In mid-February, unexpected sub-zero temperatures and unprecedented freezing weather swept across the entire state of Texas and much of the Southern and Central United States. This deep freeze left many counties throughout Texas without power due to unusually high demand being placed on the state’s power grid—in some cases, households were left without any electricity for several days on end. The winter storms in Texas also claimed the lives of at least 57 people—most of whom passed away from hypothermia. Aid from across the U.S. rush to help Texas plumbing, which is not built for that kind of temperature.
At the height of the deep freeze, more than 14 million Texas residents were faced with a lack of electricity, a lack of water service, and/or major plumbing issues in their homes. Temperatures in Texas are rising again and the deep freeze across the state has subsided. However, it has left a variety of consequences in its wake. One of these lasting consequences has come in the form of plumbing problems.
Plumbing Problems Plague Texas
Sub-zero temperatures are unheard of in Texas, which normally remains somewhat warm through all 12 months of the year. This means that most homes throughout Texas are non-winterized, meaning that their in-home plumbing systems are not prepared for freezing temperatures.
Due to this lack of preparation, the deep freeze that hit Texas and then the subsequent rise in temperatures across the state caused major plumbing problems in thousands of homes throughout Texas. When the water in the pipes in these homes froze and then melted due to extreme shifts in temperature, this caused many of the pipes to spring pinhole leaks, crack, or burst entirely.
Holes and cracks in pipes and burst pipes are all causes of major water leaks, which means that thousands of homes in Texas were left with water damage and flooding in their homes even as the deep freeze throughout the state subsided and power began to return to homes.
During the deep freeze, Texans across the state were also instructed to conserve water in their households as much as possible because it was difficult to get water from the main water supply into residents’ home plumbing systems—which led to widespread water service disruptions.
As of early March—more than 2 weeks after sub-zero temperatures began to spread through Texas—Texas residents were still struggling to get water and the water that did flow into their home plumbing systems was at risk of contamination due to plumbing problems caused by the unprecedented winter storms in mid-February. Of the 254 counties in Texas, 207 of those counties were still reporting problems with their local public water systems in early March.
U.S. Plumbers Unite to Provide Aid in Texas
Faced with plumbing problems in thousands of homes across Texas as well as problems with public water systems throughout the state, plumbers in Texas were simply unable to handle the plumbing problems that occurred during and in the aftermath of the deep freeze in mid-February on their own.
The sheer number of plumbing problems that Texans in virtually every county in the state faced following the deep freeze overwhelmed plumbers throughout Texas. The unprecedented sub-zero temperatures and winter storms in Texas and the power- and water-related problems they caused throughout the state made headlines across the United States.
In the weeks following the deep freeze in Texas, plumbers from many states throughout the U.S.—including California, Washington, Kansas, Ohio, New York, Georgia, and more—traveled long distances to Texas to provide additional aid in the form of both labor and equipment as the overwhelming need for plumbers throughout Texas soared due to the consequences of the February storms.
Two specific organizations that were particularly active in uniting plumbers across the United States to help solve plumbing problems in Texas were Water Mission and Plumbers Without Borders. Water Mission is an organization with the main purpose of building water systems in developing countries to help residents of these countries gain access to clean drinking water. Plumbers Without Border is a small-scale organization based in Washington that recruits licensed plumbers as volunteers and connects them with various larger non-profit organizations to increase access to clean water worldwide.
Members of both of these organizations stepped outside of their comfort zones when faced with Texas’s plumbing problems. Both of these organizations and the plumbers involved in them were paramount to relief and recovery efforts in Texas in the weeks following the winter storms throughout the state when so many residents were suffering from plumbing problems and struggling to get access to clean water in their homes.
It is estimated that some of Texas’s major plumbing problems might not be resolved for several months. The goal of organizations like Water Mission and Plumbers Without Borders and the plumbers who connect with these organizations and others is to work together to ensure that all residents in Texas have working home plumbing systems and access to clean and sanitary water as soon as possible.