Millions Without Water As Texas Starts To Recover After Winter Storm
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Texas begins the weekend largely with power but without access to clean water. We have Houston Public Media's Gail Delaughter now with us with the latest.
Good to have you with us after this tough week.
GAIL DELAUGHTER, BYLINE: Thank you, Scott.
SIMON: We hear nearly half the state has problems with water.
DELAUGHTER: Well, you know, here in Texas, the big problem right now is we don't have the same sort of insulation for pipes that you may see in some colder climates. So if those pipes froze, there's probably some sort of damage. And with everything we're seeing around the state, it's probably going to be a while before you can get someone in to fix it.
So as a result of this, communities that do have water coming through the tap right now - they're under orders to boil the water until it's tested to see if it's safe to drink. And with outages and everything going on around the state and also a limited number of labs that do that testing, it might be a while to get those results back.
Now, as for why people have to boil their water in the first place, that's to guard against any contamination. It could've happened after the water pressure dropped or because - when the pipes broke or water treatment that was disrupted because of the power outages.
SIMON: And there are reports that people are going to extremes to find water, aren't they?
DELAUGHTER: Well, we're seeing pictures coming out of San Antonio where people actually went to the River Walk to dip jugs of water into the river so they could get nonpotable water they could use to flush their toilets. In other places, we're hearing about people thawing ice that collected in their yard during the ice storm to use that for the same purpose.
Meanwhile, local governments are quickly having to swing into action. They're organizing mass distribution events to get both drinkable and nonpotable water to people. And then also, local supermarket chains are trying to replenish their supplies right now.
SIMON: What about hospitals and other critical care facilities?
DELAUGHTER: Well, Houston hospitals say they were very busy during the weather event the past few days, and a lot of them had to improvise, just like the homeowners were. One hospital said they actually had to collect rainwater to flush their toilets. And the thing you have to remember here - this is in the middle of the pandemic, when sanitation remains an utmost concern right now.
Now, on top of this, a lot of dialysis patients were coming into hospitals. Their regular clinics were closed because of the weather, and they simply had nowhere to get their treatment, so they had to come to the hospital. And those facilities essentially had to set up makeshift dialysis clinics.
SIMON: I gather Houston has better weather now. It'll soon be up in the 60s. How soon will a return to anything like normal life be?
DELAUGHTER: Well, the weather is going to get back to normal as soon as today here in the Houston region. We're going to see temperatures in the 50s around much of the state right now. People today - they're going to be regrouping. They're going to be assessing what pipe damage, what damage they have to the water delivery system to their home.
And then also, the effort remains this weekend to get food and water to people who need it. There's a lot of grassroots mutual aid organizing going on right now. County commissioners, city council members are out having these events where they can get water to people. So despite the nicer temperatures we're expecting going into next week, you still have a lot of people dealing with the aftereffects. And as those repair needs keep piling up around the state, it could be a while before some people get their full services back.
SIMON: Gail Delaughter of Houston Public Media, thank you so much.
DELAUGHTER: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.