Leaks from frozen pipes have brought the water supply to the brink of collapse. About 13 million Texans, nearly half the state’s population, were advised Thursday to boil their water, said Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. More than 700 water systems have been affected.
In Austin alone, the capital’s water supply has lost 325 million gallons due to broken pipes, Greg Meszaros, director of Austin Water, told a news conference Thursday.
We know there are tens of thousands of leaks, Messaros said. According to firefighters, they were responding to thousands and thousands of burst pipes.
The system lost 325 million gallons at its peak from Tuesday night to Wednesday, he said.
That’s an incredible amount of water. I’ve never seen anything like it, he said.
Although temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s should bring relief next week, some Texans should expect a new colder record the night of Friday to Saturday morning. Friday morning, more than 25 million people were subject to a severe freeze warning in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Because of these conditions, the Texan was miserable all week, having to burn household items or boil water in search of heat.
In Carrollton, just north of Dallas, John Mays, Jon Milton Blackburn and their three children have had no heat or water in their home since last Monday. To light the chimney, the family had to pull out the baseboards to stay warm.
It was that or we would sit down next time, Mays told CNN’s Don Lemon on Thursday.
After a water pipe burst, the family fled to their church and were grateful to the local government for providing them with heating equipment.
This is a big lesson for us about the importance of community and the importance of staying together as a community, Mr. Mays said.
Water scarcity warnings
Overnight, authorities warned that while electricity supplies had been largely restored across the state, water supplies remained extremely poor.
Waco Mayor Dillon Meek urged residents and industrial and commercial customers to use water sparingly because of the lack of supply.
According to Meek, all companies must reduce their water consumption by at least 50%. He also urged car washes and laundromats to remain closed on weekends. Restaurants were encouraged to use paper plates and other disposables instead of doing the dishes.
Our water supply is severely limited. We’re pumping for all we’re worth right now, but the biggest problems we’re facing right now are leaks and high workloads, Meek said in a video message Thursday. We pump twice as much as we normally do in a day.
If the situation worsens, some areas could run out of water depending on the pressure in the river system and the altitude, he warned.
And if the system continues to deteriorate, firefighters won’t have enough water to put out the fire, he said. Our city’s team has developed and continues to work on alternative methods of fire protection.
There was already a department in the San Antonio area at the time.
Bexar-Balverde Fire Chief Jerry Bialik said Thursday that water supply was a major problem as firefighters battled a large apartment fire in San Antonio.
Right now, the ceasefire is working pretty well. Our biggest concern is the water supply, Mr. Bialik said.
How you can help storm victims in Texas.
Many of the fire hydrants on the property were frozen and no water was available, Mr Bialik said. Crews had to walk across the road to fill their dinghies on the water.
That’s our problem. Once we get a little further from the fire, our water runs out, he says.
Bialik told KABB, a subsidiary of CNN, that the firefighters are supposed to work through the night. There were no injuries.
Broken pipes, combined with unacceptable freezing temperatures, have caused damage to countless homes and businesses.
Thomas Black of Dallas shared on social media a viral image of ice cubes hanging from a ceiling fan. On Thursday, he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that he and his girlfriend were fine and that he had used boiling water after getting a tip from strangers.
He said many of his neighbors are forced to travel to other plants, but expressed concern about the meetings in light of the current Covid 19 pandemic.
Lack of willpower… Our infrastructure is just not ready for something like this, Black said when asked how the water got on the fan.
Mr Black also posted other photos of his apartment building showing flooded corridors, water dripping from the ceilings of storage rooms and frost on the inside entrances.
When asked why he decided to publish these photos on social media, Mr Black replied: I don’t know why I’m so happy to publish them: I think the blood of every Texan must be boiling that this is the reality we live in. We are in a bad situation and it is getting worse.
Government response to hurricanes
Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday that the state has asked the federal government for a disaster declaration allowing eligible Texans to apply for assistance for damaged pipes and related property damage, according to a news release.
President Joe Biden spoke Thursday with Abbott about the winter storms, and a White House statement said the president shared his intentions to direct other federal agencies to consider what immediate steps can be taken to help Texans.
Abbott also plans to ask the Legislature for permission and funding to winterize the Texas power grid, according to a news release.
Abbott spoke Thursday about the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the state’s electrical grid and has taken responsibility for interruptions in the delivery of heat and power to Texans during storms.
I take responsibility for the current status of ERCOT. Again, I think what happened is unacceptable, he said.
We have already begun the process of making sure events like this never happen again in Texas, starting with reform of the Texas Electric Reliability Agency, which did not take place this week, Abbott said.
Five days before the arrival of the winter storm, ERCOT’s CEO assured, and I quote We are ready for the cold temperatures.
CNN has contacted ERCOT for comment on the governor’s recent statements.
In a statement Thursday, ERCOT said it had made significant progress overnight in restoring power. Nevertheless, the ongoing cold weather has affected the system’s power generation and there could be outages in the coming days, the company said.
ERCOT officials also stated that the power grid is seconds or minutes away from a catastrophic outage and a complete blackout unless the controlled outage is implemented early Monday.
According to Poweroutage.us, about 200,000 customers in the central and eastern regions of Texas were still without power at the start of the day Friday. More than 3 million power outages have been reported so far during the storm surges.
Rob Shackelford, Dave Alsup, Holly Silverman, Raja Razek, Allison Flexner, Matt Hoy and Keith Allen contributed to this report.