DALLAS (NewsNation Now) — Four days after severe weather first hit Texas, less than 250,000 people remain without power, but a water crisis is growing across the state.
Authorities ordered 7 million people — a quarter of the population of the nation’s second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking it, following record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and pipes. 13 million are facing water service disruptions.
President Joe Biden spoke by phone Thursday evening with Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Biden “conveyed his support to the people of Texas in this trying time. He reiterated that the federal government will continue to work hand-in-hand with state and local authorities in Texas to bring relief and address the critical needs of the families affected,” a readout of the call said.
About 200,000 Texas homes and businesses remained without power as of 4:30 a.m. on Friday, down from about 3 million a day earlier.
Utility officials said Thursday evening limited rolling blackouts were still possible.
“We may see a lot of demand and there’s always a potential for generators to become unavailable. If the demand outskirts the supply we could have to go back to rotating outages, ” said an ERCOT official in a Thursday press conference.
The CEO admitted days in the dark has been unacceptable, but that a catastrophic blackout was avoided thanks to the controlled outages his agency trigged.
Gov. Abbott announced a wide-ranging investigation into ERCOT earlier this week. He also said that the CEO of ERCOT told him that the agency was prepared for the cold weather.
Other Texas legislators think it’s too soon for finger pointing.
“Let’s take care of people right now, our neighbors, our friends, get the power back online. I’m not saying there doesn’t need to be a day of reckoning, but that day probably needs to start next week,” said State Representative James Frank (R-Wichita Falls).
For now, families are scrambling to save their homes as days without power plus the frigid temperatures created plumbing catastrophes across Texas.
A Texas hospital already on the brink from COVID-19 now flooded from water damage caused by burst pipes.
In Clyde, Texas, community members showed up in droves with propane tanks and burning firewood to thaw out frozen pipes for the city’s water system. Without their work, the water flow would have stopped.
Blowtorches are even necessary for the emergency water delivery trucks that are freezing in route. One truck driver saying it freezes in only 30 to 45 minutes.
As of Thursday afternoon, more than 1,000 Texas public water systems and 177 of the state’s 254 counties had reported weather-related operational disruptions, affecting more than 14 million people, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he expects that residents in the nation’s fourth-largest city will have to boil tap water before drinking it until Sunday or Monday.
The extreme weather was blamed for the deaths of at least 46 people across the U.S., some while trying to keep warm. In the Houston area, one family died from carbon monoxide as their car idled in their garage. A woman and her three grandchildren were killed in a fire that authorities said might have been caused by a fireplace they were using.
Texans, for now, are doing what they can to cope with the water and power challenges as the temperatures remain below freezing and south central Texas is threatened by another winter storm.