Millions of Texans still reeling from water disruptions after last week's brutal Arctic blast

Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
·4 min read

Although temperatures warmed up across storm-battered Texas on Monday, millions still struggled with water shortages, boil water advisories and water damage from burst pipes, and about 12,000 customers remained without power.

As of Monday morning, more than 1,200 public water systems were reporting disruptions in service because of last week's weather, many of them leading to boil water notices, the Texas Council on Environmental Quality said.

"This is affecting more than 8.7 million people in 200 Texas counties," Gary Rasp, a spokesman for the council, told USA TODAY. Most of those 8.7 million are under boil water notices, he said.

Rasp said 147 public water systems serving a population of just under 120,000 people are nonoperational. Eight public water systems' wastewater treatment facilities have reported as nonoperational, he said.

In Austin, however, a boil water notice issued last week was lifted for parts of the city Monday morning, including downtown and areas of East Austin, Austin Water officials said.

"Customers in Austin Water’s central pressure zone no longer need to boil water used for drinking, cooking and making ice," Austin Water said.

Texas power outages: Winter storm could make life worse for Black and Latino families

In San Antonio, authorities said Sunday that water had been restored to 98% of the city.

And in Houston the boil water advisory was lifted late Sunday. "The historic freezing temperatures in Houston last week caused water pressure to drop throughout the city," according to a statement from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. "I appreciate everyone's patience as Houston Water crews worked nonstop to restore the pressure and gain the TCEQ's approval to lift the boil water notice."

However, in a tweet, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said "unfortunately, this doesn't apply to the millions dealing with burst pipes. This is not a disaster we will recover from overnight but we will continue to overcome together as a community. Be sure to check in on your neighbors during this challenging time."

More than 70 deaths have been linked to the intense cold and damaging storms that swept through a wide swath of the nation last week, about half of those in Texas.

Elsewhere, more than 26,000 homes and businesses in West Virginia and an additional 21,000 in Kentucky were without power Monday. That number was about 16,000 in Mississippi and over 18,000 in Oregon.

Although the power is back on for most Texans, some consumers are facing massive increases in their bills as the result of variable pricing offered by some electric service providers.

Houston resident David Astrein, a human resources director at a manufacturing company, said he’s been charged $2,738.66 so far this month versus $129.85 in January for a three-bedroom home with a detached garage. He and his wife stopped using their dishwasher, washer and dryer and turned on as few lights as possible at night. They kept the heat on for their 5-month-old son.

Many other outraged residents took to social media to show electricity bills ranging as high as $8,000. According to their screenshots, most are customers of Griddy Energy, a power supplier with a unique business model in which electricity is based on real-time prices in wholesale power markets, therefore exposing consumers to wild swings in prices.

Texas storm: They have chronic illnesses. Then, the power went out in Texas. "It's been emotionally exhausting."

The weather will cooperate for ongoing cleanup efforts across the central and southern U.S. this week. Although a rebound in temperatures began over the weekend, temperatures will moderate even further over the coming days, AccuWeather said. In fact, over the upcoming week, temperatures are forecast to surge to levels 30, 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit higher than during the depths of the frigid air from Feb. 13 through Feb. 16.

By Wednesday, highs are expected to range from near 40 in Chicago to the lower 70s in Houston, which will follow low temperatures from the middle of this past week ranging from 5 below zero in Chicago, to 13 above zero in Houston.

With the colder air locked up to the north in Canada, the warmth will be able to trickle as far as the Eastern Seaboard by the middle of the week, AccuWeather said.

Contributing: Kelsey Bradshaw, Luz Moreno-Lozano and Lori Hawkins, The Austin-American Statesman

Read more: Houston mayor calls power disaster 'foreseeable and preventable' as Texas warms up after historic storm

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texas water shortages, disruptions, power outages: Misery continues