Live Updates

Texas faces heat and water crisis in wake of winter storm

Texans struggle through unprecedented power outages after storm
01:47

What we covered here

Our live coverage has ended for the day. You can read more of our winter storm coverage here.

23 Posts

Good Samaritan drove around Austin helping those in need

Andrew Bost on February 20.

Austin resident Andrew Bost spent his week driving around helping those who got stranded or needed assistance during the winter storms that pummeled the state. 

“I got out in my four-wheel-drive truck when the snow hit, just to see how the truck would do. I found somebody who needed to be pulled out, so I did that,” he told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield. 

Bost said he looked online for more volunteering opportunities and found others who were using their four-wheel-drive vehicles for good. 

“I pulled some people out of ditches, I delivered some meals, I delivered some boiled water, I gave a ride to a nurse to a hospital, I cut some trees out of roads — just whatever I could find that needed to be done,” Bost said.

“In Texas, we don’t often need four-wheel-drive, but this was that rare opportunity when it was absolutely necessary. And so it was good to be able to help people when I had the tool to do it,” he added.

All those he helped expressed a lot of gratitude, he said. 

Dallas resident says he was charged nearly $7,000 on electric bill

DeAndre Upshaw on February 20.

Dallas resident DeAndre Upshaw says it was “very shocking” when he saw that he was charged nearly $7,000 on his electricity bill. 

“While I’m trying to get gas and groceries and make sure that my pipes don’t explode, the last thing I’m thinking about is a $7,000 bill from my utility company,” Upshaw told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield. 

Upshaw said he attempted to switch his electric provider from his current one — called Griddy — to another, but his new company kept pushing back his start date. 

After he noticed his bill hit about $1,000, he switched his credit card on file to one with a limit so he would not continue to be charged. Upshaw said he did not lose power for a majority of the time, yet he was charged even though they were conserving energy.

He said neighbors and friends who have Griddy told him the charges “knocked out their entire checking account, went into their savings account, they can’t pay their rent.” 

Upshaw said he will figure out the bill and is thankful that he still has his health after the storm and amid the Covid-19 pandemic. 

More on the energy market in Texas: Customers in Texas have options in how they are billed for their electricity, according to the Public Utility Commission of Texas’ (PUCT) website. If you go with a fixed plan, your price for electricity is fixed and doesn’t fluctuate with the market. However, there are also market rate plans that are tied directly to the price utility companies pay for electricity.

Griddy operates exclusively on the latter. Their website touts that customers “pay exactly the price we buy electricity at” and that their model “beats the [Texas] average 96% of the time.” 

When the winter storm wreaked havoc on Texas’ power grid, power prices shot up and so did bills for customers on market rate plans. Griddy said it urged “members switch to another provider with a fixed rate,” according to a statement from the company.

“While we value our members, we want what is best for their wallet and family even more, even if that means helping them switch away to our competitors,” the company added.

Now, PUCT is taking action. According to a statement released today, the utility regulator says they have “launched an investigation into the factors that combined with the devastating winter weather to disrupt the flow of power to millions of Texas homes.”

Read more here.

City of Austin receives more than 10,000 cases of water

The City of Austin told CNN they’ve received more than 10,000 cases of water to distribute throughout Austin, delivering more than 5,000 of them to critical facilities like shelters.

On the electricity front, Austin’s electric utility said outages in the city are under 10,000 for the first time since outages peaked at around 220,000 earlier this week.

Remember: Austin Water lost 325 million gallons of water total as thousands of private customers pipes burst amid sustained freezing temperatures this week. Officials in Austin are optimistic they could have water restored by the end of the weekend.

Austin family fills up water jugs at brewery to have enough to drink

Seven-year-old Stella Hoang.

A family in Austin said they were at a brewery to fill up jugs of water so they have enough to drink. 

“We’re scrambling,” according to Anthony Hoang, who said his family has been without hot water since Monday.

Seven-year-old Stella told CNN’s Omar Jimenez that the week has “hard” because the power has been out. Her brother Sam said it’s been “weird.” 

