How Many Texans Had Frozen Pipes During February's Crisis?
March 19, 2021
February's winter storm in Texas resulted in widespread frozen pipes and a massive plumbing disaster. After power was restored to millions of residents, it was time to start cleaning up the flooding and dealing with plumbing repairs.
Even as state leadership brought in retired plumbers and out-of-state plumbers to help with repairs, we were still unsure about the full scope of the plumbing problem in Texas.
A new Groundworks survey asked the residents of Texas if their pipes burst during February's winter storm. The results reveal that the plumbing problems are worse than expected.
How Many People in Texas Had Burst Pipes During February's Crisis?
After surveying 875 residents of Texas about the effects of the winter storm, 16 percent of respondents said their pipes froze and burst in February 2021. That's a significant rate and will put the total damages into the billions. If we apply that number to the full state, that could mean there are about 1.2 million homes flooded from frozen pipes.
To put the scope of the problem into context, State Farm Insurance in Texas reported that last year, the state had 75 claims for frozen and burst pipes. This year, the insurance company already had 29,000 claims in Texas before February 22.
Even this may be just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Because some frozen pipes can thaw without bursting, there are countless more residents who were able to avoid the extreme damage of a pipe rupture. However, to protect their homes from the next weather event, they'll need to complete home repairs such as updating insulation and improving weatherproofing.
Where in Texas Were Frozen Pipes the Biggest Problem?
Weather patterns and construction practices can affect the scope of the damage. For example, homes in northern states are often built to withstand colder temperatures. However, when a winter storm happens in southern states, the damage can be severe because the homes are not able to withstand the temperatures. The age of the home, regional construction standards, and home renovation trends can all make a difference as to the extent of the damage after a winter storm.
The survey data from Groundworks reveals that some areas of Texas had more occurrences of frozen pipes and flooding.
The southeastern part of the state experienced some of the worst damage, and in the Waco area, 33 percent of respondents reported burst pipes. The majority of the state had cold temperatures that were at least 20 degrees below average, but eastern Texas had the biggest anomalies in temperature. These areas had temperatures that were 40 degrees or more below average.
How Much Damage Is Caused By Burst Pipe?
On average, the damage from frozen pipes costs $27,000 per instance, according to a home insurance rep. However, individual claims can total millions of dollars' worth of damage.
Even a small one-inch slit in a water pipe could lead to hundreds or thousands of gallons of water flooding a home.
The best-case scenario is not pretty. A burst pipe would damage floors, carpeting, furniture, and personal belongings. However, the worst-case scenario is extreme. If the home's main water lines are not turned off quickly, floodwaters would cascade down from the upper stories of the house, filling up a home with several feet of water, and destroying the structure of the home.
What's the Scope of Winter Storm Damage in Texas and Southern States?
Bloomberg reports that insured losses could reach $18 billion for regional damage from the winter storm. The vast majority of claims will be from broken pipes. This estimate would make the Texas winter storm more damaging than the 2020 wildfires in California and along the pacific coast.
How Can You Recover from Water Damage and Frozen Pipes?
Burst pipes or flooding throughout your basement or crawl space and the rest of your home can be devastating. If you've been affected by the winter storm, this guide to winter storm recovery can help you understand how to deal with the damage and how to protect your home against future winter weather events.
The guide breaks down the best way to deal with flooding, what to do about insurance claims, and steps to help you avoid mold damage. Hopefully, we've seen the last major winter storm for the year, but this summer is a good time to do the home repairs that will help you be prepared for next winter.
Home repair projects can include:
- Improving the insulation on water pipes
- Installing a sump pump with a backup battery
- Improving drainage and repairing foundation cracks
- Safely installing a home generator system
Keep in mind that improving thermal efficiency is a smart upgrade that can have year-long benefits, helping to keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
One of the most common areas for drafts is along the foundation sill and in the attic. This can create a vertical updraft of airflow through the house. Addressing the top and bottom of your home through waterproofing and attic insulation can help your home be more weatherproof and have better resilience against extreme weather. It may even help you avoid frozen pipes during the next winter storm.
Learn how you can start protecting your home by signing up for a free inspection from the country's leading waterproofing and foundation experts.