As It Happens

Plumber drives from New Jersey to Texas with his family to help with storm repairs

A plumber and his family drove 22 hours from New Jersey to Texas to help repair people's homes after a devastating winter storm.

Andrew Mitchell says he’s focusing on people with no running water who need help most urgently

New Jersey plumber Andrew Mitchell, right, and his apprentice Isaiah Pinnock, left, have been offering up their supplies and services in storm-ravaged Texas. (Submitted by Kisha Pinnock)

A plumber and his family drove 22 hours from New Jersey to Texas to help repair people's homes after a devastating winter storm.

Andrew Mitchell and his brother-in-law Isaiah Pinnock loaded their truck with as much plumbing supplies as they could afford on Sunday and drove from Morristown, N.J., to Houston, where they have been working around the clock to help people with burst pipes and no running water.

Mitchell's wife Kisha Pinnock and their two-year-old son Blake are also along for the ride.

"It's a family operation," Mitchell told As It Happens guest host Peter Armstrong. "I just needed all hands on deck, as much help as I could get, and … these people are my backbone."

The Valentine's weekend storm in the southern U.S. wreaked havoc on Texas. Unusually frigid conditions led to widespread power outages and frozen pipes that burst and flooded homes. Millions of residents lost heat and running water, and at least 40 people died.

Getting things back up and running has been a struggle as supplies are running low and state plumbers are worn thin. Some families are staying in hotels or with relatives because they have no running water at home and there are weeks-long waiting lists to access plumbing services, Pinnock said. 

Mitchell and Pinnock say they have been working non-stop, with 15 jobs on the roster for Friday alone. 

"We're going to be working well into the night," Pinnock said.

The pair say they've maximized how many people they can help by prioritizing house calls for folks with no running water. For people with simpler issues, they've been offering step-by-step guidance over FaceTime.  

"Where we see the most needs have been in the smaller communities, in the residential houses where a lot of these bigger plumbing companies, they're flocking towards the bigger-ticket repairs — you know, the apartment building or the commercial jobs or the three-storey houses and stuff like that," Pinnock said.

"We show up into some of these subdivisions where people are on fixed incomes."

They aren't working for free, but they are offering flexible rates based on what people can afford.

"We've been meeting a lot of people halfway because we're not really out here to make money," Pinnock said.

After driving to Texas from New Jersey, Mitchell and Pinnock have been giving priority to households with no running water, often in smaller communities with less access to plumbing services. (Submitted by Kisha Pinnock)

Pinnock says people have been extremely grateful, especially when they realize how far he and Mitchell have come. 

"They're brought to tears. They send us all God's praises," he said. "It's really moving and it's really touching us that we're able to be a blessing to all these people."

Mitchell runs Mitchell's Heating & Plumbing LLC back in New Jersey, and says it was no easy feat to get where he is today. 

"I really love doing plumbing. That's one thing. And the second thing [is] it took me so long and so many obstacles to get my plumbing licence, and I really just felt like I wanted to give back to the community," he said. 

His work is already inspiring one person. 

"When we load our tools up, my son is right there, like, 'Help? Help? Can I help, Daddy?' And he's grabbing tools and putting them on the truck," Mitchell said.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview with Andrew Mitchell and Isaiah Pinnock produced by Sarah Cooper. 

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