Power outages, hard freeze cause pipes to burst


Charlotte Curtin

The school was covered in snow on Monday, Feb. 15.

When Winter Storm Uri hit Texas on Feb. 15, junior Lauren Campbell cheerfully spent the afternoon in the snow. The next day, her water pipes burst, flooding her house.

“It sounded like my mom had just turned on the shower upstairs,” Campbell said. “We ran around the house in a frenzy, getting buckets and towels because we didn’t know to shut off the main water line.”

Since Texas rarely sees temperatures below-freezing, Campbell’s family did not know how to prepare for the snowstorm. Some citizens drove on the icy and slippery roads while others left their pipes unprotected.

“In the North, we didn’t have to worry about these problems,” said junior Matthew Perez, who grew up in Chicago. “We never had much damage since our infrastructure accounts for this kind of weather.”

In Texas, most pipes are buried near the surface and lack insulation. As a result, the water in the pipes froze during the snowstorm, and over 13 million Texans lost their water supply. When the water returned, many pipes started leaking due to the high pressure. Additionally, the city of Houston issued a boil water notice since bacteria likely contaminated the previously motionless water.

“I couldn’t use the restroom or wash my hands at all,” Campbell said. “My family had to conserve a lot of dishes, so we reused dirty cups and ate with plastic utensils.”

Some areas near medical centers and fire departments never lost water supply. During the snowstorm, Perez took refuge in a hotel that had power in one of these areas.

We ran around the house in a frenzy, getting buckets and towels because we didn’t know to shut off the main water line.

— Lauren Campbell

“Power and water at home went out for at least a few days,” Perez said. “I spent so much time in that hotel with my family.”

Over a week since the snowstorm passed, Campbell continues to repair the damages to her house.

“Right now, there’s a giant hole in the ceiling in my living room,” Campbell said. “All of the floors below it are completely ruined because of the water damage, and there’s still a giant, walled-off section of my house.”

Perez hopes that Texans learn from this experience.

“This was a tough time for us,” Perez said, “but now, we know how to handle this weather in the future.”