Free masks cause something not seen in a while: I-45 traffic jam

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The demand was so high for masks during a giveaway at Gallery Furniture Friday morning that traffic backed up on the North Freeway.

Between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m., owner Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale and volunteers gave out 15,000 masks to drivers who pulled up.

But it had an unexpected side effect: a traffic jam.

Although there was a crash in the area, which backed up traffic further, lines were already forming, with nothing but back-to-back taillights captured on Houston TranStar cameras.

TranStar even commented on Instagram that traffic was mostly green around the city, unless you were near Gallery Furniture.

"Shoutout to @jimmcingvale AKA Mattress Mack!" TranStar wrote.

RAW VIDEO: Traffic backups on North Freeway for Gallery Furniture mask giveaway
EMBED More News Videos

Even though the line is moving, we're seeing traffic on the freeway for the first time in a while.

Though most Houston drivers might shake their fists at heavy traffic on a normal day, we know the times are anything but normal, and this traffic snarl was for a good cause.

The event was an effort to get the public much-needed supplies before Harris County's mandatory mask order rolls out Monday.

Some people started lining up as early as 1 a.m. One mask was given per person per car on a first-come, first-served basis.

Mattress Mack is known for being active in our community, especially when times get tough.

Since the pandemic started, he has been coordinating boxed food deliveries to seniors, passing out food at his store, and Gov. Greg Abbott even appointed Mack to his special advisory council called the Strike Force to Open Texas, a committee tasked with safely and strategically restarting the Texas economy.
Mack says he is just doing what he can to help people out in this uncertain time.

"I think it's important that it's priority that we all stay safe, and I'm on the economic board to get Texans back to work. So, we got to stay safe, number one. We gotta get back to work. Number two, we're trying to do both of those things," Mack told ABC13.

If you were unable to get to the giveaway, other mask distribution opportunities are coming up this weekend at area churches.

The first is Saturday, April 25 at Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church on 902 W. 8 St. The second event is Sunday at Cliffdale Baptist Church on 854 Enterprise St.

Both events will run from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

You can see the full list of events coming up for next week at churches by checking this list.

Harris Co. mask order official and comes with $1,000 fine
EMBED More News Videos

Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Turner want to flatten the curve, but the mandate already has been criticized.

County by county breakdown on mandatory mask orders
EMBED More News Videos

Under the order, residents 10 years old and older will be required to wear a covering, starting Monday, April 27.

Follow Charly Edsitty on Facebook and Twitter.
Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.