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Some Houston Communities Feel Overlooked In Storm Recovery Effort

NOEL KING, HOST:

In Houston, some people still do not have water two weeks after winter storms took down Texas' electricity grid. Houston is the fourth biggest city in the United States, and some people there wonder how this can possibly be happening. Here's Houston Public Media's Laura Isensee.

LAURA ISENSEE, BYLINE: At a mass aid distribution site this weekend, Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters tens of thousands of Houstonians still don't have running water in their homes.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SYLVESTER TURNER: So even though the power is on, the water pressure has normalized, the reality is - is that there are literally thousands of homes, including apartments, that have been affected because of busted pipes, and they still don't have water.

ISENSEE: The city's public works department is trying to figure out exactly how many places the water's not flowing. Plumbers are overstretched and scrambling far and wide to find replacement pipes.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TURNER: We've made that request on FEMA for more - for materials and supplies. And the need is so overwhelming.

ISENSEE: In Kashmere Gardens, a historically Black neighborhood in northeast Houston, Keith Downey has been connecting residents with bottled water and other resources. He's the president of a neighborhood civic group and says many of the seniors he sees have busted pipes they can't fix.

KEITH DOWNEY: It's disheartening to hear a 100-year-old or a 93-year-old or an 89-year-old - disheartening to hear of a 40-year-old that can't afford to have their homes repaired.

ISENSEE: One elder he's helped is Sylvia Scarbro (ph). She turned 77 on Sunday and has lived in her home in Kashmere Gardens for over 50 years.

SYLVIA SCARBRO: I'm exhausted. I'm exhausted.

ISENSEE: When the freeze came, her pipes burst, and she lost water. So did her next-door neighbor.

SCARBRO: So we were having to go down two blocks to a neighbor's house and get water.

ISENSEE: Her son managed to find a plumber to fix most of the pipes. But there's at least one more leak, and she still doesn't have running water inside her house. For that, she goes to the water main right outside.

SCARBRO: So we go out there with the water, turn it on. And we turn it on, fill up buckets so that we can use that water to flush the toilet.

ISENSEE: Scarbro worries needed resources are not easily available to her neighborhood.

SCARBRO: It's been traumatic. But, I mean, this isn't the first disaster, you know. I mean, going through Harvey and then all the other hurricanes before then were horrible.

ISENSEE: She's still dealing with repairs from Hurricane Harvey more than three years after that storm.

For NPR News, I'm Laura Isensee in Houston.

(SOUNDBITE OF WMD'S "MOONPOOL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.