Joe Biden said Friday that he was ready to declare a major disaster in Texas after a deadly winter storm cut off power and cut off water supplies to millions of people across the state.
Biden said the statement, which follows a request from Texas Governor Greg Abbott, would open up broader federal aid for immediate and long-term recovery efforts.
A presidential visit to the state is planned for next week.
“Like I said when I ran, I am going to be a president for all Americans,” Biden, who won the November election without winning Texas, said of his plans. “If I can do it without creating a burden on people, I plan to go.”
Biden has asked his team to expedite Texas’ request for a disaster declaration, clearing the way for more federal resources, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
The White House later said in a statement that Biden called the acting administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), Bob Fenton, to inform him that he would approve the measure as soon as the agency submitted a formal request.
The White House has reached out to mayors of Texas cities, including Houston and Austin, and officials from Dallas and other counties, to make sure they are connected to Fema and have access to federal government resources, said an official with the separate administration.
As the cold weather began to subside in Texas, power was restored throughout the state, but millions of people remained without clean water throughout the southern U.S. As the region struggled to recover from a crippling week of winter weather.
Roughly 370,000 homes were without power in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi on Friday morning, and millions in the region were under boil water warnings, after record low temperatures damaged pipes and infrastructure across the southern United States. .
In Texas, nearly half of the state’s residents, about 13 million people, remained under boil warnings, with more than 700 water supply systems affected, according to an update from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Thursday. In Austin, the state capital alone, the city reported losing 325 million gallons of water due to broken pipes.
In Jackson, Mississippi, most of the city’s 150,000 residents ran out of water Thursday night. Jackson Mayor Antar Lumumba told a news conference that the city faces a shortage of chemicals to treat the water, despite pumping efforts to refill the city’s tanks.
In Louisiana, about a million residents were left without potable water Thursday, with 98 water supply systems across the state, according to Governor John Bel Edwards. On Thursday, Biden approved a disaster declaration for the state. The president authorized a similar disaster declaration for Texas earlier in the week, allowing Fema to coordinate disaster relief efforts in the state.
Late Thursday, Abbott announced that the state had requested another major disaster declaration that would “allow eligible Texans to request assistance to help fix broken pipes and related property damage,” according to a press release.
Abbott also announced that it would ask the legislature “to order the winterization of Texas electrical system and that the legislature guarantee the necessary funds for winterization.”
The freezing temperatures have moved to the Appalachians, northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania, and later the Northeast, as extreme weather was blamed for the deaths of at least 58 people, including a Tennessee farmer trying to save two calves that apparently ran into a farm. frozen pond and a 17 year old Oklahoma girl who fell into a frozen pond.
An increasing number of people have died trying to keep warm. In and around the West Texas city of Abilene, authorities said six people died from the cold, including a 60-year-old man who was found dead in his bed. In the Houston area, a family died of carbon monoxide poisoning while their car was stopped in their garage.
Utilities from Minnesota to Texas used continuous blackouts to relieve strain on the electrical networks. But the remaining Texas outages were mostly weather-related, according to Fenton, Fema’s acting director, said Friday that crews were in Texas with fuel, water, blankets and other supplies.
“My main concern is making sure people stay warm,” Fenton said on CBS This Morning, while urging people without heating to go to a shelter or warming center.
Rotating outages for Texas could return if demand for electricity increases as people regain power and heat, said Dan Woodfin, senior director of system operations for the council.
The crisis is exacerbating and demonstrating chronic inequality in Texas and throughout the region. In Houston, authorities reported that massive power and water outages led to more than 500 complaints from residents about excessive costs for water, gas and rent, double the number of complaints filed at the start of the pandemic. according to the Houston Chronicle.
Two of Houston Methodist community hospitals did not have running water and were still treating patients, but they canceled most non-emergency surgeries and procedures for Thursday and possibly Friday, a spokeswoman said.
And in Texas’ vast prison network, inmates complained of freezing temperatures and stagnant and overflowing toilets, according to local reports.
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Ted Cruz continued to face backlash for traveling to a Mexican resort town amid the crisis. Cruz returned to Texas from his brief trip to Cancun on Thursday. You have called the trip a “mistake.”
“We are not wasting time, energy or encouragement analyzing the whereabouts of Senator Cruz or his group talk,” Psaki said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism