Image: Workers check natural gas meter
Clyde Mueller  /  The Santa Fe New Mexican via AP
New Mexico Gas employees take pressure readings at a natural gas meter in Santa Fe last Thursday, when tens of thousands of people across the state were without natural gas service.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 2/7/2011 2:04:17 PM ET 2011-02-07T19:04:17

By now, just about everyone has heard of the ice that fell off the Super Bowl stadium in Dallas, the deep freeze that chilled Chicago and the waves of winter storms that hit the Northeast so far this winter. But did you know about the thousands without water in El Paso, Texas, or the tens of thousands without natural gas to warm up in New Mexico?

In El Paso, schools were closed and many businesses shut down Monday due to the lack of water.

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Officials on Monday said the worst appeared to be over after up to 7,000 customers across the city were without water or with low water pressure for several days.

On Sunday, the city declared a water emergency — hoping residents would be more serious about conserving while crews repaired water pumps that went off line last week.

The crisis started when the state's major utility caused rolling electrical blackouts due to high demand for electricity during snow and ice storms last week. The blackouts shut down pumps and damaged equipment, causing water line breaks.

At the same time, El Paso was also seeing record cold and that mean lots of broken pipes in homes and businesses as well as water line breaks.

In New Mexico, crews were working Monday to restore natural gas service to some 16,000 customers after record cold there caused a shortage. The rolling blackouts in Texas, where much of the gas comes from, also were a factor.

Service has been restored to parts of southern New Mexico, but areas still hit hard include Taos and Espanola.

Last week, the state set up shelters for residents without heat and suggested schools remain closed during the emergency. At one point, more than 30,000 customers were without natural gas.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: Water crisis leaves El Paso residents drained

  1. Transcript of: Water crisis leaves El Paso residents drained

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: The massive blizzard and cold weather system that blanketed much of the country last week caused some big problems that haven't been solved yet. In the American Southwest there was a huge demand for heat as the temperatures dropped, and led to natural gas and even water being cut off in places from Texas to Arizona and New Mexico . And places like El Paso , Texas , are hurting now for many days in a row. Our own George Lewis is in Sunland Park , New Mexico , tonight. George , good evening.

    GEORGE LEWIS reporting: Good morning, Brian . It's a double whammy, cold temperatures combined with an aging utility infrastructure producing a raft of problems; including, a few miles down the road from here in El Paso , a water crisis . In El Paso , city officials have declared a water emergency as thousands of residents were left high and dry by freezing pipes and empty reservoirs. Officials are appealing for the public's help.

    Mr. NICK COSTANZO (El Paso Water Utilities): Asking folks again not to wash cars, shower, use the dishwasher, clothes washing machines or anything else that uses large amounts of water.

    LEWIS: Today's warmer temperatures helped crews thawing out some of the frozen pipes that led to the shortages at the city's reservoirs. But with the thaw they're discovering all sorts of new leaks. Schools have been closed and many businesses, including car washes and laundromats, were forced to shut down. And the city is warning residents who do have water to boil it before drinking. In New Mexico , natural gas outages have left much of the state without gas and heat. Utility teams, with help from the National Guard , were going door-to-door working to restore natural gas to more than 30,000 customers.

    Unidentified Man: I've never heard of anything quite like this.

    LEWIS: It was another blow to a region recovering from record cold temperatures, icy roads and rolling blackouts. The restrictions led to a run on five-gallon jugs and cases of water at local stores. Now, the local water utility says it's lifting the usage restrictions tonight at 10:00 . But it isn't over yet. More cold weather is headed this way late tomorrow. Brian :

    WILLIAMS: All right, George Lewis out in New Mexico tonight. George ,

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