Meredith Steiner said the family was in “panic mode last night that we didn’t have enough drinking water.” 

“We would love showers. But we’ll get that when we get our water turned back on. But mainly it was just to have enough drinking water. Our dishes can wait, laundry can wait.”

She said “someone needs to be held accountable” for the crisis. 

Texas state regulator says it's trying to prevent a spike in natural gas prices

A warning sign for an underground natural gas pipeline stands near Sunray, Texas, U.S., on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020.

Texas’ Railroad Commission said it’s working to keep natural gas flowing into the state in an effort to “avoid situations where customers may get unusually high bills in the coming weeks.”

In a statement released Friday, it said it’s working with “energy producers, pipeline operators, and electric regulators to provide the support they need for natural gas deliveries.”

“Texans have gone through enough hardship during this winter storm without having to worry about unexpected additional energy costs,” Commissioner Wayne Christian said in the statement.

“Our agency will do everything in our power to ensure utilities have plenty of time to get caught up on these unexpected expenses, so consumers are not unduly burdened.”

The release comes as some electricity customers in Texas have been reporting outrageous energy bills stemming from storm price surges.

Although established as a railroad regulator, the commission has been regulating the oil and gas industry in the state from “almost 100 years,” according to the group’s website.

Austin and Houston water systems are coming back online, but boil advisories remain

The water systems in Austin and Houston, both hit hard by the Texas winter storms, are on their way to being fully restored, officials in both cities announced today.

In Houston, the water system is “at [the] normal operating pressure citywide,” Carol Haddock, the director of Houston Public Works, announced at a news conference earlier.

Haddock also noted that they city was beating the water pressure goals it set for itself last night.

Yesterday, the city said that most residents should have water by the end of the day. Haddock did note today, however, that the city remains under a boil advisory.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner reiterated that the goal was to lift that advisory by Monday but added that it “could be a day or two on either end.”

Meanwhile, Austin is more than halfway to restoring the minimum water pressure needed to push water through its system, according to the city’s water utility.

The system needs 100 million gallons minimum in storage to maintain a healthy system, and as of Saturday morning, officials said they were “at 50.43 million gallons and climbing.”

Winter storms hampered food distribution efforts for those hard-hit by pandemic, food bank CEO says

Derrick Chubbs, president and CEO of the Central Texas Food Bank.

Texas’ winter storms compounded the Covid-19 pandemic’s effect on food insecurity, according to Derrick Chubbs, president and CEO of the Central Texas Food Bank.

He told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield that he’s heading to a mass food and water distribution site today, and he’s been told the parking lot is already full. 

Chubbs also said the food bank is “literally just getting back on our feet” because pipes burst and it needed to be closed all week. 

With a boil-water notice still in effect for Austin, Chubbs said “we’re all reaching out all across the country to try and get water.” 

Record snowfall begins to melt

The winter storms that hit Texas hard this week have now cleared, leaving clear skies in their wake. Due to these clear skies you can see the expanse of snow across the contiguous US, from satellite imagery.

About 65% of the lower 48 – all of the United States minus Alaska and Hawaii – is still covered in snow with a snow depth that averages six inches.

Earlier this week a record 73% of the lower 48 was covered in snow.

As the skies clear and temperatures warm, the snow will continue to quickly melt across much of the southern and central US.

Texas officials investigate outrageous energy bills in storm price surge

Some customers in Texas are facing outrageous hikes in their energy bill as a result of this week’s storm, causing one energy company to suggest that their customers find another provider with a fixed rate if prices were too extreme.

Customers in Texas have options in how they are billed for their electricity, according to the Public Utility Commission of Texas’ (PUCT) website. If you go with a fixed plan, your price for electricity is fixed and doesn’t fluctuate with the market. However, there are also market rate plans that are tied directly to the price utility companies pay for electricity.

Griddy, a power company in Texas, operates exclusively on the latter. Their website touts that customers “pay exactly the price we buy electricity at” and that their model “beats the [Texas] average 96% of the time.” 

