AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas emergency management officials provided an update on the state’s winter storm response Saturday afternoon.
Chief Nim Kidd of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Major General Tracy Norris of the Texas Military Department, and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality executive director Toby Baker were among the scheduled speakers.
Here’s a breakdown of what was discussed Saturday afternoon with recovery efforts in full effect across the state.
The White House announced Saturday morning President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for 77 Texas counties, which allows individuals to request federal assistance on home repairs and uninsured property losses through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Texans in approved counties can register here for assistance.
“While this partial approval is an important first step, Texas will continue to work with our federal partners to ensure all eligible Texans have access to the relief they need,” Gov. Abbott said in a statement.
Water distribution efforts
The state has ordered 9.9 million water bottles and so far it has received 5.5 million bottles, according to Chief Kidd. Two million bottles have been delivered and another million are expected to be doled out Saturday.
The Texas Military says it has deployed about 3200 members who are currently delivering water and food by aircraft. Officials say several planes are conducting multiple missions a day and North Carolina Military is also lending a plane.
Water restoration efforts
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality executive director Toby Baker says local utilities are working 24 hours daily to restore water service in Texas. As of Saturday afternoon, 14.3 million Texans are impacted which is down from 14.9 million on Friday. The TCEQ says 156,000 people are without water, which is down by half. At this point, 64 boil water notices have been rescinded and TCEQ says about 1,445 systems around the state have boil water notices. Officials say lack of power, frozen pipes and high demand are contributing factors hampering water restoration efforts.
Gov. Abbott called an emergency meeting for Saturday afternoon with key state lawmakers to address ways to “ensure that Texans are not on the hook for unreasonable spikes in their energy bills” after widespread power outages during and after the storm.
“It is unacceptable for Texans who suffered through days in the freezing cold without electricity or heat to now be hit with skyrocketing energy costs,” Abbott stated.