Millions under winter weather alerts as Texas faces water crisis

By Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, February 19, 2021
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11:40 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

Texas hospital used rainwater to flush toilets, president and CEO says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Dr. Marc Bloom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist, who is in charge of seven hospitals in the Houston area, said two of his facilities were completely without water for days. 

One of the hospitals ended up collecting rainwater and using it to flush toilets. 

Bloom said that when there are water issues — as hospitals have previously experienced during hurricanes — there is an influx of dialysis patients who surge into emergency rooms.

“Unfortunately, most dialysis now happens … through a couple of big chains nationally who have a lot of small sites that patients go to. And they're not on generators. They have water issues, they don't have water storage. … Hospitals become their backstop,” Bloom said. 

The system’s main hospital was treating about 15 patients at any given time in their conference room, he said. 

“It's a sacred duty, frankly, to take care of these individuals, but every one of our hospitals has been overwhelmed by dialysis patients. Every one takes conference rooms, creates triage centers and then creates areas within the hospital that normally wouldn't be a dialysis center,” he said.


8:22 a.m. ET, February 19, 2021

Nearly half of Texans remain under boil-water advisories 

From CNN's Travis Caldwell

As Texas begins restoring power after a devastating week of freezing temperatures and winter storms, the state is confronting a new crisis: overwhelmed water systems that could extend misery for much of the population.

Leaks caused by frozen pipes have pushed the water supply to the brink. About 13 million Texans, nearly half the state's population, remained under a boil-water advisory Thursday, according to Executive Director for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Toby Baker. More than 700 water supply systems are impacted.

In Austin alone, the state capital's water supply lost 325 million gallons due to burst pipes, Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros said during a news conference Thursday.

"We know that there are tens of thousands of leaks," Meszaros said. "As the fire department indicated they have responded to thousands upon thousands of burst pipes."

At the peak from Tuesday night into Wednesday, the system lost 325 million gallons, he said.

"That is an incredible amount of water. Nothing I've ever seen before," he said.

While temperatures in the 60s and 70s are expected to provide relief next week, some Texans face another round of record lows Friday night into Saturday morning. More than 25 million people were under a hard freeze warning through Friday morning for parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The conditions have placed Texans in dire circumstances all week, with many boiling snow for water or having to burn household items for heat.

Read more about the situation here.