Uri Turns Out to be a Historic Winter Storm, Breaking 100 Year Records: Water Contamination Affects Millions
Last week, Texas, as well as several other states, faced a historic winter storm, named Uri. Uri not only broke previous snow records in Texas, but also caused the cancellation of thousands of flights, and left millions without electricity and clean water for days on end. It is believed that Uri is responsible for at least 59 deaths across twelve states within just the past week. These deaths were caused by multiple factors, such as carbon monoxide poisoning from generators running in-doors, hypothermia outside and within peoples’ homes, car crashes due to dangerous road conditions, people falling through ice, and even a tornado and house fire.
One of the biggest issues caused by the storm was the water outages. When water outages of this scale occur, it not only causes people great inconvenience, but also poses a huge risk of widespread water contamination and consequently, illness through its consumption. Thursday of last week, it was reported that 14 million people, in Texas alone, were without clean drinking water and were placed under boil water advisories. Tiffany Young, a spokesperson for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, reported that as of Friday morning, 1,180 public water systems in 160 Texas counties had reported either disruption or complete loss of function in the past week, due to the winter storm.
Officials explain that the water outages and contaminations were due to frozen water lines and electricity outages which put large water plants offline. When the water lines and water plants can no longer properly clean and transport the water, it sits in the pipes and can become contaminated with a host of germs, such as the bacteria, E. coli, one of the most common causes of foodborne illness. Bottled water handouts were organized in the cities most affected by water contaminations. Several other states were majorly impacted by water outages and contaminations as well, such Louisiana and Oklahoma, as well as some more northern states, such as Tennessee.
The mayor of Houston, Texas, Sylvester Turner, announced on Thursday that the 2.3 million residents under his jurisdiction would remain under a boil water advisory until Monday, at the earliest. On Saturday, Water samples were sent to the laboratory and returned safe for consumption on Sunday. Additionally, the city’s water pressure levels finally rose to a normal level. Consequently, on Sunday, Turner lifted Houston’s boil water advisory, only cautioning Houstonians to first run a cold tap for 1 minute to flush the pipes, to clean ice makers, and make and discard three batches of ice before using, and finally, to run water softeners through a regeneration cycle before drinking or using unboiled water.