When the winter storm wreaked havoc on Texas’ power grid, power prices shot up and so did bills for customers on market rate plans.

Griddy urged “members switch to another provider with a fixed rate,” according to a statement from the company.

“While we value our members, we want what is best for their wallet and family even more, even if that means helping them switch away to our competitors,” the company added.

Now, PUCT is taking action. According to a statement released today, the utility regulator says they have “launched an investigation into the factors that combined with the devastating winter weather to disrupt the flow of power to millions of Texas homes.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbot also announced that he has convened an emergency meeting to look into the matter. 

“It is unacceptable for Texans who suffered through days in the freezing cold without electricity or heat to now be hit with skyrocketing energy costs,” Abbott wrote in a statement. “To protect families, I am actively working with the Lieutenant Governor, the Speaker of the House and members of the Legislature to develop solutions to ensure that Texans are not on the hook for unreasonable spikes in their energy bills,” he added.

PUCT also took steps to make it easier for customers to go with a temporary “Provider of Last Resort” and lifted the typically higher rate associated with going with that option. However, according to PUCT’s website, this program is designed for customers whose usual electric company is “unable to continue service” not customers voluntarily leaving their provider in an effort to save money, as Griddy suggested.

CNN has reached out to PUCT for clarification but did not immediately hear back.

For its part, Griddy is laying the blame for the situation squarely at PUCT.

“Here is what we do know: the market is supposed to set the prices, not political appointees,” the company wrote in a Thursday statement about the high prices.

Griddy added that it was also seeking relief from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT as it is commonly known, and the PUCT for its customers who were exposed to the high prices.

“Griddy is continuing these efforts and is committed to crediting customers for any relief, dollar-for-dollar,” according to a statement.

The company also said it also wants to “continue offering innovative products and services in the retail energy market in Texas.”

Here's an update on the water situation in Austin

Marie Maybou melts snow on the kitchen stove on February 19 in Austin, Texas. 

Austin is more than halfway to restoring the minimum water pressure needed to push water through their system, according to the city’s water utility.

The system needs 100 million gallons minimum in storage to maintain a healthy system, and as of Saturday morning, “We are at 50.43 million gallons and climbing.”

In an update this morning, Austin’s water utility also gave insight to how exactly they lost water by describing how their system works. 

“Our system is a series of pressure zones that are supplied from large storage tanks called reservoirs. When we lost storage in all reservoirs across the city, it triggered a city-wide boil water notice.”

Remember: Austin Water lost 325 million gallons of water total as thousands of private customers’ pipes burst amid sustained freezing temperatures this week. Officials in Austin are optimistic they could have water restored by the end of the weekend.

Houston doctor describes "harrowing" and "scary" experience for hospitals

Dr. Richina Bicette.

Dr. Richina Bicette, associate medical director at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, described how winter weather had caused “a completely harrowing experience” for her Texas hospital. 

“We were not prepared at all. The guidance we got before the storm was that, you know, it would be cold, roads would freeze, don’t drive. There was no suspicion we would be without electricity, with below-freezing temperatures outside or that people would be without water. We’re in Texas. This isn’t a winter state,” she told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield.

She said that Texans aren’t taught how to wrap or insulate pipes to prevent them from bursting since such cold weather is so infrequent, adding that having people trapped in their homes under such conditions has led to other medical issues.

“We’ve seen a lot of cases come from this winter storm — including people who have been burned in fires, entire families who have had carbon monoxide poisoning because of the water outages. A lot of people who are on dialysis, for example, are missing dialysis and showing up to hospitals extremely sick, or people who use medical equipment that require electricity, showing up requiring oxygen and [are] very, very sick,” Bicette said.

Emphasizing that hospitals rarely close, she described the difficult conditions that staff is having to deal with and how “scary” the situation remains.

