JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Temperatures have risen and snow and ice have melted in Mississippi and Louisiana, but tens of thousands of people still had little or no water service Monday, some of them waiting a full week for restoration since the outages began during an extended freeze.
At a city council meeting in Jackson, Mississippi, on Monday, Public Works Director Charles Williams said it could be the end of the week before water returns for all 161,000 residents as crews scramble to repair broken pipes.
"We are doing everything we can to get it hopefully quicker than that," Williams said. " We know that it is impacting schools, we know that it is impacting businesses, and most importantly it's impacting our residents — especially our elderly residents."
Jackson is under boil water advisory and is delivering drinking water to elderly and homebound residents. Water for flushing toilets was available for pickup at two local public schools, which drew long lines Monday as people waited to fill buckets and bowls.
Williams said the water shortage occurred after frigid temperatures iced equipment and caused water lines to burst. As of Sunday night, Jackson had at least 20 confirmed water main breaks.
Officials have said the city's aging water system is not built to handle the subfreezing temperatures of the last week. The city has struggled to find money to make improvements.
Mississippi has a 7% sales tax on many items. With permission of the Legislature, Jackson had a local election in January 2014 to add an extra 1% sales tax in the city to improve or replace aging infrastructure, including streets riddled with pot holes and pipes that are decades old and that have a history of breaking after cold weather.
Voters overwhelmingly approved the tax, which was projected to generate about $15 million a year. That is only a fraction of what is needed, though. Jackson officials said in 2014 that fixing all the city's infrastructure problems would cost about $2 billion.
Louisiana has faced similar challenges. About 82,000 people in Louisiana lacked access to water by Monday morning, according to the state health department.
In Shreveport, Louisiana's third-largest city, about 8,000 residential and business customers still waited for their water connection to return, according to Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins. He said Louisiana's difficulties from the winter weather have been lost amid the problems in Texas.
"Everybody's eyes are on Texas," Perkins said in an interview Monday. "Nobody even knows what's going on here. They don't even know the damage."
He added: "Louisiana has been treated very much like a stepchild in this crisis."
Perkins estimated full water restoration would be complete in his northwestern Louisiana city by Tuesday, a full eight days after outages began.
"We had to wait until Saturday really to get a high enough visibility even to know where the pipes are bursting. It's been one problem after another," Perkins said.
But even that won't end the water woes in Shreveport. Perkins said once water is completely restored, customers will remain under a boil advisory until Thursday or Friday, because testing will need to be completed ensuring water is safe to drink. Meanwhile, water has been trucked to hospitals and distributed to residents.
"We've even had our fire trucks go out and pump water into the hospitals," Perkins said.
Families running low on supplies have found Shreveport area grocery store shelves stripped of items, with delivery trucks unable to reach the region until roads cleared.
"It's still rough on a lot of families," Perkins said. "Just about every grocery store in the city doesn't have milk, water, bread, any of those types of essentials. Their shelves are completely cleared out."
More than 18,000 customers remained without power in Mississippi on Monday, according to PowerOutage.us, which trackers outages nationwide. Most of the outages were in the central and southwest parts of the state.
In Louisiana, fewer than 5,000 customers remained without power.
Associated Press reporters Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson and Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this report.