The City of Houston dispersed some of its top personnel on Sunday to aid in winter storm relief, including Mayor Sylvester Turner who participated in a food and water distribution at NACC Disaster Services (NACC).
As rebuilding efforts are set to begin, the city, labor unions including the Teamsters, AFL-CIO, and the plumber’s union, gathered at NACC headquarters to give out hot food, water, pillows, and cups to just short of 10,000 Houstonians.
“The realization is we are now in the recovery phase. The winter storm is now over, gone, but at the same time we are still dealing with people’s lives who have been substantially, significantly disrupted because of the winter storm,” said Turner.
“So even though the power is on, and the water pressure is normalized, the reality is that there are literally thousands of homes, including apartments, that have been affected because of busted pipes. They still don’t have water, and they still have tremendous needs.”
Even as the event took place, other city employees and councilmembers distributed water at an apartment complex not far away where they were still suffering from busted pipes.
“And look, I know we face one challenge after another, but I would not trade this city for any city on the face of the earth,” said Turner.
Turner estimated the number of homes affected to be in the tens of thousands, stating that he’s asked public works to look at the city system to determine where water isn’t flowing. He said that licensed plumbers, materials, and supplies are needed all over the state of Texas, so pulling from Austin or San Antonio isn’t possible.
“I was just on a phone call this morning with Mayor Adler out of Austin and Mayor Ron Nirenberg out of San Antonio. We’re all facing some of the same issues. Because there are so many pipes that have burst, people are still without water.”
Rick Lord, Business Agent with Plumbers Local Union, said the manpower to begin fixing the problem is there, but what’s missing is the materials.
“Right now we’re having an overrun of people needing the same materials,” said Lord, “and in fact my International went out and bought a bunch of materials and had it shipped in from Kansas City to Dallas, and I went and picked it up on Wednesday –three truckloads of stuff– it’s gone already.”
Lord said with the laborers and the faith-based organizations, like NACC, all working together and headed in the same direction, he believes they can help get people back on track.
“It’s going to take time,” said Lord. “It’s unnerving to know that your house has been torn up by water, and you don’t have water to provide for your family.”
“When I went to a hardware store on Wednesday during the freeze, it looked like a Black Friday on steroids on the plumbing aisle. It’s just, everybody needs the same thing. We have to get with people like the mayor to get us help to supply stuff from other parts of the nation. There is nothing in Texas, there is nothing in Louisiana. So, we just want to get what we can where we can. I go back to my organization. They spent almost half a million dollars on materials, and it’s already gone since Wednesday. It’s just overwhelming, the need for certain materials, and that’s the issue. All houses are made to the same standard. Its just so many homes have busted pipes.”
NACC is receiving a shipment of plumbing materials from Florida this week and expects to begin rebuilding homes soon. Please call 832-626-7111 or email [email protected] if you need assistance. Monetary donations may be made at www.nacchelps.org. Other possible donations include building materials, plumbing materials, sheet rock, sheet rock screws, insulation, and clothing. All in kind donations can be brought to 16605 Air Center Blvd. Houston, TX 77032.