Benjamin Williams, left, fills garbage bins with water for a Callaway High School employee on Feb. 23, 2021. Thousands of residents in Jackson are still without water after a recent historic winter storm. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

Mississippi’s public service commissioners announced on Wednesday that they are launching a comprehensive review of the state’s public utility infrastructure in response to the damages caused by last week’s winter storm.

The goal of the review, which will begin immediately, is to ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure utility services across the state are reliable.

The commission, which regulates the state’s public utilities that offer electricity, water and gas, noted that the state’s electric and natural gas utilities performed well during the winter storm, but that regulators still need to guarantee systems are in place to avoid costly and damaging large-area outages — similar to what happened last week in Texas.

“While Mississippi utilities are accustomed to extreme weather events like hurricanes and tornadoes, winter storms are much rarer,” the commission wrote in a press release. “The latest winter storm presented new challenges to Mississippi utilities that the commission feels must be addressed immediately and forthrightly.”

Last week’s historic winter storm wrecked public infrastructure and disrupted public services across the state. Hundreds of thousands of Mississippians lost power at some point during the winter storm, and residents in dozens of Mississippi cities and towns also went without water or had low water pressure. Thousands of residents across the cities of Jackson and Vicksburg still have no water service.

“It is our highest duty as commissioners to make sure that we not only solve problems but anticipate them ahead of time,” Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said. “This latest winter storm has presented challenges that must be addressed in a formal and thorough manner. Mississippians deserve to have every assurance that the public and private power grid, water and other utility services will be there at all times. After all, the customers are the ones paying for it. Working families and small businesses are already financially struggling because of the pandemic, we must protect their pocketbooks along the way.”

READ MORE: Thousands in Jackson, the state’s largest city, are still without water following historic winter storm

Will Stribling covers healthcare and breaking news for Mississippi Today.