“Aside from not having water or having poor water pressure, we’re now under a boil-water notice. The water coming out of the pipes isn’t even safe to drink or necessarily to put on your skin. We have been making do with the resources we have, but things are getting to be a little scary and a little dangerous, because, again, we’re having such a high influx of sick patients coming in. There aren’t enough staff to take care of these patients right now,” Bicette added. 

Watch:

02:39

Texas mayor expresses frustration with state leaders as residents still don't have power and water

Mayor Larry Wallace.

Larry Wallace, mayor of Manor, Texas, which is outside of Austin, says thousands in his city still do not have electricity or water. 

He expressed frustration with electric companies and state leaders for a lack of communication. 

“I’ve been trying to get in contact with the organization Oncor Electric and was able to make contact almost three or four days into the winter storm to be able to find out what is going on, and [there’s] still really no true timeframe of when they’re going to get the electricity almost a week in of no electricity,” he told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield. 

“We have people without electricity and without water going on almost a week, and all they’re getting is the same generic information being pushed out by the companies,” he added. 

Wallace said that high-level politicians such as Gov. Greg Abbott are a “lost hope” for assistance. 

“I’ve lost all faith in senior leadership. They have proven time and time again over the last 12 months, and for us having three declared disasters: Covid, … this threat on violence that Gov. Abbott declared here and renewed it back in January, and then now the inclement weather.”

Wallace explained that some residents with his city’s ZIP code are actually part of Austin or other county areas. 

“I think we’ve learned through Covid, like a lot of the smaller cities, and definitely suburban and rural towns that … can’t necessarily rely on those regional services that restrict in times of criticality, right? So we’ve had to create overnight organizations and entities try to overnight teach people these jurisdictional lines and the red tape and how to work around those things to take care of the communities we have,” he said. 

Watch:

Texas governor calls major disaster declaration "an important first step"

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announces the reopening of more Texas businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic at a press conference at the Texas State Capitol on May 18, 2020 in Austin, Texas. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott thanked President Biden for approving a major disaster declaration for the state but noted that the declaration was short of what he asked for.

“I thank President Biden for his assistance as we respond to impacts of winter weather across our state,” Abbott said in a statement released today.  

“While this partial approval is an important first step, Texas will continue to work with our federal partners to ensure all eligible Texans have access to the relief they need,” he added.

Abbott had requested Individual Assistance and Public Assistance in all 254 of Texas’ counties, according to his statement. However, both he and the Biden administration noted that only 77 counties were ultimately approved for Individual Assistance.

Individual Assistance makes federal funding available to people in the form of grants for temporary housing and home repairs or low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, according to the White House statement.

Neither Abbott nor Biden explained the rationale for the discrepancy.

Demand for a warm place to stay was "unbelievable," Texas hotel manager says

Marty Miles.

Marty Miles, the general manager of a hotel group in Galveston, Texas, says that water just got back to full pressure in his main hotel last night.

“We took as many guests as we felt we could and still provide safe service,” he said, as demand was overwhelming with residents trying to find warmth amid freezing temperatures. 

The hotel cut off availability at 60%, he said, and took in about 25% of their staff without heat, power or water.  

For four days, “we had basically no power, only emergency generator power, and our emergency generators don’t control heat, so we had little to no heat,” he said. “We had no water for two-and-a-half days and then intermittent and very low pressure water… We’ve had to individually flush toilets as needed for our guests.”

Miles said they have a well-detailed plan for disasters like hurricanes, but this was unprecedented. 

“Unlike a hurricane, the hardest part is that you don’t know when it’s going to stop. Typically hurricanes last a day or so, and then you can immediately begin the recovery effort. In this case, because of the rolling blackouts and not knowing when the water would be back, it was a complete stop and go, stop and go. … So every time we thought we were in the clear, two hours later, it started over. So that’s the most difficult part,” he said. 

Watch:

NY Rep. AOC is in Texas to help those affected by the winter storm

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Democratic Texas Reps. Sylvia Garcia and Sheila Jackson Lee, as well as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, spoke at a news conference outside the Houston Food Bank where they said they plan to help Texans affected by the winter storm. 

