San Francisco Chronicle

States scram­ble to re­pair power, wa­ter ser­vices

- By Juan Lozano, Jonathan Mat­tise and Adrian Sainz Juan Lozano, Jonathan Mat­tise and Adrian Sainz are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers. Weather · Water Security · Disasters · Social Issues · Society · Houston, TX · Texas · Houston · Houston Food Bank · Greg Abbott · Memphis · Mississippi · West Virginia · Virginia · Kentucky · Oregon · Greater Houston · Memphis International Airport · Anahuac, TX

HOUS­TON — Hos­pi­tals across the South grap­pled with wa­ter short­ages Sun­day as the re­gion car­ried on with sweep­ing ef­forts to re­cover from last week’s par­a­lyz­ing win­ter storm.

At the height of the storm, hos­pi­tals were left scram­bling to care for pa­tients amid record cold, snow and ice that bat­tered parts of the coun­try more ac­cus­tomed to go­ing through win­ter with light jack­ets and short sleeves. The icy blast rup­tured wa­ter mains, knocked out power to mil­lions of util­ity cus­tomers and con­trib­uted to at least 76 deaths.

A ru­ral hos­pi­tal in Anahuac, Texas, about 50 miles east of Hous­ton, lost both wa­ter and power. Wil­liam Kiefer, CEO of Cham­bers Health, which runs the hos­pi­tal along with two clin­ics and a well­ness cen­ter, said the fa­cil­i­ties re­sorted to backup gen­er­a­tors and wa­ter from a 275­gal­lon stor­age tank. They re­filled it three times us­ing wa­ter from a swim­ming pool in the well­ness cen­ter.

Wa­ter was re­stored Thurs­day, and op­er­a­tions had re­turned to nor­mal on Sun­day, he said.

After tem­per­a­tures plunged as much as 40 de­grees below nor­mal last week, the fore­cast for the Hous­ton area called for a high of 65 de­grees Sun­day. The city lifted its boil­wa­ter ad­vi­sory on Sun­day af­ter­noon. Still, hun­dreds of cars lined up at NRG Sta­dium to re­ceive food and wa­ter from the Hous­ton Food Bank.

Gov. Greg Ab­bott said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Sun­day that he was con­cerned about the threat of huge elec­tric bills after whole­sale en­ergy prices sky­rock­eted while power plants were off­line. He said it would be the “top pri­or­ity” for the Leg­is­la­ture, and he vowed not to end the leg­isla­tive ses­sion un­til law­mak­ers en­sure that the state’s power grid is retro­fit­ted to han­dle ex­treme win­ter and sum­mer weather.

In Mem­phis, which counted 10 inches of snow last week, the main util­ity is­sued a boil­wa­ter ad­vi­sory on Thurs­day out of con­cern that low wa­ter pres­sure caused by prob­lems at ag­ing pump­ing sta­tions and wa­ter main rup­tures could lead to con­tam­i­na­tion. The ad­vi­sory was still in place Sun­day; util­ity of­fi­cials said they did not know when they might lift it.

City of­fi­cials dis­trib­uted bot­tled wa­ter at sev­eral lo­ca­tions Sun­day. Gro­cery stores strug­gled to keep shelves stocked and many restau­rants re­mained closed.

Flights re­sumed Satur­day at Mem­phis In­ter­na­tional Air­port after ev­ery­thing was grounded Fri­day be­cause of wa­ter pres­sure prob­lems.

Nearly 230,000 cus­tomers across the na­tion were still without power as of Sun­day, ac­cord­ing to Power­Outage.us. The largest black­outs were in Mis­sis­sippi, Texas, West Vir­ginia, Ken­tucky and Ore­gon.

 ?? Justin Sul­li­van / Getty Images ?? Vol­un­teers pack­age food aid at NRG Sta­dium in Hous­ton for distri­bu­tion to res­i­dents who are still without run­ning wa­ter and elec­tric­ity after last week’s ma­jor win­ter storm.
Justin Sul­li­van / Getty Images Vol­un­teers pack­age food aid at NRG Sta­dium in Hous­ton for distri­bu­tion to res­i­dents who are still without run­ning wa­ter and elec­tric­ity after last week’s ma­jor win­ter storm.

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