Hospitals confront water shortages in winter storm aftermath

HOUSTON (AP) — Hospitals across the South grappled with water shortages on Sunday in the wake of a devastating winter storm as the region carried on with recovery efforts and the weather offered a balmy respite — temperatures as high as the mid-60s.

At the height of last week’s storm, hospitals scrambled to care for patients amid record cold temperatures, snow and ice that battered parts of the country more accustomed to going through winter with light jackets and short sleeves. The icy blast ruptured water mains, knocked out power to millions of utility customers and contributed to at least 76 deaths — half of which occurred in Texas.

At least seven people died in Tennessee and four in Portland, Oregon.A rural hospital in Anahuac, Texas, about 80 kilometres east of Houston, lost both water and power.

CEO of Chambers Health William Kiefer, which runs the hospital along with two clinics and a wellness centre, said the facilities resorted to backup generators and water from a 275-gallon storage tank. They refilled it three times using water from a swimming pool in the wellness centre.

When temperatures were in the teens last Monday, a woman about to give birth walked into the hospital after she could not make it through the ice and snow to her hospital in suburban Houston. Emergency room staff delivered the baby safely, Kiefer said.