Ocasio-Cortez raised money ahead of the visit and said 100% of the funds will go to five to 10 organizations to help Texans affected by the winter storm.

“You know, when disaster strikes, this is not just an issue for Texans, this is an issue for our entire country,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “As was mentioned earlier, disasters don’t strike everyone equally when you already have so many families in the state and across the country that are on the brink, that can’t even afford an emergency to begin with.”

“You know, we really need to make sure that we’re getting food and assistance to people across the state, as was mentioned here, at the Houston Food Bank, no questions are asked,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

“That’s the New York spirit, that’s the Texas spirit and that’s the American spirit,” she added.

Garcia said she was glad Ocasio-Cortez was there to help Texans. She also said she believed the state leaders should have responded better and said there should be an independent investigation of the grid. 

“(Disasters) hurts the vulnerable populations even more,” Garcia, who spoke first, said during the press conference. “My district was totally in the dark. And I know people are still hurting today … we’ve got repairs to make.”

“And now help is here with my good friend Rep. Ocasio-Cortez sent me a text and said, well I want to do something, so I immediately said, ‘Whatever you do include the Houston Food Bank,’” she said. “You know, we’re from Texas right? Who does things with New York? We always kind of make fun of New York. But this time we love New York.”

Garcia also called for accountability to investigate how Texans were so affected by the disaster.

“We’re not here to do anything other than talk to people,” Garcia added. “The response could be better from our state leadership. It could have been better in preparation, and it better, step up and it’d be better in doing a full independent investigation on why this incident happened, why they didn’t weatherize, why didn’t they prepare, what are they going to do, and make sure they do it in a transparent fashion, fair and equitable fashion.” 

She added: “There will need to be reforms with ERCOT and I urge the legislature to do that. And then should include looking at whether or not to join the federal grid. I think everything should be on the table, Texas did not want to go through this again. They want accountability.”

ERCOT as it’s commonly known is the Texas state power grid: The Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Jackson Lee said she was worried for her constituents when calls came in from people, including children, who were afraid they would die overnight from the freezing temperatures. 

“This leaves me at an unspeakable and emotional moment,” she said.

WATCH Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s comments:

00:32

Biden approves Texas disaster declaration

President Joe Biden departs after delivering remarks at a virtual event hosted by the Munich Security Conference in the East Room of the White House on February 19, in Washington, DC.

President Biden has approved a major disaster declaration for Texas, unlocking more federal resources to assist the state. 

“Yesterday, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. declared that a major disaster exists in the State of Texas and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe winter storms beginning on February 11, 2021, and continuing,” the White House said in a written statement on Saturday.

Biden already approved an emergency declaration for the state last weekend, but the major disaster declaration would allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide more resources and assistance, including, for example, supplementing insurance to help individuals with uncovered costs or other costs to make homes habitable.

The White House statement explained:

“Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
Federal funding is also available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures and hazard mitigation measures statewide.”

Biden met with acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton on Friday and expressed his intent to sign the declaration, which stems from a request by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Texans tell us how they fought to stay warm and seek shelter

Across Texas, millions have been without access to power this week, leaving them in the dark with no heat and water.

Hear their first-hand stories of how they fought to stay warm, struggling with burst pipes and searching for shelter.

Watch the video:

01:47

Texas struggles to get back to normal in the wake of winter storm

Mark Majkrzak gives out bottles of Rain Pure Mountain Spring Water to people in need on February 19, in Austin, Texas. 

An unprecedented winter storm left four million people without power across Texas this week, and put nearly half of the state’s residents under a boil-water advisory.

Much of the state is still dealing with near-freezing temperatures and officials are warning some lingering power outages could drag on for days.

