‘Far too burdensome’: Abbott pivots to recovery efforts as winter storm exits Texas

Biden to approve major disaster declaration for state, governor says

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference in Austin, Texas, on Feb. 19, 2021. (KPRC)

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday prioritized the restoration of water and power to thousands of Texas homes still left dry and cold after this week’s winter storm.

“This past week has been an enormous challenge, maybe unlike any challenge that you’ve ever dealt with before,” Abbott said. “It has been far too burdensome for the lives of all those affected.”

Abbott said about 165,000 homes are still without power, mostly in Central Texas. None of those outages are the result of the state-mandated blackout that left millions of Texans in the dark for nearly a week. He said the remaining outages are the result of downed power lines or the necessity of a manual connection to the power grid.

The governor also said the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is working to expedite lab tests for water systems that are coming back online and are required to test the water before lifting boil water notices. He said TCEQ is opening a hotline at 5 p.m. for local governments to locate appropriate labs that can fulfill those requests. More information about the hotline will be posted on the TCEQ website.

Abbott also said officials are working to move food and supplies to the hardest-hit areas, something with which Texas has a lot of experience. He has allowed the use of off-road diesel in trucks on state roads so that food and supplies can be moved as quickly as possible.

Refineries and the state’s fuel supply are other priorities for Abbott. He said the state is working with refinery operators to bring those plants back online as quickly and safely as possible.

Disaster declaration

Abbott said President Joe Biden told him he will sign a major disaster declaration for Texas, which will open the doors to aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for home and business owners who have sustained damage from the storm.

The governor said property or business owners who have sustained damage should contact their insurance companies as soon as possible to get the claims process started. He said federal aid would only kick in for expenses that are not covered by insurance.

The state has also set up a disaster impacts self-reporting tool. The goal is to identify damages across the state so officials can get a better idea of the scope of the disaster.

Abbott said he has also requested an emergency declaration from the federal Department of Agriculture to help farmers impacted by the storm.