AUSTIN (KXAN/AP) — States slammed by winter storms that left millions without power for days have traded one crisis for another: Broken water pipes brought on by record-low temperatures have created a shortage of clean drinking water.
Texas authorities ordered 7 million people — a quarter of the population of the nation’s second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking it because low water pressure could have allowed bacteria to seep into the system. A man died at an Abilene health care facility when a lack of water pressure made medical treatment impossible.
The water woes were the latest misery for residents left without heat or electricity for days after the worst winter storm in a generation.
Federal Emergency Management Agency acting administrator Bob Fenton said teams in Texas were distributing fuel, water, blankets and other supplies.
“What has me most worried is making sure that people stay warm,” Fenton said on “CBS This Morning,” urging people without heat to go to a shelter or warming center.
In many areas, water pressure dropped after lines froze and because people left faucets dripping to prevent pipes from icing, authorities said.
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.
Abbott urged Texas residents to shut off water to prevent more busted pipes and preserve municipal system pressure.
Two of Houston Methodist’s community hospitals had no running water and still treated patients but canceled most non-emergency surgeries and procedures for Thursday and possibly Friday, said spokeswoman Gale Smith.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said residents will probably have to boil tap water in the fourth-largest U.S. city until Sunday or Monday.