Water crisis in South persists following devastating winter storm

Half a million Texans and most of Jackson, Mississippi, are without water.

March 1, 2021, 1:55 PM

Hundreds of thousands of residents in the South are still dealing with the after effects of two devastating winter storms as cities struggle to provide drinking water.

Residents in Jackson, Mississippi, are still under a boil water alert, and some residents still do not have running water after the back-to-back winter storms last month wreaked havoc on the city's water system.

While significant progress was made Sunday on restoring pressure to the system, and water for flushing toilets was restored on Monday, the city's water system does not have a time table on when a full restoration will be complete, ABC Jackson affiliate WAPT reported. Water was previously expected to be fully restored by the end of last week, Charles Williams, the city's director of public works, told the Jackson City Council on Tuesday.

Mississippi National Guard soldiers put hand sanitizer and masks in place for residents in Jackson, Miss., Feb. 24, 2021. The soldiers also distributed non-potable water to residents due to a water outage after last week's winter storms.
Eric Shelton/Clarion Ledger via USA Today

Jackson resident Taylor Corso told ABC News that residents were so desperate to flush their toilets they collected snow and melted it in their tubs to add to the reservoir tank.,

On Wednesday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves dispatched the National Guard and more tanker trucks to Jackson to aid in the water crisis.

Corso said many people in the city do not have the means to "just go and get bottled water" or even go to distribution centers to fill up their own containers.

"Our most vulnerable citizens really aren't -- that's not something that's super accessible to them."

Jackson resident Terri Hall told WAPT that water has only been dripping from her faucet and that what little comes out is mixed with sediment. She has been without water for 10 days.

"We can't bathe in this, because if there is microbes in the water, they can enter your mouth, eyes, and nose, and can't wash dishes because you don't want to ingest that way," she said.

Doris Devine in Jackson, Miss., stores containers with potable water in her tub, Feb. 22, 2021. With no water pressure, the water will be used to flush the toilet.
Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Corso said in the past, problems have been solved within one to four days.

"So the time is extensive here, and it's so widespread -- I mean, tens of thousands of residents here are without any water," she said.

In Texas, more than half a million people are still under boil water advisories, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. At one point, more than 14.4 million people, about half of the state's population, were affected by weather-related water disruptions.

Although the boil water advisory was lifted in Houston on Feb. 21, thousands of homes are still without water after pipes burst in freezing temperatures, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced on Sunday.

"They still do not have water, so there is a tremendous need," Turner said.

Leovardo Perez, right, fills a water jug using a hose from a public park water spigot, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston.
David J. Phillip/AP

About 10,000 people showed up to a distribution center Sunday to pick up cases of water and meal kits, Turner said.

Turner has requested more supplies from FEMA so licensed plumbers can continue to repair the pipes, according to the release.

A "Product Limits' sign is seen next to water shelves in a supermarket in Houston following winter storm Uri that left millions without power and caused water pipes to burst, on Feb. 20, 2021.
Francois Picard/AFP via Getty Images

Business agent Rick Lord told ABC Houston station KTRK that when he recently went to a local hardware store, the plumbing section was empty, describing it as "Black Friday on steroids in the plumbing aisle."

ABC News Radio's Jim Ryan reports:

ABC News' Will Gretsky and Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.

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