Texans face repairs after winter storm as officials work to restore water, power


SAN ANTONIO (NewsNation Now) — On Sunday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott addressed the state from San Antonio to give the latest on relief efforts for residents in the wake of the devastating winter storms.

The Sunday afternoon briefing comes a day after Abbott met with other state officials to discuss concerns over possibly costly energy bills for residents after the weather. Abbott provided an update on emergency efforts to get all Texans power, water and food.

Safe drinking water and water service, in general, remain the biggest issue affecting Texans. Abbott says “water is being restored to communities across the state.”

“We understand the enormous challenges that Texans are facing because of either power outages or shortages of water,” Abbott said.

In conjunction with the Texas National Guard, the Department of Defense and FEMA, there have been an estimated 3.4 million bottles of water brought into the state over the past few days.

Abbott says eight helicopters and four airplanes have completed 44 missions, delivering 1.4 million bottles of water around the state. Additionally, Abbott says more than two million bottles have been delivered through 162 truck deliveries.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality says 14.9 million Texans were on a boil water notice two days ago. As of Sunday afternoon, boil water notices have been rescinded for five million Texans over the last 48 hours.

Thousands of Texans are also dealing with broken water pipes and other damage. The next move for many is calling a contractor or filing a damage claim. But solutions aren’t coming quickly.

Plumber Chris Jones with Fox Service Company says contractors are in such high demand, people with damage could be waiting weeks.

“We’re at about two weeks right now,” he said. “By the time we’re able to actually repair and replace everything, it’s probably going to be a month or two out.”

Jones added that Fox Service Company has gotten more than 1,200 calls in the last four to five days regarding both plumbing and AC issues.

For a group of neighbors in the Star Ranch subdivision of Hutto, water damage sounds like a good problem to have. About four homes sustained significant damage when sewage backed up into their homes Thursday. The homes are utility customers of Williamson County MUD 22. Crossroads manages the utility’s water and wastewater services and told NewsNation affiliate KXAN cold temperatures may have prompted a generator failure.

David Hiatt said he couldn’t save most of the first floor of his home after the sewage backup. His family’s unsalvageable furniture sits out in the front yard.

“There’s a lot of puns that can go with it,” said Hiatt. “We’re up crap’s creek, and we don’t have a paddle.”

Hiatt said he started gutting his home when he knew he wouldn’t be able to get a reclamation contractor to his home.

“I think we’ve talked to 12 companies,” said Hiatt’s neighbor, Shay McMinn, who also had sewage back up in her home. “We’re on waiting lists but we’re told it’s at least three weeks.”

Abbott says the state is “stepping up” to help with busted pipes due to the winter storms. Texas is bringing in more plumbers to meet demand. Abbott says to contact your insurance agent and your local emergency response coordinator for reimbursement on home or apartment damages.

Abbott says there are about 30,000 Texans without power. He believes power will be restored to all Texans by Sunday night or Monday morning.

“The ability for power to be generated in Texas is at full capacity,” Gov. Abbott said.

Abbott reiterated his stance that state leaders “have a responsibility to protect Texans from spikes in their energy bills.”

The Texas Public Utilities Commission held an emergency meeting Sunday to announce a moratorium on customer disconnections for non-payment of electric and power bills. The moratorium will “restrict 11 providers from sending customer invoices at this time,” Abbott says. This pause will give the state time to address the electric and power billing challenges that Texans are seeing.

To apply for assistance online, visit disasterassistance.gov. To do so over the phone, call (800) 621-3362. The lines will be in operation every day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

A spokesperson with FEMA says applicants should hear from the federal agency within a few days.

NewsNation affiliate KXAN contributed to this report.

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