Finally Warm Again, Greater Houston's Winter Storm Recovery Continues

Houstonians lined up at plumbing supply stores this weekend to get tools to fix their busted pipes.
Houstonians lined up at plumbing supply stores this weekend to get tools to fix their busted pipes. Photo by Reggie Mathalone
After a weekend of mostly sunny skies, Texans are thankful to be on the other side of a week of devastating cold that brought the state to its knees. Across greater Houston, residents who are glad to have made it through this latest Lone Star crisis are still surveying the damage and picking up the pieces.

On Sunday afternoon, the city of Houston finally declared its water was safe for human consumption after most of the city had been on a boil notice since Wednesday morning, as directed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner celebrated the news at a city water distribution event Sunday; Over the last several days, the city has given away “almost three million bottles of water” according to Turner.

“I appreciate everyone’s patience as Houston Water crews worked nonstop to restore the pressure and gain the TCEQ’s approval to lift the boil water notice,” Turner said.

Plenty of folks have been less worried about water quality than they’ve been about the quantity of H20 that flooded out of burst pipes caused by last week’s awful cold weather. Scores of residents lined up at plumbing supply stores across the region looking for materials to help with do-it-yourself repairs, which many will have to resort to since it may be awhile before slammed plumbers can respond to all the calls that have come in since last week.

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There wasn't a steak in sight at a Missouri City H-E-B this weekend as locals flocked to fill their empty fridges.
Photo by Gary Beaver
Those who had to throw out entire fridges full of food after losing power for days on end have been flocking to local grocery stores to resupply, only to be met limits on how much meat they could buy and in some instances with picked-over aisles and empty shelves.

Local health departments restarted COVID-19 vaccinations and testing in Houston, Harris County and Fort Bend County over the weekend as well; the Houston Health Department invited 4,784 city residents to come in for their second vaccine doses on Saturday and Sunday.

In a Sunday update on the state’s storm recovery, Gov. Greg Abbott spoke in San Antonio about what his administration has been doing to help Texans in need. For starters, he said the state is working to bring in plumbers from out of state and has made it easier for lapsed Texan plumbers to get re-certified.

On the food front, Abbott referenced orders he issued to have the state cover overtime payments for Texan meat inspectors and to allow delivery trucks to deliver non-booze supplies like food and water to state grocery stores.

Abbott reminded Texans that President Joe Biden has issued a major disaster declaration which opened up funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help cover the costs of storm damages not covered by insurance in 77 Texas counties, including greater Houston area counties like Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery, Brazoria and Galveston.

Texans can see if they qualify and apply for aid by visiting FEMA's disaster assistance website. State emergency management director Nim Kidd said more counties may be added in the days ahead.

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Gov. Greg Abbott announced the state utility commission has told electric companies to pause sending bills for now.
Abbott also mentioned reports of Texans getting massive electricity bills after the winter storm sent the state’s lightly-regulated energy market into a tizzy that caused prices to skyrocket. He held an emergency meeting with state leaders about those sky-high bills on Saturday, and said that the state’s Public Utility Commission is issuing “a moratorium on customer disconnections for non-payment.” Abbott then said that the PUC is “going to restrict electric providers from sending customer invoices at this time.”

After days of widespread power outages, only around 30,000 Texas homes were without electricity on Sunday, Abbott said.

Taking the mike from the governor, San Antonio Food Bank CEO Eric Cooper shared the tragic story of one Hill Country family caught between the state’s two dueling disasters. “The husband and wife had tested positive for COVID and were quarantined trying to keep their kids from getting the virus when their power and their water were shut off,” Cooper said.

“In that cold night,” he continued, “those kids were trying to get in bed to get warm with the parents, and they were just saying ‘You can’t come, you can’t come in.’ This disaster, this week, has been tough.”

Cooper said the best way people can help get food to struggling Texans is by donating to Feeding Texas to support food banks across the state.

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AOC said all Americans should lend a hand to Texans in need during these trying times.
Photo by Jack Gorman
Feeding Texas and other Texan charities received a huge boost from U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in recent days, after the New York Democrat helped raise over $4 million for Texas storm relief since Thursday. On Saturday, Ocasio-Cortez joined U.S. Reps. Sylvia Garcia and Sheila Jackson Lee at the Houston Food Bank to help distribute food to residents in need.

“When disaster strikes, this is not just an issue for Texans. This is an issue for our entire country,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

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New York Congreswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (center) joined U.S. Reps Sheila Jackson Lee (left) and Sylvia Garcia (right) at the Houston Food Bank Saturday.
Photo by Jack Gorman
Not to be out-shined, Sen. Ted Cruz shared a few photos of him helping out at a local water distribution event on Saturday, two days after returning from his well-documented jaunt to a resort in Cancún with his family.
Better late than never, senator. Welcome home!
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Schaefer Edwards is a staff writer at the Houston Press who covers local and regional news. A lifelong Texan and adopted Houstonian, he loves NBA basketball and devouring Tex-Mex while his cat watches in envy.
Contact: Schaefer Edwards