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US: Millions in Texas scramble for drinking water after devastating winter storm

Winter storms devastate US after a year of Covid lockdown -- and it's nowhere near over

  Winter storms devastate US after a year of Covid lockdown -- and it's nowhere near over There is no fine time for a devastating barrage of winter storms, but it's hard to imagine the weather icing over much of the United States coming at a less opportune moment. © THOMAS SHEA/AFP/Getty Images Customers wait in line to enter Frontier Fiesta on February 17, 2021 in Houston, Texas. - A winter storm has caused rolling black-outs through out the Houston and the surrounding areas for the past 48 hours.

A historic winter storm that knocked out power and froze pipes across Texas has left many families scrambling for safe drinking water

More than 1,100 public water supply systems reported weather-related disruptions in service on Friday morning, impacting over 14.4 million people, about half of the state's population. Many of those affected remain under a boil-water advisory due to concerns about potential contamination, according to a spokesperson for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

MORE: How to keep your water safe

Water treatment plants across Texas have suffered power outages since a storm swept in earlier this week, blanketing the Lone Star State in snow and ice. Boil-water advisories remain in effect for most of the state's major cities, including Austin, Arlington, Galveston, Houston, San Antonio and parts of Forth Worth.

Texas storm: Nearly half of Texans remain under boil-water advisories as water scarcity and freezing temps continue

  Texas storm: Nearly half of Texans remain under boil-water advisories as water scarcity and freezing temps continue As Texas begins restoring power after a devastating series of outages during a week of freezing temperatures and winter storms, the state is confronting a new crisis: overwhelmed water systems that could extend misery for a vast swath of the population. © THOMAS SHEA/AFP/Getty Images A man looks for information on his cell phone as he rest at the George R. Brown Convention Center on February 17, 2021, in Houston, Texas. - A winter storm has caused rolling black-outs through out the Houston and the surrounding areas for the past 48 hours.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who said a pipe burst in his own home, has warned residents to be prepared to boil their water -- if they have any -- before consumption or use until at least Sunday or Monday.

a person in a blue cup: A water bucket is filled as others wait in near freezing temperatures to use a hose from public park spigot, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston. © David J. Phillip/AP A water bucket is filled as others wait in near freezing temperatures to use a hose from public park spigot, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston.

Many people still don't have water or lack power to boil it. There were 189,865 customers without power in Texas on Friday morning, down from a peak of over 4.4 million on Monday, according to data collected by PowerOutage.US.

MORE: Tips for staying safe in a power outage

The Public Utility Commission of Texas, which regulates the state's electric, water and telecommunication utilities, issued an order on Wednesday evening, mandating that all electric transmission and distribution utilities perform rolling blackouts so that no customer is without power for more than 12 hours.

Texas hospitals are running out of water. Some facilities are now evacuating patients for their safety.

  Texas hospitals are running out of water. Some facilities are now evacuating patients for their safety. As millions of Texans remain without power, hospitals throughout the state have lost water and heat, leaving doctors scrambling to conserve resources and care for vulnerable residents. That dire scene captured a growing crisis for hospitals in the state. As millions of Texans remain without power for what could be days, hospitals throughout Texas have now lost water and heat, leaving doctors scrambling to conserve resources and coronavirus vaccine shots while caring for vulnerable residents.

a man standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Father John Szatkowski of St. Paul The Apostle Church sweeps water from a broken water line out of his church in Richardson, Texas, Feb. 17, 2021, after a winter storm brought cold temperatures. © Tony Gutierrez/AP Father John Szatkowski of St. Paul The Apostle Church sweeps water from a broken water line out of his church in Richardson, Texas, Feb. 17, 2021, after a winter storm brought cold temperatures.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the nonprofit corporation responsible for managing 90% of the state's electricity, said it expects to come out of emergency conditions later Friday morning. ERCOT president and CEO Bill Magness admitted during a press briefing Thursday that the Texas power grid was just "seconds or minutes" away from a complete and catastrophic failure, as power demand increased and generators fell offline on Sunday night amid the snowstorm. Magness said it could have taken months to restore.

a person holding a gun © David J. Phillip/AP MORE: How to stay safe in cold as frigid temperatures slam South

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lambasted ERCOT for its handling of this week's storm and urged lawmakers to pass legislation to ensure the grid would be better prepared in the future.

Biden to visit Texans battered by deadly winter storm, upset with state leaders

  Biden to visit Texans battered by deadly winter storm, upset with state leaders President Biden's visit to Texas comes as many are angry at state leaders and still recovering after losing power and water.“He’s coming for all Texans, for people like myself who were without power," said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Houston’s Rice University. "It's a symbolic gesture.

“What happened is absolutely unacceptable and can never be replicated again,” Abbott said at a press conference Thursday. "Texans deserve answers about why these shortfalls occurred and how they will be corrected"

Leovardo Perez, right, fills a water jug using a hose from a public park water spigot, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston. © David J. Phillip/AP Leovardo Perez, right, fills a water jug using a hose from a public park water spigot, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston.

The extended power outages combined with record-low temperatures caused freezing pipes to burst across Texas, plummeting pressure and depleting reserves. Residents, businesses and even hospitals are being asked to conserve water as cities race to restore and stabilize their water supply.

MORE: Texas' power outages, water shortages put bigger strain on hospitals

Two C-17 military transport aircraft are heading to Galveston and Corpus Christi to deliver water and other supplies, likely on Friday, a senior U.S. defense official told ABC News. The help comes at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency following a plea from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. There are currently no plans to use federal troops for ground-based support in Texas, though FEMA will be sending non-military personnel, the official said.

Bitter Texas freeze hits most vulnerable hardest

  Bitter Texas freeze hits most vulnerable hardest The winter weather across Texas has devastated the communities most vulnerable, as people grapple with the challenges of COVID-19 and historic freezing temperatures. After living this way on and off for nearly 20 years, she figured the hand-spun yarn blankets she makes would offer enough warmth through Texas' mostly mild winter.

The Texas National Guard remains active across the state, helping local authoriies get citizens to warm shelters and provide other life-saving assistance.

a group of people standing on top of a bed: Donated water is distributed to residents, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston, after a winter storm froze pipes and disrupted water treatment plants. © David J. Phillip/AP Donated water is distributed to residents, Feb. 18, 2021, in Houston, after a winter storm froze pipes and disrupted water treatment plants.

Meanwhile, crews worked throughout the night on Thursday to set up a mass bottled water distribution site at Houston's Delmar Stadium. The site was expected to begin distribution on Friday at 11:30 a.m. local time.

In Galveston, a line of cars wrapped around city blocks on Wednesday evening as people waited to collect free water bottles at a distribution site. Much of the island city is still without water or under a boil-water advisory.

MORE: No 'definitive timeline' when water will return to Jackson, Mississippi, mayor says

Gas stations were also packed with cars this week, as people fear running out of fuel for their vehicles or generators. One resident, Robert Neuman, told Houston ABC station KTRK that he has already made multiple trips, admitting he "wasn't prepared" for the storm.

"Like everyone, we figured it would get cold and maybe a little outage and that's it," Neuman said. "But we've been going since Sunday like this."

ABC News' Jenna Harrison, Will McDuffie, Matt Seyler and Gina Sunseri contributed to this report.

Biden’s low-key approach to storm wins praise but courts risks .
Biden’s quiet approach to the Texas freeze marks a sharp contrast to Trump’s handling of natural disasters. The president’s strategy has won praise, but it risks keeping the government‘s profile low.And U.S. Rep. Colin Allred (D-Tex.), a congressman from Dallas, said what would help most, beyond an infusion of federal dollars, is a visit from President Biden.

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