City of Houston officials are handing out free cases of water after the city of Houston introduced a water boiling recommendation at Delmar Stadium in Houston, Texas on February 19, 2021 following an unprecedented winter storm.
Callaghan O’Hare | Reuters
President Joe Biden has endorsed a statement of major disaster for Texas as the state grapples with widespread power outages and water shortages in freezing winter conditions, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Saturday.
The move unlocks federal funding for individuals in Texas, grants for temporary home and home repairs, and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property damage.
Millions of Texans are grappling with power outages, and more than half of the state is currently suffering from disrupted water supplies as boiling water reports are in effect. More than 14 million people in Texas have been asked to boil their water as of Friday because portions of the state’s water supply could be contaminated.
The statement also provides funding for cost-sharing with state and local governments, as well as some private nonprofits, for emergency response and risk reduction measures. Help is available in dozens of counties.
The federal government approved emergency declarations for Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana last week and sent supplies like generators, blankets, water and meals to Texas.
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The president plans to visit Texas as early as next week to assess the federal response. Biden said he will make a final decision after making sure his presence does not hinder recovery efforts. The government has worked closely with Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott on disaster relief.
Texas’s Electric Reliability Council (ERCOT) announced Friday that it has returned to normal conditions, restoring power for millions of customers. According to the latest data from PowerOutage.us, more than 78,000 customers in Texas had no power on Saturday morning at 10:30 am CET.
Alison Silverstein, an independent energy consultant and former strategic advisor to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, predicted that 20 million or more Texans could be forced to boil water.
In addition to the declaration of the major disaster, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued an emergency waiver for Texas on Friday. The immediate exemption enables the state to temporarily waive certain fuel standards in order to address the gas shortage in the affected areas.