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Live Texas updates: Millions face clean-up costs, need disaster relief after Texas winter storms

Costs are climbing for many Texans as they face water damage, repair bills, electricity charges and hotel stay expenses. Here's what to know.

This story will be continuously updated on Feb. 23.

As North Texans continue to recover from last week's winter storms, water outages and broken pipes remain a source of frustration. 

As of Monday morning, Fort Worth officials had confirmed 611 water main breaks since Valentine's Day, and are still counting them, working to repair dozens of outstanding breaks. 

That means there are hundreds of spots in the city where water might be pouring down the street, or spots where roads are sunken in. 

That also means some people in the city still don't have water. That's a story many are dealing with across North Texas as crews work to restore service to homes impacted by busted water lines.

Some cities are providing bottled water as a way to help people, but many are concerned about the lasting damage left behind by leaking and broken pipes.

RELATED: 30 years of warnings to winterize Texas power plants, yet they still froze. Will Austin finally require it?

In 2020, Texans filed 75 reports of busted pipes due to cold with State Farm. So far, nearly 29,000 claims have been made following last week's storms.

On Monday, the Insurance Council of Texas announced it was anticipating that hundreds of thousands of claims will be filed. The winter storms last week could soon be the costliest in the state’s history, ICT said.

RELATED: After the storm: Is your home under-insured?

Temperatures in the 70s are quickly thawing pipes, illuminating how widespread the damage really is, and in some cases making things worse.

But as Texans work to find people to help them fix the damage, they need to be cautious of potential scammers, officials warn.

It's important to know the do’s and don’ts for hiring a contractor before putting any money down.

Russell Lawrenz of Lawrenz Contracting told WFAA his number one tip was don't pay anyone before a job begins. For more tips, click here. 

For a daily roundup of the latest news from around North Texas and beyond, sign up for the WFAA email newsletter.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins gives update on federal assistance

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Tuesday in a news conference that Dallas residents and business owners who sustained damage during last week's winter storm can apply for federal assistance through FEMA at disasterassistance.gov. You can also call 1-800-621-3362 or 1-800-462-7585.

Small business owners may also qualify for assistance through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Click here to get disaster loan assistance for small businesses.

FEMA will help Texans with losses that aren't covered with insurance, Jenkins said. If you're not insured, you can make a claim with FEMA, and if you're underinsured, you can also make a claim with FEMA.

"Folks, that's all of us," Jenkins said about being underinsured. "Unless you bought your insurance a few weeks ago, you're underinsured."

Jenkins reiterated these steps to help those who want to file a claim:

  1. Take photos of the damage
  2. Make a list of the damaged and lost items
  3. Go to your insurance company first, if you have one, and file a claim with them before filing with FEMA, so you can get a claim number
  4. Apply for FEMA assistance

Individual assistance from FEMA can cover everything from homeowners and renters claims to childcare and moving expenses caused by the storm, Jenkins said.

RELATED: How Texans affected by severe winter storms can apply for federal disaster assistance

Jenkins also mentioned the problems many Texans have been having with high electric bills, and urged customers to get on fixed-rate plans.

"Many Texans are seeing ridiculously high electric bills to heat their homes. Obviously, this is completely inexcusable. Frankly, everyone should get on a fixed-rate plan," he said. "You don't want to gamble with your electric bill. You want to gamble, go to Oklahoma."

RELATED: 5 ERCOT board members who live out of state to resign following devastating storms, power outages

Jenkins said customers should stop auto-pay immediately and check with their electric providers to see their plans.

Friendship-West Church giving out hot meals and water all week

Hot meals and water will be distributed to North Texans in need each day through Saturday at Friendship-West, officials with the church said.

The food and water will be given out at 4:30 p.m. each weekday and at noon on Saturday. 

The church is located at 2020 W. Wheatland Road in Dallas. 

Organizers said they plan to give out 1000 meals every day through Saturday. 

Tarrant County officials warning against price gouging

Authorities in Tarrant County issued a warning Tuesday for anyone thinking of price-gouging items such as bottled water or plumbing materials after last week's storms.

High prices don't necessarily mean price gouging is occurring. But if businesses set "exorbitant prices" after a disaster has been declared, that could be price gouging, which is illegal.

RELATED: 'Don't do it': Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney warns against price gouging after winter storms

Austin lifts boil water notice after days of problems

Austin Water customers have been under a boil water notice since Wednesday night, but on Monday, they received some good news – part of that notice was finally being lifted. And now that that notice has been lifted for all Austin Water customers.

RELATED: Here's what you should do after a boil water notice ends

Water Mission collaborating with other organizations to send plumbers, supplies

An engineering nonprofit called Water Mission is organizing with Plumbers Without Borders and the Austin Disaster Relief Network to help Texans dealing with water issues. 

The groups will help provide skilled labor and plumbing material and supplies to "get safe water flowing in homes for the most vulnerable residents, including the elderly, disabled, uninsured, and underinsured," a news release from the organization said. 

Water Mission says it works on providing safe water and sanitation in disaster areas along with developing nations. To learn more about the organization's efforts in Texas, click here.

Tarrant Area Food Bank hosting 10 mobile markets

The Tarrant Area Food Bank is holding 10 mobile markets on Tuesday to help people who need food assistance. 

Chobani donates $100,000 to help military families, sending food to Tarrant Area Food Bank

Chobani is donating $100,000 to Operation Homefront, a San Antonio military nonprofit, to help Texas military families who were affected by the winter storms, a news release said. 

The money will go to the nonprofit's Critical Financial Assistance Program to help families with expenses like rent/mortgage payments, utilities, and groceries. 

The yogurt company also said it is shipping its product to the Tarrant Area Food Bank to help feed those impacted by the storms.