US President Joe Biden said on Friday he was ready to declare a major disaster in storm-slammed Texas as soon as the declaration hits his desk, and that he would travel to the state as long as he was not a burden to local authorities.
Millions of residents in the state are struggling with power outages after a major winter storm.
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“As I said when I ran, I’m going to be a president for all Americans,” said Biden, who lost in Texas last year to former President Donald Trump. Plans are being made for his trip, “if I can do it without creating a burden for folks,” he added.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott asked the federal government for a major disaster declaration on Thursday evening, according to a news release.
Biden has also asked his team to expedite the request about the disaster declaration, press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
Biden will also have a call with the acting administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) later on Friday, Psaki added.
The White House has also been in touch with mayors and county officials in Texas to make sure they were connected to FEMA and have access to resources within the federal government, an administration official said separately.
Texas has struggled with power outages since the storm hit earlier this week. Millions were without power and heat for most of the week. Approximately two dozen people are reported to have died, though the number is expected to rise.
All of the state’s power-generating plants are back online, but 166,229 remained without power as of 14:50 CST (20:50 GMT) on Friday, according to Poweroutage.us, which tracks utilities in the US.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which oversees 90 percent of Texas’ electricity in its deregulated energy market, said it was ending emergency conditions today.
ERCOT will end emergency conditions today: https://t.co/XyWWijxFXY
— ERCOT (@ERCOT_ISO) February 19, 2021
Water infrastructure across the state burst as water turned to ice during the storm. Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros said during a Thursday news conference officials in the state capital have responded to “thousands” of burst pipes.
AFD: We've responded to thousands of water main breaks, pipes bursting. It's important for you to know where your water shutoff is. If you're in an apartment/building, contact your management so they can quickly get there to shut the water off.
— Austin Energy (@austinenergy) February 18, 2021
The cold also caused water treatment plant stoppages, meaning those who do have access to water should exercise caution.
More than 14 million people, or half the state’s population, are still under boil notices for water, meaning it should be heated to kill harmful bacteria before consuming.
The historic storm has tested the state’s infrastructure, which, like much of infrastructure across the US, needs renovation.
The governor is making winterisation of state power generators a top priority.
In the news release, Abbott said he and Texas legislators “have already begun the process to make sure that events like this, never again happen in Texas”.