Here’s a look at the latest developments:

  • More than 15.1 million people are facing water disruptions, many with notices to boil their water, broken pipes and failing systems amid the frigid cold and power outages state officials said.
  • As of Saturday morning, some 85,000 customers remained without power in Texas, per PowerOutrages.us. In some locations, residents have been without power for several days.
  • Hospitals are grappling with a series of issues, including water, staffing and supply chain disruptions, due to severe weather across the state, Carrie Williams, spokesperson for the Texas Hospital Association, said in a statement Friday. Many hospitals don’t have running water or are facing low water pressure or pipes have burst, according to the statement. The hospitals are also under boil-water notices.
  • Covid-19 vaccinations have been delayed across many hospitals and public health partners due to the weather and shipping delays.
  • Millions of homes have had their power restored since the peak of the outages and nearly 300 warming centers have been opened across the state. For the first time in more than four days, the energy emergency that caused millions of Texans to lose power and sparked a water crisis has ended, the state’s grid operator, Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), announced on Friday.
  • Texans will get some relief from the cold today. Saturday morning temperatures may be as low as 20 degrees for many inland locations, including Dallas and College Station, but the welcome return of onshore winds and full sunshine will warm the state into the 50’s and 60’s in the afternoon, CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam said. Most of the state will stay above freezing after that initial thaw.
  • President Biden said he plans on traveling to Texas next week, with the caveat that he would only do so if his visit doesn’t further burden the state.

Here's how you can help Texas winter storm victims

Unprecedented winter storms blanketed Texas, causing bitter cold temperatures and widespread power outages throughout much of the state.

While much of the power in the state has been restored, residents continue to face freezing temperatures and water shortages due to overwhelmed water systems and leaks caused by frozen pipes.

President Biden has declared a state of emergency, which makes people eligible for federal assistance. Still, the need for help is immediate as many struggle to find shelter, food and warmth in these dangerous freezing conditions.

You can donate to any of the organizations listed by clicking this link or the button below:

  • The Salvation Army provides shelter, food, and other necessary items to those in need throughout Texas.
  • The American Red Cross is supporting at least 35 warming centers with cots and blankets across the state.
  • In Austin, the area Urban League has started the #LoveThyNeighborTX campaign to raise money for hotel rooms, food, water, clothing and other basic needs of the housing insecure communities.
  • Mercy Chefs is providing hot meals, clean drinking water and USDA Farmers to Families grocery boxes in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
  • The Houston Food Bank is also distributing food to those in need.
  • Austin small business Free Lunch is making deliveries of home-cooked meals, blankets, hand warmers and hygiene kits to the Esperanza Community residents, a state-sanctioned shelter/campsite in the city.
  • The Other Ones Foundation is also providing resiliency kits for residents of the campsite. The kits include basic needs for those experiencing homelessness.
  • Dallas-area organizations Austin Street Center, OurCallingThe StewpotUnion Gospel Mission, and Oak Lawn United Methodist Church are pooling funds to help pay for temporary shelter as well as Covid-19 rapid tests for those in need.
  • Lucille’s 1913 Community Kitchen is preparing and distributing meals in the Houston area.
  • Caritas of Austin also helps those experiencing housing insecurity in the Austin area. You can support their work by making a monetary donation or ordering items from their Amazon wish list to be shipped directly to the center.
  • The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County is supporting warming centers throughout Houston and Harris County.
  • Austin Pets Alive! is working to keep pets across Texas warm and safe during the freezing conditions. The group needs heating pads, Styrofoam coolers, dog beds, heat lamps and monetary donations.

Impact Your World will continue to update this list as more organizations respond.

Here's the latest weather forecast for Texas

Temperatures across the southern Plains and Texas are below freezing right now for many locations.

This has prompted hard freeze warnings to be issued for over 10 million people from south Texas to Mississippi until 9 a.m. CT this morning.

Over 30 daily low temperature records are also possible across the region this morning.

This will be the last frigid morning across the state as temperatures are forecast to climb into the 50s and 60s by this afternoon.

More than 15.1 million people are impacted by water disruptions in Texas

Volunteers load cases of water into the bed of a truck during a mass water distribution at Delmar Stadium on February 19 in Houston.

