Southern cities hit hard by storms face new crisis: No water
February 20, 2021 10:59 am
Southern cities slammed by winter storms that left millions without power for days have traded one crisis for another: Busted water pipes ruptured by record-low temperatures created shortages of clean drinking water.
Also the shut down of the Memphis airport on Friday left hospitals struggling to maintain sanitary conditions.
Texas authorities ordered 7 million people — a quarter of the population in 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.
About 260,000 homes and businesses in Tennessee’s largest county, which includes Memphis, were told to boil water because of water main ruptures and problems at pumping stations. Restaurants that can’t do so or don’t have bottled water were ordered to close. And water pressure problems prompted Memphis International Airport to cancel all incoming and outgoing Friday flights.
In Jackson, Mississippi, most of the city of about 161,000 had no running water. Crews pumped water to refill city tanks but faced a shortage of chemicals for treatment because icy roads made it difficult for distributors to deliver them, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said.
She laid blame on city water pipes that are more than 100 years old, saying they were not built to handle the freezing weather that the city was hit with as multiple storms dumped record amounts of snow across the South.
“We are dealing with an extreme challenge with getting more water through our distribution system,” said Lumumba.
The city was providing water for flushing toilets and drinking, but residents had to pick it up, leaving the elderly and those living on icy roads vulnerable.
Lisa Thomas said her driveway on a hill in Jackson was a sheet of ice. Her husband, who is on a defibrillator and heart monitor, has only enough heart medication to get him through Sunday because she hasn’t been able to go to the pharmacy.
“People are in dire need here,” Thomas said.
Water woes were the latest misery for residents left without heat or electricity for days after the ice and snow storms earlier in the week, forcing rolling blackouts from Minnesota to Texas.
Texas electrical grid operators said Friday that transmission had returned to normal for the first time since a storm knocked out power to more than 4 million customers. Smaller outages remained, but Bill Magness, president of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said the grid can now provide power throughout the entire system.