Plumbers hit supply snag as calls mount to restore water service

The winter storms cut off electricity and water across Texas last week. Some people still lack access to water after pipes burst in homes across the country.

AUSTIN, Texas – Plumbers across Texas are experiencing record call volume.

“It will be weeks before we catch up,” said Brett Bidwell, the owner of Mr. Rooter Plumbing. “Hopefully we’ll be back to normal within a month, but I’ve never dealt with a disaster of this magnitude so it’s hard to gauge.”

The demand for plumbers skyrocketed after central Texas weathered extreme winter weather that cut power and water supplies and gave evidence of boiling water in all metropolitan areas.

“We get well over 1,500 calls a day,” said Daniel Lawlis, owner of Daniels Plumbing. “We can’t even keep up with the volume calls. They come from Yelp, Angie’s List, and Facebook.”

Lawlis said his crews worked 16 to 20 hour shifts handling calls for broken pipes and broken water heaters.

“There was a freeze in 1989, and when I got into the industry in Houston in 1997, I’d always heard about the big Houston freeze in 1989 and what it was about 18-hour days possible, “said Lawlis. “That’s probably worse.”

So close to not having any additional problems from this power outage / water loss. Water was recovered tonight (78758) but the water heater started to leak. A small “flood” in the kitchen was cleaned with towels. Tomorrow: investigation to fix the problem! #AustinPowerOutage @KVUE

– Mike Marut (@MikeMarutKVUE) February 20, 2021

Due to the long working hours and high demand, plumbers face a shortage of supplies, namely instantaneous water heaters.

“You won’t believe me when I say that we had to meet our supplier at a remote warehouse in Buda at midnight to pick up some water heaters because they are so mad to get these water heaters.” Lawlis said.

RELATED: Plumbers continue to respond to the influx of service calls after the winter storm

Local suppliers are running out faster than usual. It has prompted Bidwell to increase its orders from out of state to supply customers and get the water running again.

“The backlog in water heaters doesn’t seem to be long,” said Bidwell.

Along with the heaters, plumbers are understaffed enough to swap parts from each other’s vans if they can’t find them in hardware stores or suppliers.

“In fact, it was like copper fittings, like half-inch clutches and such, we had to shop around the trucks and run around looking after each other because we have problems with supply houses, not to mention the long lines and just the rush to get parts said Bidwell.

RELATED: Water pipe bursts are likely to get “exponentially worse” as things thaw

Lawlis described it as something like, “It’s a wonderful life,” with plumbers only ordering what they absolutely need from suppliers.

“We ordered 105 of these and the vendors said, ‘OK, how many do you need right now?'” Lawlis said. “They delivered another 30 today and I thought let’s just distribute it. We don’t want to take everything.”

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