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Parts Of Mississippi Under Boil Water Advisory Following Cold Snap

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

President Joe Biden has declared a major disaster in Texas. That will make federal funds available for temporary housing, home repairs and low-cost loans as the state recovers from days of extreme winter weather. Warmer temperatures are bringing some relief, for people there and in other Gulf States. In Mississippi, utility crews are hard at work to restore power to thousands of customers. Joining us now from Jackson in Mississippi - joining us now from Jackson is Mississippi Public Broadcasting's Becca Schimmel. Good morning.

BECCA SCHIMMEL, BYLINE: Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell us what it's been like there over the past few days.

SCHIMMEL: Pretty frozen the past few days, but the sun finally came out yesterday, and more people were able to get their cars out and get on the road for essentials. Most of the state is still under a boil-water advisory, though, so a lot of the restaurants and other places are closed. I have just been able to get my car out this morning, but it was surrounded with a pretty thick layer of ice - pretty impressive.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah.

SCHIMMEL: I'm lucky that I haven't lost power, though, and I've had enough water trickling out to be able to fill a kettle and boil my water. And there were a couple of days this week where I may not have had enough water pressure to take a shower, but my pipes haven't burst or anything, so that's good.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That is good. And I imagine you've been talking to people in the city. What are they saying?

SCHIMMEL: Yeah, well, since people can actually get out of their house and walk around now, I spoke with Jerrica Johnson (ph) about the storm while she was in line with her 8-year-old cousin at the grocery store. It was actually his birthday yesterday, so hopefully, he'll get to enjoy it, now that the ice is melting and the state is recovering. But Jerrica said it's been pretty tough.

JERRICA JOHNSON: Not having water and stuff like that and going back and forth to the grocery store, not being able to drive, due to the ice. And things have been closed so early.

SCHIMMEL: And down the street at the dry cleaners, Carly Kaiser (ph) is back at work after being closed the entire week, pretty much. She works in customer service, and she said she expected business to start picking back up next week. It was pretty dead when I went over there. Kaiser lost power for one day during the middle of the storm, but she's thankful it wasn't worse.

CARLY KAISER: I've seen other people that have, you know, worse. They don't have water. They still don't have power and stuff like that. So I'm just thankful, you know, we have what we have.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's so hard for residents, of course, but are businesses open? How are they dealing with the water situation?

SCHIMMEL: Yeah, well, Urban Foxes - which is the coffee shop right around the corner from me - like many food service businesses, was closed pretty much all week. They've been pretty limited in what they can offer, having to boil water before they can use it, like the rest of Jackson and really many areas throughout Mississippi. Here's Maya Miller (ph), who works there.

MAYA MILLER: Surprisingly, more people have showed up today than we thought would show up. I think everyone's a little bit - you know, got a little bit of cabin fever.

SCHIMMEL: I did see more people out and about today and yesterday than I'd really seen all week. The city of Jackson's working to deliver water to the most vulnerable population right now - the elderly people who can't get out of their houses. But ultimately, Mississippi's infrastructure was stressed by the unprecedented and prolonged winter weather.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I can imagine. We've been hearing a lot from Texas about better preparing for extreme winter weather in the future. Are residents of the Gulf States having the same discussions?

SCHIMMEL: Well, I don't think Mississippi or Louisiana officials feel that they can always justify spending money on snowplows or more road salt - not when they face the more common threat of flooding. During a press conference this past week, the mayor of Shreveport, La., said if he suggested buying road salt over more sand in case of flooding, he would be laughed out of the building. And the mayor of Jackson, Miss., agreed, but added that the problem this week wasn't really snow removal. It was ice, which the sun has much more power to solve than a plow or road salt.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Becca Schimmel of Mississippi Public Broadcasting. Thank you very much.

SCHIMMEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.