Millions of Texans Are Facing Another 'Massive Disaster' After Deep Freeze: A Water Crisis

Rachel DeSantis
·4-min read

Justin Sullivan/Getty Water delivery in Houston

As Texas continues to reel from the extreme weather that pummeled the state last week, millions of residents are still without water thanks to burst pipes and a damaged infrastructure.

Nearly 8.8 million people were still under boil water notices on Monday, according to the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality, and 120,000 people had no water service at all, NBC News reported.

Gov. Greg Abbott reportedly said over the weekend that Texas is bringing in more plumbers to repair damaged water systems, but for families like Rachel LaGrone Mello's, the help can't come fast enough.

Mello tells PEOPLE that her family members live in the small town of Lott, and as of Monday, still did not have power or water. A trickle the width of a pencil finally came through on Tuesday for her father, though her sister's home still had none.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Burst water pipe in Houston

"There is nowhere to purchase food and water, and the roads are too dangerous for delivery trucks to travel," she says. "They have no way to help these people."

She was advised to melt snow and boil it, but wondered, "What about people who have no power and no way to boil it?"

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More than 2.8 million people were without power in the state as of Monday afternoon, according to PowerOutage.us

Mello says her father personally paid for three pallets of water for the town, costing him about $1,000, though the office of Congressman Kyle Kacal said they would reimburse him.

"All support that has been provided to this town has come out of the pockets of private citizens," she says. "These small towns do not have emergency plans. At all. This is a massive disaster, and I don't know how to explain that to people who aren't in it. Rural Texas is in big trouble."

Ryan Allison/Bloomberg via Getty

Meanwhile, major cities like Houston and Austin placed residents under boil water notices last week to prevent them from consuming contaminated water that may contain harmful bacteria or viruses.

Houston lifted its notice on Sunday, while Austin's was partially lifted on Monday.

Amy McGee, a Houston realtor, had her water turned off until Saturday — and even though it's back, the liquid still feels "slimy," she tells PEOPLE.

Still, "I had the best cry today and the best shower of my life," she says. "I realize I've been in survival mode with the rest of the city of Houston for a week and I just lost it."

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Lisa Brooks, a private tutor in Houston, says the main pipe that supplies her house with water burst, forcing her to completely shut it down for several days.

When she called a plumber for help, there were more than 200 people ahead of her in the queue. She does have power, she tells PEOPLE, but is unable to wash dishes, do laundry or take a shower. To flush her toilet, she has been using meltied snow and pool water.

"You can't get water at the grocery store right now," she says. "Supply trucks can't get in to replenish the grocery stores right now."

Justin Sullivan/Getty Cars line up for water in Houston

Gov. Abbott said that nearly 3.5 million bottles of water have been distributed by helicopter, airplane and truck, according to NBC News.

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"We are making great progress in our recovery efforts from this winter storm, but many Texans are still without water, food, and other supplies — which is why the state is stepping up make sure Texans have the resources they need to provide for their families," Abbott said at a press conference on Sunday. "I thank our local, state, and federal partners for working together to address the needs of Texans and expedite our recovery process. I also want to thank our utility workers for providing crucial services to Texans who have experienced power outages and burst pipes. Together, we will continue to overcome this challenge."

Reporting by KC BAKER and WENDY GROSSMAN KANTOR