Much of US still gripped by arctic weather as Memphis deals with numerous broken water pipes

Members of the Bellows Falls, Vt., Fire Department practice cold water rescue training Saturday at Minard's Pond in Bellows Falls, Vt. (Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer via AP)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Subfreezing conditions and treacherous roadways have contributed to dozens of deaths this month across the U.S., where states as far south as Texas and Florida remain gripped by deadly arctic weather Sunday. But the numbing cold is expected to ease up in the coming days.

Nationally, winter storms have claimed at least 72 lives around the U.S. this January, many involving hypothermia or road accidents.


On Sunday, crews in Memphis, Tennessee, continued to work around the clock to find and fix broken pipes that were causing low water pressure throughout the system. Memphis Light, Gas and Water President and CEO Doug McGowen told reporters Sunday afternoon that crews are making progress and he expects most of the 700,000 people the utility services to have water restored over the next 24 hours.

“If we remain on this very positive path, and we are on a positive path, I believe that by Wednesday we will have pressure sufficient for us to take samples of our water system,” he said. “Assuming good results, we think that means a Thursday for lifting of the boil water advisory.”

McGowen also asked people to stop dripping their faucets to help build pressure in the system.

Memphis Light, Gas and Water was repairing 10 water main breaks on Sunday afternoon, and McGowen said he expects to see more as the ground continues to thaw. The utility said it previously repaired 41 broken water mains and located more than 4,000 leaks at homes and businesses.

Rhodes College, in Memphis, began sending students living there home on Saturday and moving those who could not return home to hotels. The school was planning virtual classes on Monday and Tuesday.

“We ask that you NOT come to campus either day due to the ongoing water situation and the hazards that creates,” the school announcement said.

With warmer temperatures predicted this week, Ray now says she’s faced with another worry: the potential of bursting pipes.

The continued cold weather is also responsible for at least 27 deaths in Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

Just south in Mississippi, the state’s Emergency Management Agency said Sunday that 11 people have died of causes related to frigid weather since Jan. 14.

Elsewhere, freezing rain, sleet and high wind gusts later Sunday would make traveling in parts of Kansas and Oklahoma particularly treacherous, the National Weather Service said. Wind chills in Iowa made it feel like minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 7 degrees Celsius) in some parts.

But the end of subzero temperatures — which blasted into the U.S. on Friday — was in sight for parts of the country. The daily high temperatures in Iowa’s capital of Des Moines, for example, were expected to stay above freezing starting Monday.

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