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First San Antonians Lost Their Power. Now They've Lost Access To Water.

Anne Felts' family lost power in their home for several days.
Courtesy Anne Felts
Anne Felts said they've only had flickering power since 2 a.m. Monday.

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Some San Antonians lost water Monday night, hours after rolling power outages left residents without heat or electricity in one of the worst winter storms the state has ever seen.

Officials with CPS energy say most households without power in San Antonio are experiencing rolling blackouts to reduce strain on the state’s electrical grid.

Some residents report that outages have lasted for more than 10 hours, with just minutes of power before turning off again.

One of CPS Energy’s gas plants was offline for maintenance when temperatures dropped on Sunday. CPS President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams said plant maintenance takes at least 30 days, and the utility was unable to get the plant back online in time to meet the need.

“In the middle of a plant maintenance item, you just you can't bring them back up again, you risk safety, you risk the plant failing, you risk damaging it," she said.

Gold-Williams said most of CPS Energy’s other plants have encountered difficulties due to the cold that reduced the amount of power they could generate.

A reduced supply of natural gas caused by frozen well heads also forced plants to lower their output.

Gold-Williams said she believes the struggle to regain power in San Antonio will continue into Wednesday afternoon.

"When we have more demand than we have capacity, that’s when we can’t re-stabilize. Unfortunately, and again I apologize, this is a community and a state issue we are trying to solve, but we are absolutely sympathetic to the challenges. I do believe today (Tuesday) will be another tough day," she said.

Gold-Williams said those who have not yet experienced an outage may lose power today. Current outages may continue for longer periods.

Officials with the San Antonio Water System say the blackouts are temporarily preventing some pump stations from distributing water because the pumps run on electricity.

“There might be a break next door or an adjoining neighborhood. And we're trying to move water. So you're essentially sharing water with two different neighborhoods, and therefore you have less pressure," said Robert Puente, SAWS president and CEO.

Some neighborhoods are also experiencing low water pressure.

Puente says water outages caused by problems with the pumps should last no more than a couple of hours. People without water for a longer time most likely have frozen pipes.

For some residents, outage lasted a few hours. For others, outages lasted upwards of 30 hours.

With access to water limited, people are making their way to H-E-B stores to purchase water, which are limited to 2 gallons per customer at some stores.

At The Inspire Downtown complex, residents are filled buckets of pool water to help flush toilets in their apartments.

Beyond San Antonio

By Brian Kirkpatrick and María Méndez

Johnson City-based Pedernales Electric Cooperative as of early Tuesday afternoon reported power out to 40% of the 350,000 meters in its Hill County service area. The largest outage areas are in the Marble Falls, Round Rock and Kyle areas.

Fredericksburg-based Central Texas Electric Cooperative reports thousands of outages as of midday in its service area, with the most troublesome spots in northern Kendall and Gillespie, Kerr and Llano Counties.

Much of the Coastal Bend, Rio Grande Valley and Laredo areas of South Texas were spared from the heavy snow fall seen in other parts of Texas, and weather forecasts are starting to improve for most of the area.

But the National Weather Service in Corpus Christi forecasts that come Wednesday night and Thursday morning, temperatures could dip down and bring another light freeze to the area.

“But the precipitation should be winding down by that point, so that’s why we don’t expect a repeat of what happened Sunday night or Monday morning,” said senior forecaster Matt Ziebell.

He added that the northern counties in the area such as Bee, Goliad, Live Oak and Victoria are still expected to see freezing rain over the next few days.

Throughout the region, ice may still form in shaded areas such as beneath overpasses, so drivers should still take precautions.

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Kathleen Creedon can be reached at kathleen@tpr.org or on Twitter at @Kath_Creedon
Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@TPR.org and on Twitter at @cmpcamille. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.