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(Christa McWhirter)

Austinites comb through Home Depot for supplies to fix broken pipes and other plumbing issues.

Local plumbers have been overwhelmed with customers as the full extent of pipe damage is realized from frozen pipes thawing after days of sub-freezing temperatures.

With so many pipe issues resulting from the freezing temperatures of the past week, plumbing companies are being bombarded with calls for service. Radiant Plumbing and Air Conditioning is experiencing up to a 300% increase in calls, and ABC Home and Commercial Services is receiving about 1,000 calls a day. Such a drastic increase in call volume means that many customers are not able to get through to plumbers or retain appointment slots.

Bailey Klentzman, an Austin resident who experienced a burst pipe in her home on Monday afternoon, said her family has had trouble getting an appointment to fix their plumbing because local plumbers are so overbooked.

Despite not being able to successfully book a plumber, they have been able to get a contractor out to assess the damage to the floors and ceilings affected by the water damage. Although the Klentzmans appropriately prepared by leaving faucets dripping and cabinets open, they will still need to replace the floor and ceiling around the pipes due to severe water damage.

While struggling to find a plumber to come out, Klentzman, her husband and two dogs, have been without water for five days as of Saturday evening.

"I'm a hiker and I've done bad hikes before where I didn't plan so I had to ration water in that way, but that's just a few hours," Klentzman said. "Days without water was a little scary. I felt like I was really rationing."

After two days of rationing the little water they had, Klentzman said their neighbors came to their rescue, leaving containers of drinkable water and dog food at their home.

Chris Webb, another Austin resident, also experienced a burst pipe in his home.

Webb was out of town during the freeze, but knew something had gone awry when he received a text from his roommate.

"I got a text message from my roommate while I was trying to get home that just said, 'Code Red, man. Code red.' And I knew that that meant a pipe had finally gone."

Webb, like Klentzman, properly prepared his home to protect their pipes, unfortunately, his home has experienced extensive damage to, not only the plumbing, but the entire bathroom the leak happened in.

Having lost water due to the plumbing disaster since Wednesday after 40 hours without power, Webb and his housemates have finally had a plumber come out and restore their water.

"The whole (bathroom) wall is gutted and ripped out, but we got water running again ... and we're down to one bathroom for the house."

While overwhelmed plumbers scramble to fit Austin customers into their books, Gov. Greg Abbott has temporarily waived certain regulations for registered and qualified Plumber's Apprentices in Texas.

These waivers will allow Plumber's Apprentices, who have met all other qualifications, to temporarily repair plumbing in the state without direct supervision by a licensed plumber.

"These waivers will help meet the plumbing needs of Texans who have experienced burst pipes and other related damage from the severe winter weather," Abbott said. "By allowing certain registered and qualified Plumber's Apprentices to perform these repairs, we will be able to expedite the recovery process throughout our communities."

Despite days without power, burst pipes and extensive water damage, many Austinites share the same sentiment of gratitude for simply making it through a historic storm.

"Even with everything we've been through," Klentzman said, "we're still the lucky ones."


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