More than 15.1 million people have been impacted by water disruptions in Texas as of Saturday morning, according to Gary Rasp, Media Relations Specialist for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

In a statement emailed to CNN, Rasp said that more than 1,300 public water systems have reported service disruptions due to weather.

“As of 7 a.m., more than 1,300 public water systems have reported disruptions in service due to the weather, affecting more than 15.1 million people, many of them leading to Boil Water Notices.” 

“189 counties in Texas are affected” by the disruptions, Rasp added.

Hospitals grapple with water, staffing and supply issues after winter storms

Emergency Medical Services workers load ambulances at Saint David's Medical Center in south Austin, Texas, after the hospital suffered water problems along with large swaths of the Austin metro area on February 18.

Hospitals in Texas are grappling with a series of issues, from burst water pipes to supply chain disruptions, due to severe winter weather across the state, the Texas Hospital Association said Friday.

Many hospitals don’t have running water or have burst pipes, low pressure and boil water notices, according to a statement from Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for the association.

Hospitals also have staffing issues, as some employees have had to stay on site to care for patients, putting a strain on the hospitals’ supply of food, linens and water.

Other supplies and medication stocks are running low, although there are some supply trucks moving today, Williams said.

“Hospitals are ready for anything. But this was a sprawling natural disaster that hit us statewide and arrived on top of the pandemic,” Williams said.

Many of these issues are faced by a pair of Houston community hospitals, who have been struggling with water and power woes stemming from the freezing temperatures and winter storms.

“You’ve seen this year that all across the country, people have stepped up and made things happen,” Dr. Ben Saldana, the medical director for Houston Methodist’s emergency departments, said of the latest crisis confronted by health care providers.

“We are the safety net for our public in the emergency department, our hospitals and doctors or nurses getting together to make sure patients have a safe place and are cared for,” he said.

Houston Methodist West and Houston Methodist Baytown hospitals were operating without water until Thursday. Water was back on Friday but there were still issues with low pressure, according to Saldana and a hospital spokeswoman.

“As more of our area hospitals were without power and water, many of their patients ended up at our facilities,” Saldana told CNN Friday.

That has meant “kind of bifurcating the ER into an area where Covid is unlikely and an area where it could be possible,” he said. “As the volume of dialysis patients increased, this became very difficult. Five out of six patients that need dialysis three times a week had no place to go this week. And we are still struggling with that … It’s become a very difficult proposition for those patients.”

The pandemic had forced the Houston hospitals – like many around the country – to operate in crisis mode most of the past year.

Covid-19 vaccinations have been delayed across many hospitals and public health partners due to the weather and shipping delays.

Patients who were discharged have stayed in hospital lobbies because they either don’t have transportation to return home or can’t return home due to power outages, according to Williams.

There is also a delay in trash pickup due to vendor issues, Williams said.

The Houston Methodist hospitals have water now but the city’s boil order is still in place “so we still have water challenges,” Gale Smith, spokeswoman for Houston Methodist hospitals, said via email.

“All our hospitals are doing some elective procedures, but we are on our way to being fully operational,” she added. “Covid vaccine administration is full speed ahead at all Houston Methodist sites.”

Texans will get some relief from the cold today

An aerial view from a drone shows electrical lines running through a neighborhood on February 19, in Austin, Texas. 

The brutal temperatures, ice and snow once had power out for millions of Texas, but as of early Saturday morning, only about 85,000 people in the state were left in the dark, according to PowerOutage.US. However, more than half the population – more than 14.9 million people – had disruptions in their water service as of Friday, according to Tiffany Young, a spokeswoman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Texans will get some relief from the cold Saturday, although many in the state are still without basic utilities.

Saturday morning temperatures may be as low as 20 degrees for many inland locations, including Dallas and College Station, but the welcome return of onshore winds and full sunshine will warm the state into the 50’s and 60’s in the afternoon, CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam said. Most of the state will stay above freezing after that initial thaw.

A weak cold front is expected Sunday evening, but is expected to bring only minimal impacts.