As large parts of Texas endure another day of a power crisis amid still-frigid winter weather, issues with water systems have added to the misery for almost a quarter of the state’s population.
Nearly 7 million Texans were under boil water notices as of noon Wednesday, according to Toby Baker, executive director for Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
The extreme winter weather earlier this week and accompanying problems— water facilities without power and lines that have broken due to freezing — have forced 276 water systems to issue boil water notices, he said.
Nearly 264,000 people live in areas where water systems are not operational.
The winter weather has caused blackouts in Texas that Wednesday night affected 1.8 million customers, according to tracking website poweroutage.us.
In Houston, more than 1 million people remained without power Wednesday, the city’s mayor said. The city’s public works department has gotten more than 1,500 calls about water leaks and water main breaks since Monday, officials said.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said on MSNBC that the majority of her community, which includes Houston, is under a water boil notice, “but they don’t have power to boil the water.”
Galveston had broken water lines across the island because of freezing temperatures and is under a boil water notice. The city of 50,000 said that with power off for so long there had been an “unprecedented” number of broken pipes in homes.
“Now that power is slowly coming back on and temperatures are rising, we are experiencing a massive amount of water damage to homes and businesses,” the city said in a statement.
Freezing overnight temperatures are expected to continue for days in parts of Texas. Southeast Texas isn’t expected to see highs in the 50s until Saturday during the day, the National Weather Service in Houston said.
Even after the power is restored and the ice begins to melt, each water system will need bacteriological sampling to clear those boil water notices, Baker of the commission on environmental quality said.
Sampling can take up to 24 hours, he said, and the state will work to get help from neighboring states.
In places with water, the cold temperatures with lack of power have caused pipes to burst in homes.
“We literally just got our power back a half-hour ago after 61 long hours of freezing in this house,” Stacey Silverman of Dallas said Wednesday in an interview with Peacock’s Zerlina Maxwell.
Silverman’s 79-year-old mother has been staying in the house because her pipes burst in the cold and flooded her home.
She blamed the state for what she said was years of neglect and underinvestment. “This is not a natural disaster, what happened,” she said. “… Our state government has completely failed us.”
The winter weather was also affecting other parts of the South. Winter storm warnings or advisories stretched from South Texas to Philadelphia and New England on Wednesday night, according to the weather service.
Storms have played a role in at least 34 deaths in eight states, including deaths from traffic crashes. Three people were killed in a tornado in North Carolina on Monday, and a woman and child died in Houston on Tuesday due to carbon monoxide poisoning after a car was used for heat in a home without power, officials said.
Three deaths in Louisiana were blamed on the winter storm, including a 50-year-old man who slipped and fell on black ice, the health department said.