Cities across Texas are preparing for widespread outages in cell phone and water services as the state continues to be pounded by a ferocious winter storm, which has already left millions without electricity.
Ravaged by the first storm on Sunday night, Texas’ power grid has taken a beating over the last 24 hours, leading to rolling blackouts across the state for around 4.3 million residents as officials rush to repair ailing infrastructure. The power outages have set off a cascade of other problems, knocking some water treatment plants and cell phone networks offline.
A number of cities in central Texas have warned of water issues, with a prolonged outage in the city of Pflugerville prompting local officials to ask residents to boil water before consuming it in order to destroy harmful bacteria. Manville and Taylor have issued similar notices.
Due to a prolonged power outage at the water treatment plant, Pflugerville is under a boil water notice. We are working with Oncor to restore power, but until further notice, all city water customers must boil their water prior to consumption. (1/3) pic.twitter.com/alhpeSfyaN
— Pflugerville, TX (@PflugervilleTX) February 15, 2021
Officials in Abilene said the city has lost water service altogether, leaving 124,000 residents entirely without a reliable source of drinking water on Monday night.
Due to power outages, there is now no running water in the city of Abilene, Texas (population 124,000)https://t.co/33chTpHpsFpic.twitter.com/6Laz3HxKki
— Steve Lookner (@lookner) February 16, 2021
Cell phone providers, including T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T, have also seen major outages amid the inclement weather, with the Down Detector site showing large disruptions of service throughout Texas.
Cell phone service is starting to break down over the region as back up generators at towers are freezing or running out of fuel or both.Increasing outages will be possible overnight.
— County Judge KP George (@JudgeKPGeorge) February 16, 2021
People at the Austin Fire Department are battling with the element that is usually on their side when they deal with blazes. Water pipes have been bursting by the hundreds throughout the city as it was gripped by extreme cold. Responding to them was a challenge, since the AFD have their plate full with other emergencies.
At 9:30 PM we are up to 582 Broken Water Pipe calls since midnight. Over 500 are since noon. We are attempting to respond to as many as we can amongst other priority calls. Dispatchers are almost continuously answering additional calls.
— Austin Fire Info (@AustinFireInfo) February 16, 2021
Suffice to say, dealing with occasional flooding from an exploded water sprinkler on top of congested roads and cold doesn’t make a trip to Texas the best experience at the moment.
I honestly am at a loss for words, apparently sprinkler systems freeze then explode here in Texas!! I know it could be worse, but somebody get me back to Jersey. pic.twitter.com/LWHTZPDd6g
— Niki Lattarulo (@NikiLattarulo) February 16, 2021
Governor Greg Abbott has been taking a lot of flak from Texans who are unhappy with how he has dealt with the crisis. He deployed the National Guard and allocated other resources to deal with the power outages. But people say the troops can’t help them make their homes warm again.
We don’t need the national guard. We need our power back on!!!!
— Karla Rosales (@KittyKat097) February 16, 2021
The public anger is shared by some elected officials, like Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who nevertheless suggested bottling up the emotions because right now it’s “about human and animal survival.” And it’s not that metaphorical. At least two people were reported killed during the storm, apparently perishing to hypothermia along Houston-area roadways.
The additional shed coupled with increased demand will likely increase blackout numbers and times. We should discuss how Texas let this happen. I understand your anger. I’m angry too. But tonight-right now- is about human and animal survival. Check on and help one another!
— Clay Jenkins (@JudgeClayJ) February 16, 2021
Some storm-trapped people in the Lone Star State wonder why the blackout has not become a bigger story for the national media. People can’t tweet when there is no power, so there you are – was one suggested explanation.
I think part of it is due to the lack of social media posts about it – but that’s due to not having power. I’m sure its going to get way more attention in a couple days once the horror stories start making their way into the media feeds.
— Randy Charboneau (@randycharb) February 16, 2021