never seen an outpouring of kindness like this," said Donny Rohrbach of San Antonio, who like hundreds of others pulled into Valley View to escape icy roads south of the Oklahoma border during a massive winter storm.He and his mother, Norma, spent Monday night in a pew at the United Methodist Church here.
"These are the loveliest people," Mrs. Rohrbach said.
In less than 12 hours, at least 450 stranded motorists poured into Valley View, about 60 miles north of Dallas, to escape nearly a foot of ice piled on the highway. They packed homes, all four churches and the high school gymnasium before spilling out into the town square and nearly every side street to huddle in their parked rigs and trailers.
Many of the town's 575 residents offered cots and blankets, doughnuts and milk or heartier fare. They opened their homes, ventured onto a treacherous highway to rescue the stranded, then stayed up all night to see them fed and sheltered.
"Most of these people pass by here all the time and now Valley View will hold some special memories for them," said Melodiee Blevins, who helped house and feed 125 storm-weary travelers at the First Baptist Church, where her husband, Jeff, is pastor.
"I don't think they'll forget us," she said.
Elsewhere in the nation, others were not so fortunate. Thirty people have died since the weekend as the huge storm cut a swath from Oklahoma through Missouri, leaving up to 16 inches of snow before blowing across the Eastern Seaboard into the ocean.
Storm warnings have been issued on the North Carolina coastal waters south of Virginia Beach, and 1 to 2 inches of rain flooded several roads. Residents of Pittsburgh, meanwhile, kept a wary eye on the rain-swollen Monongahela River.
In Arkansas, Gov. Bill Clinton asked federal officials for a disaster declaration for four northwest Arkansas counties after snow and ice crushed 280 poultry houses, leaving up to $35 million in damage and dead birds.
In all, the storm destroyed as many as 700 poultry houses in a four-state area, causing what could be the single biggest disaster ever to hit the poultry industry, said Lynch Butler, president of Simmons Industries Inc., of Siloam Springs, Ark. Poultry operations in Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas also were hit hard.
As it moved east, the storm knocked out electricity temporarily to 40,000 customers in Maryland and Delaware, and thousands more in Ohio and Pennsylvania.