JACKSON, Miss. — Cold weather is causing water woes across the South, as water mains break and people run faucets to keep pipes from freezing.
Everyone on the water system in Jackson, Mississippi’s largest city, could be under a boil-water order for days because of low pressure from broken mains. Some restaurants, medical clinics and other businesses have closed, and portable toilets have been set up outside the state Capitol, where legislators are meeting and some toilets won’t flush.
In New Orleans and other places where temperatures have risen again, authorities want people to stop running faucets to prevent frozen pipes, saying that’s reducing water pressure.
A water main break left parts of downtown Birmingham, Alabama, without water Thursday. In suburban Atlanta, East Point and College Park lifted a boil-water order after fixing a water main that broke Tuesday.
It’s not the first time that cold weather has caused water problems in Jackson. Cold snaps in 2010 and 2011 caused widespread water main breaks, leaving broad swaths of the city without water.
Barbecue restaurant Pig and Pint was open in the city’s Fondren business district Thursday, but serving food on plastic plates and offering only bottled drinks.
Managing Partner Chris Clark said the restaurant couldn’t operate Wednesday because water pressure dropped before opening time, causing the restaurant to lose daily revenue of $7,000 to $8,000. By Thursday, owners had brought in portable toilets.
“Unfortunately, we’re prepared for this in Jackson,” Clark said.
The University of Mississippi Medical Center closed or relocated some clinics because low water pressure prevented steam heating.
Near the University of Alabama at Birmingham, a burst water main left streets coated with ice. At least two hotels and some university buildings were without water.
“They told me something about a water main break and I thought they were just making up an excuse for not having water. But when I looked outside and turned on the news, there really was a problem,” Brian Cheshire, who was staying at the DoubleTree Hotel, told WBMA-TV .
Millsaps College in Jackson delayed the start of on-campus classes until Jan. 16, citing a lack of water, although it said professors would send online work earlier. Pipes froze in two dorms at Jackson State University and outside two dorms at Mississippi State University in Starkville.
Jackson officials reported 37 broken water mains Wednesday, but Public Works Director Robert Miller said the number was down to 22 on Thursday. He predicted that if only a “reasonable” number of new leaks were uncovered, problems could be fixed by Saturday.