Water pressure in Houston is slowly getting a boost, but you'll need to be patient

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As the city of Houston continues to deal with widespread power outages that are impacting more than a million Houstonians, water pressure issues are now another big concern.

The issues with water pressure and threats of possible contaminants forced the city to issue a boil order. So what's the city doing now? What about the fire department? How are they managing to battle fires with low water pressure?

Here's everything we learned at Mayor Sylvester Turner's news briefing on Houston's severe weather on Wednesday.

Power won't be fully restored for another few days

Leaders of ERCOT, the nonprofit council that oversees the power supply for more than 26 million Texans, met on Wednesday and they couldn't offer an exact timetable for full restoration.

"Power will not be restored fully, I would say, probably for another couple of days," said Turner. "I understand people's frustration, I understand people's anger, but we'll continue to work together to work through it."

READ MORE: Texas power crisis: 10 things we learned from ERCOT's latest power update

Water pressure is low, but the city is bumping it up Wednesday

During the briefing, Carol Haddock, the director of Houston Public Works, said at the moment, the challenge is with the city's water distribution system.

"What we experienced, starting Tuesday around noon, and degrading over the afternoon, was a decrease in water pressure in the large part of the system that got below 20 PSI (pound-force per square inch)," said Haddock. "I'm not going to make excuses. We have generators throughout the system, and they did not start because the temperatures were too cold for the generators to start."

She said crews had to manually go out and warm the generators up, even though they were just fine on Saturday.

Haddock did offer a reason to remain optimistic. She said starting Wednesday, crews will begin increasing production and pressure.

"We actually have our East Water Purification Plant back up to 70 PSI pushing into the system. Yesterday, it was down to about 40 PSI," she said. Haddock said at the moment, they're working the system to prioritize pressure to places like the Texas Medical Center and other medical facilities.

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Until the city gets its water back up and fully restored, Haddock urges people to limit their water use.

Are there any mass water distribution plans?

Not at the moment, according to Turner, but he has asked large, Houston-area grocers such as Kroger and H-E-B to increase their water supply.

"But in terms of planning mass sites ... I'm not saying they won't occur, but that's not in our plans right now," he said.

If your pipes froze, you're not the only one

During Wednesday's briefing, Turner revealed he was one of many Houstonians whose pipes froze and burst.

"If you don't have any power, you're not even warming your homes at all, so the houses are just standing there with no power, pipes are going to freeze .... just like mine did," he said. "My pipes froze, and when the power came back [Tuesday] afternoon, my pipes burst. It's happening to everyone. This is a storm with no respect for persons."

The fire department is operating in "disaster mode"

Houston Fire Chief Sam Pena said over the last 24 hours, firefighters have responded to 3,300 calls for service, most of which have been for emergency medical services. That's three times their normal call volume.

However, he said there has been an increase in fires, which is concerning, he said, due to the city's low water pressure issue.

"We've sent resources to about 56 structure fires over the last two days," he said. "The best recommendation for this community, for us to do the right thing, is to be fire safe in your home. Be mindful for how we go about this. Don't use your stoves or your oven to heat up your homes."

People are staying off the roads, according to HPD

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo offered a piece of good news during Wednesday's briefing regarding city traffic.

He said since Sunday, which is when the winter storm began ravaging through the city, officers reported only one fatal accident in the entire city.

"We should celebrate that, but we should expect more extreme roadway conditions, so slow down," said Acevedo.

Will the weather impact the opening of the FEMA-backed vaccine super site at NRG?

As of Wednesday afternoon, the mayor said the city is still on schedule to open the site on Monday, Feb. 22.

"We will probably return to testing and vaccines safely ... I would say Friday," said Turner. "Then the FEMA site will open on schedule on the 22nd, unless I'm told otherwise."

READ MORE: White House reveals plans for major vaccination sites in Houston and 2 other Texas cities

Also, shipments of COVID-19 vaccines are being delayed

Turner said this week's shipment of vaccine doses has been delayed due to weather. If you had a vaccine appointment for this week, those will be rescheduled.

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The governor appeared visibly frustrated when asked about the response to the state's power outage crisis by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Watch the full interview in the video above.

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