(CNN) — Water service remained interrupted for nearly a third of Texans as of Sunday night, a lingering consequence of widespread power outages due to devastating winter weather and unprepared infrastructure.
While that number dropped by several million over the course of the day, more than 1,200 public water systems still reported outages, many of which led to the deployment of boil-water advisories, according to Gary Rasp, media specialist the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
The problems continued to affect more than 8.8 million people, or about a third of the state’s population of 29 million, spread across 199 counties as of 7 p.m. (8 p.m. Miami) Sunday. Rasp said 258 boil water notices had been canceled.
Houston announced Sunday afternoon that it had lifted its boil water notice with immediate effect. “Water quality tests submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) have confirmed that tap water meets all regulatory standards and is safe to drink,” the city said in a news release.
Galveston also lifted its boil water notice at noon Sunday and has removed water restrictions, according to a post on the city’s Facebook page.
Water problems are part of the growing effects caused by blackouts: families forced to sleep in frozen houses and cars, rummage for hot food, abandon medical treatments or use melted snow for the toilet.
At a news conference Sunday afternoon, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said about 30,000 people were still without power in his state.
“Based on the rate at which I have seen power restored, I suspect that power will be fully restored throughout the state of Texas in every home, either later tonight or tomorrow,” Abbott said.
The governor said that water services were being restored throughout Texas and that more than 3 million bottles of water had been distributed in a joint effort by the Texas National Guard, the United States Department of Defense and the Federal Agency for Emergency Management (FEMA).
Warmer weather and the return of electricity have provided some relief to Texans, but many remain without clean water or in homes that have been damaged by broken pipes and flooding.
That includes Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, a Republican, who told CBS “Face the Nation” Sunday that her own home was flooded. She said her insurance will cover the damages, but that might not be the case for other Texans.
“At some point we will have to have plumbers and additional resources, but there will have to be dollars to help these people who do not have the ability to pay for this themselves … and that is going to have to come from the federal government,” Price said.
During its press conference Sunday, Abbott said residents with broken pipes and uninsured could qualify for a rebate from FEMA.
“We have had FEMA assistance provided by the federal government, and a part of that is individual assistance that will help people whose homes or apartments have been damaged due to the winter storm,” he said.
Broken pipes and surprise electricity bills
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, noted that water problems were widespread.
“Let me just say that right now, with so many houses in the city with broken pipes due to freezing weather and major leaks, major water damage, we need a lot of plumbing materials and supplies right now,” he said.
“We have several licensed plumbers, but we could use more,” Turner said. “But the main thing is that even with plumbers, it is very difficult to find the necessary materials and supplies.”
Additionally, some Texans are facing unprecedented price increases in their electric bills as a result of the recent storm. DeAndre Upshaw, a Dallas resident, said he received a bill for $ 7,000 from his electric company, which charges customers at a market rate.
Texas’ utility regulator, the Texas Public Utilities Commission, said Saturday that it is investigating “the factors that combined with devastating winter weather to disrupt the flow of energy to millions of homes in Texas.”
Moratorium on disconnections
Abbott announced in its press conference Sunday that the state Public Utilities Commission had issued a moratorium on customer disconnections for non-payment to address “skyrocketing energy bills” allegedly facing some Texans.
He said the commission would also restrict electricity providers from sending bills to customers at this time.
“Texans who have experienced very cold days without power should not be subject to skyrocketing energy bills due to a rebound in the energy market,” Abbott said.
The governor said he held an emergency meeting with legislative leaders “to protect Texas families from excessive bills” due to the winter storms.
“This is something that is accelerating, legislators are working as we speak … We will have meetings this week to get to the bottom of this, but also to bring relief and support to Texans,” Abbott said.
When asked about legislation to repair power infrastructure in the state, Abbott said, “We will not end this session until the state of Texas – and all of its power generation facilities – are fully winterized.”
In a subsequent statement, the commission said it issued a series of orders “designed to protect Texas electricity customers as state leaders discuss solutions to the financial toll of the winter storm event on the grid.”
In addition to the moratorium, the commission ordered the continuation of a COVID-19 measure under which electricity providers must offer deferred payment plans to customers when requested.
It also “strongly urged” retail electricity providers to delay billing for residential and small business electricity customers.
“The order and directives are intended to be temporary, probably until the end of this week, to address potential financial shocks that are especially challenging during this extremely difficult time,” said President DeAnn Walker.
The winter weather also caused long delays in the application of COVID-19 vaccines across the country, but this is only temporary, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday.
“The figure is six million doses that were delayed, we already released two million and we project that by the middle of the week we will have caught up,” Fauci told Chuck Todd of NBC.
CNN’s Anjali Huynh, Chuck Johnston, and Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.