Residents still dealing with freezing weather

City of Galveston crews work to fix a water line break 57th Street and Avenue P1/2 on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.

As the weather warmed up Tuesday from the extremely low Monday night temperatures, water pipes began to break around Galveston County.

City officials across the county encouraged residents to conserve water, concerned too many line breaks might lead to widespread water shortages.

As temperatures warmed and pipes thawed out, the city of Galveston heard reports of burst pipes around the island, spokeswoman Marissa Barnett said.

By mid-morning, the city was asking residents to conserve water over concerns that leaking and burst pipes could cause the city to lose significant amounts of its water reserves, Barnett said.

The city by early afternoon had identified two breaks in water mains, one at 57th Street and Avenue P1/2 and another at 47th Street and Avenue S. At least dozens of residents would be without water in those areas, Barnett said. The city also had heard of a few breaks in customer service lines, she said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the city wasn’t concerned about losing its water reserves, but that could change.

“At this point, we’re OK but we’re just asking people to conserve,” Barnett said. “As we start to thaw out here on the island, that could change.”

Richard Smith, owner of Smith and Co. Plumbing, was getting calls about freeze-fractured pipes by noon Tuesday.

Residents, however, should wait until their pipes completely thaw, which might not be until Wednesday, to call a plumber, Smith said.

That’s because more leaks are likely to appear as pipes thaw, he said.

Residents with broken pipes should shut off their water until plumbers can get to them, he said.

“I would restrict them from using water as much as possible,” Smith said.

Mainland communities also were reporting burst pipes.

In Texas City, residents had reported breaks in their pipes across the city, said Jack Haralson in the public works department.

“Phones have been ringing off the hook for us to go turn meters off so they can go make repairs,” Haralson said.

The city had a break in a water main off Noble Road, but crews were working to repair it Tuesday, he said.

“Dadgum, it’s been a day,” Haralson said.

In La Marque, many residents were reporting both bursting pipes and power outages Tuesday afternoon, spokeswoman Colleen Martin said.

“Everybody’s hearing about burst pipes,” Martin said.

The city also was hearing about issues with water pressure being extremely low, she said.

Hundreds of League City residents had called the city and others had called the emergency line to report breaks, spokeswoman Sarah Greer Osborne said.

As homes were thawing, pipes were breaking but no city main line had broken as of 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Greer Osborne said.

The Galveston Fire Department was responding to calls of transformers exploding and power lines damaged, Fire Chief Charles Olsen said.

The fire department crews had to check downed wires for sparks and fire hazards, he said.

Residents who have gas-powered heaters shouldn’t have any trouble with lines breaking or losing gas power, but they should conserve, spokeswoman for Texas Gas Service Christy Penders said.

That’s because some gas providers are concerned their gas wells will freeze in the extreme temperatures and there could be an issue with supply later this week, Penders said.

Many people have gas-powered heaters that require electricity to run, so as electric power comes back, more people will use more gas, she said.

“As more people come on, there could be less supply to serve everybody,” Penders said.

People can conserve gas by turning their thermostats down, she said.

Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; or on Twitter @HeathKeri.

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