Biden Declares Major Disaster in Storm-Ravaged Texas
President Joe Biden approved Saturday a major disaster declaration for Texas, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That now clears the way for a broad range of federal funding for citizens across the state.
Millions of people in the largest U.S. oil and gas producing state were without power for days, and almost half of the state’s residents also have been struggling with a lack of safe drinking water.
Some 80,000 electric utility customers in Texas remained without power and heat Saturday, and more than 14 million people in 160 of the state’s 254 counties were still experiencing water service disruptions as of Friday night, while the impacts of the week’s Arctic cold blast stretched to the states of Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee and beyond.
Biden’s emergency declaration frees up taxpayer dollars for individuals and entrepreneurs throughout Texas, including funding for temporary housing, low-interest recovery loans and home repairs.
The White House said it is working closely with Republican Governor Greg Abbott to provide relief, after he initially refused to acknowledge Biden’s defeat of Republican Donald Trump in the November presidential election.
Federal emergency agencies previously sent power generators to bolster water treatment plants, hospitals and nursing homes.
Millions of Texans have had their power restored days after demand during a severe winter storm overwhelmed the electrical grid, but now they face a new challenge: a lack of safe drinking water.
President Biden said he would travel to the state if his visit would not hamper those working there to handle the crisis.
Texas officials advised nearly a quarter of the state’s population to boil tap water before drinking it. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said residents of the state’s largest city would have to boil water until at least Sunday or Monday.Water is loaded into cars at a distribution site, Feb. 19, 2021, in Houston. The drive-through stadium location was set up to provide bottled water to individuals who needed water while the city remains on a boil notice.Two large hospitals in the city reported no running water, leading to the cancellation of non-emergency procedures through at least Friday.
Due to damaged pipes and other water infrastructure, water pressure was spotty around the state. The water system was taxed because millions of people left their faucets dripping to prevent pipes from freezing and possibly bursting.
Governor Abbott urged Texans to shut off their water.
Much of the contiguous United States is covered in snow, as Texas and neighboring Louisiana are being hit by some of the coldest temperatures they have experienced in 30 years.
The average February temperature in Texas is about 13 degrees Celsius. Current temperatures are far below normal and wreaking havoc on the state’s infrastructure.
At least 58 Americans have died across the southern United States this week directly and indirectly related to the weather, and many more have their lives at risk.
While Texas is the hardest hit state, more than 330,000 from Virginia to Louisiana were without power.
Utilities from Minnesota to Texas had to impose rolling electricity blackouts to provide relief to strained power grids.