Frigid temperatures, power outages lead to water problems

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Father John Szatkowski of St. Paul The Apostle Church sweeps water from a broken water line out of his church in Richardson, Texas, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. Father Szatkowski and his staff found the flooding as they prepared for Ash Wednesday services. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – About 7 million people in Texas — a quarter of the nation's second-most populous state — were told to boil their water or stop using it entirely as homeowners, hospitals, and businesses grappled with broken water mains and burst pipes, many in areas unaccustomed to dealing with sustained frigid temperatures.

Winter storms during the past week in the Midwest, Texas and the South forced water service providers to scramble to manage flows as sub-freezing temperatures presented serious problems.

The Texas city of Kyle, south of Austin, asked residents Wednesday to suspend water usage until further notice because of a shortage.

“Water should only be used to sustain life at this point,” the city of 45,000 said in an advisory. “We are close to running out of water supply in Kyle.”

In Memphis, Tennessee, the power and water company asked residents to reduce their water usage through Friday.

Memphis, Light, Gas & Water said in a news release that it is experiencing reduced pressure across its distribution system due to freezing temperatures this week.

The utility also said it is seeing reduced reservoir levels at pumping stations and several water mains have burst. MLG&W has asked customers to refrain from leaving the water running while rinsing dishes, take short showers and hold off on washing clothes until Friday. Officials also asked customers to save water by letting faucets drip, instead of streaming water, to prevent pipes from freezing over.

Oklahoma City officials said on Twitter that power outages and extremely low temperatures caused water service interruption and low pressure for customers. Crews helped turn off water for thousands of customers who had their private water lines break.