The number of households without power in Texas dropped below one million on Thursday morning for the first time in four days, but many people remained without electricity or safe drinking water after winter storms wreaked havoc on the state’s power grid and utilities.
This week’s extreme weather has been blamed for the deaths of more than 30 people across the United States, some of whom perished while struggling to keep warm inside their homes. In the Houston area, one family succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning from car exhaust in their garage. Elsewhere, a grandmother and three children died when flames escaped the fireplace they were using to keep warm.
More than 320,000 homes and businesses in Texas were still without electricity Thursday morning, down from about three million the day before. But Texas’ grid manager, under fire for its response to the winter storm, has warned that the outages could fluctuate during hours of peak energy demand.
Drinking water affected
Adding to the misery, the snowy weather has jeopardized drinking water systems throughout the state.
Texas officials ordered seven million people — a quarter of the population in the nation’s second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking it following days of record-low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and froze pipes.
In Austin, some hospitals faced a loss in water pressure and, in some cases, heat.
“Because this is a state-wide emergency situation that is also impacting other hospitals within the Austin area, no one hospital currently has the capacity to accept transport of a large number of patients,” said David Huffstutler, CEO of St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, in a statement.
Water pressure has fallen across the state because lines have frozen, and many residents are leaving faucets dripping in hopes of preventing pipes from freezing, said Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott urged residents to shut off water to their homes, if possible, to prevent more busted pipes and to preserve pressure in municipal systems.
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