Austinites fight cold by warming hearts and hearths


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist J.P. HARRINGTON

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

Posted on January 6, 2014 at 11:14 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 6 at 11:21 PM

AUSTIN -- For those who ventured outside Monday, there was only one way to describe it.

"Very cold," said one University of Texas student walking briskly down Guadalupe Street Monday afternoon. Another, Mark Daniel, described things even worse.

"Terrible!" said Daniel. "I just came from D.C. down here and I thought it was going to be warm. And I'm freezing my you-know-what off."

While the winter weather combined with the holidays can have a chilling effect in parts of Austin, business is on fire in others -- literally.

"It's been busy since Thanksgiving, really," said Harley Goerlitz, who's been selling firewood around the 183 and Anderson Mill area for the better part of 30 years. A non-stop parade of trucks circled through the yard Monday, picking up piles of wood destined for cozy fires to fight the freeze.

"This year's been the best," said Goerlitz, who sold through more than 17 cords of wood on Monday alone. "We just can't supply enough really. We're trying."

Over the years Goerlitz has become a sort of local legend. In addition to selling firewood, Goerlitz is an award-winning competitive barbeque cook whose skills on the pit have landed him national recognition. Along with firewood, he sells his own home-made barbeque seasoning out of his 183 location.

While some in Austin are warming hearths, others are warming hearts. Terry Cole with Austin's Street Youth Ministry spent Monday afternoon handing out donated winter clothing to homeless youth near the University of Texas campus.

"Every time it freezes, we come out with some blankets and coats and everything that's been donated and hand it out to our street dependent clients," said Cole, who also makes sure the youth know their options for finding a warm bed sheltered against the cold.

"We need help all year round," said Cole.

Items most in need include adult-sized practical shoes, which can be donated at St. Austin's Catholic Church in Guadalupe Street. Go here for more information on Street Youth Ministry.

"For young people, this program is good," said Deryle Anderson, who planned to find space at a city shelter, and hopefully watch the BCS college football championship game, on Monday night. "It's better than having no place to go."

Streets in flood-damaged Onion Creek stood largely empty Monday night, and the few houses with power or a trailer stood locked up tight against the cold. The one thing almost everyone seems to agree upon: "It's cold enough."