Deep Freeze Causes Problems Across the South; Broken Water Mains Plague Cities

Deep Freeze Causes Problems Across the South; Broken Water Mains Plague Cities

2021-02-22 17:57:03

Tennessee workers ran hard on Sunday to fix water pipes that failed in freezing temperatures, and shipments of COVID-19 vaccines resumed as the South continued efforts to recover from the winter weather that paralyzed parts of the nation.

In Texas, where millions of people endured days of bitter cold without power, officials urged President Joe Biden to visit as soon as possible.

Last week, four inches of snow fell in Memphis, followed by a persistent cold snap. Predicting temperatures to rise into the 1950s, the city expected the snow and ice accumulating on streets, sidewalks and roofs to melt significantly. The storms also left more than 330,000 people from Virginia to Louisiana without power.

At least 76 deaths have been attributed to weather across the country. The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed two weather-related fatalities in Sumner County on Saturday, bringing the current number of road deaths in the state to 10.

Now the problem is not enough water.

Memphis remained under a cooking advisor on Sunday after officials said they were concerned that low water pressure caused by problems at outdated pumping stations and an eruption of plumbing bursts could lead to contamination. Memphis, Light, Gas & Water has not said when it expects to lift the advice, which has been in effect since Thursday.

The utility's president and CEO, J.T. Young, compared the situation to a hospital patient in critical condition.

“We're in the red status, if you will,” Young said Saturday.

About 260,000 homes and businesses were under the advice. Hospitals and nursing homes switched to bottled water. The Tennessee National Guard supplied St. Francis Hospital with water.

The nearby Baptist Memorial Hospital admitted some of the St. Francis patients, especially those who needed dialysis, said Dr. Jeff Wright, a lung and intensive care physician at Baptist. That hospital has a water purification system for dialysis and has water reserves for tasks such as cooking and bathing patients, he said.

City officials handed out water bottles at various locations on Sunday. Supermarkets struggled to keep shelves stocked with bottled water. Many restaurants remained closed.

Flights resumed Saturday at Memphis International Airport after everything was grounded on Friday due to water pressure issues. Some problems persisted, but airport officials are deploying temporary toilets.

Meanwhile, workers in Kentucky and West Virginia struggled with repairs to broken utility poles and downed pipes.

According to Appalachian Power, about 37,000 customers in West Virginia were still without electricity on Sunday, up from a peak of 97,000. The utility planned to use helicopters and drones on Sunday to track down problems in remote areas. Some houses have been out of power since the successive ice storms on February 11 and February 15.

City workers repair a broken water pipe in McComb, Miss. On Thursday, February 18, 2021. . (Matt Williamson / The Enterprise-Journal via AP)

The company has identified approximately 1,500 individual locations that need to be repaired and warns that work will remain difficult during repairs. In Wayne County, workers had to replace the same post three times because trees kept falling on it.

About 30,000 customers were without power in Kentucky on Sunday, including more than 14,000 Kentucky Power customers in the state's eastern reaches, according to, a website that tracks outages.

Utility officials said some of their customers are still recovering from the recent crippling winter weather, particularly in Boyd, Carter and Lawrence counties. More than 2,000 Kentucky Power employees, rangers and assessors were busy restoring power.

Meanwhile, in central Tennessee, power outages continued for about 3,300 residents as of Sunday.

Water issues also plagued parts of Mississippi. In Jackson, most of the city with about 161,000 on Fridays had no running water. Crews pumped water to refill city tanks, but faced a shortage of chemicals for treatment as icy roads made it difficult for distributors to supply them, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said.

He said the city's water pipes are over 100 years old and were not built to withstand the freezing weather that hit the city, as multiple storms dropped record amounts of snow over the south.

“We are facing an extreme challenge to get more water through our distribution system,” said Lumumba.

The city provided water to flush toilets and drink, but residents had to pick it up, leaving the elderly and those on icy roads vulnerable.

Meanwhile, the White House said about a third of the storm-delayed COVID-19 vaccine doses were delivered over the weekend. The weather lagged about 6 million doses as power cuts closed some vaccination centers and freezing weather stranded the vaccine in shipping hubs.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told ABC's "This Week" that about 2 million of the 6 million doses have been dispensed.

"We expect to catch up quickly this week," she said.

In Nashville, Tennessee, Dr. Alex Jahangir, the leader of the local COVID-19 task force, which vaccinated more than 2,300 seniors and teachers on Saturday as the city resumed shooting after days of treacherous weather.

Due to the winter mess, local health officials last week vaccinated more than 500 people with doses that would otherwise have passed, including hundreds in homeless shelters and residents of a historically black neighborhood who were mostly seniors with underlying health problems.

President Joe Biden is eager to visit Texas, which was particularly badly hit by the weather, Psaki said. Biden hopes to travel to the state this week, but "doesn't want to take resources away" from the response, she said.

& # 39; He would like to go to Texas and show his support, & # 39; she said. "But he is also very aware that it is not a light footprint for a president to travel to a disaster area."

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told CBS & # 39; Face the Nation & # 39; that Biden can come at any time.

& # 39; We would certainly welcome him, & # 39; Turner said.

Texas Rep. Michael McCaul told CNN & # 39; s "State of the Union" that federal disaster relief can be used to help Texans with skyrocketing utility bills, fix cracked pipes, and fix flood damage.

Associated Press authors Jonathan Mattise in Nashville, Tennessee, John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia, Hope Yen in Austin, Texas, Leah Willingham in Jackson, Mississippi; and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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