With hopes of a thaw on the horizon, millions of Americans across the south-central U.S. were grappling with the aftermath of the deadly winter blast Saturday.
Power was slowly returning to residents impacted by the storm, but many were still without clean drinking water. More than 275,000 people across seven states were without power Saturday morning, including more than 80,000 in Texas – down from 4 million earlier in the week, according to PowerOutage.us.
Over 15.1 million people in Texas – more than half the state’s population – across 189 counties had disruptions in their water service early Saturday, leading local agencies to issue boil water advisories, Gary Rasp, a spokesman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality told USA TODAY.
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Experts are warning that people of color and low-income communities who were disproportionately affected by blackouts and burst pipes could now face the hardest journey to recovery.
Biden declares major disaster in Texas
The White House announced on Saturday that the president had declared a major disaster in Texas, and he has asked federal agencies to identify additional resources to address the suffering in dozens of counties in the state.
The assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and more.
Biden said Friday he plans to visit Texas next week but will only go when he determines his presence won’t be a “burden.”
“The answer is yes,” Biden said of a visit to Texas, adding his plan originally was to go in the middle of next week. “But I don’t want to be a burden. When the president lands in a city in America it has a long tail.”
Last week, Biden approved states of emergency in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.
More than 3,000 daily record cold temperatures last week
Last week saw some of the worst winter weather conditions in decades, if not on record, the National Weather Service said Friday, and the conditions were blamed for the deaths of more than 57 people.
More than 3,000 daily record cold temperatures were reported from February 12-17, and 79 of those records were all-time cold records, the NWS said Friday, predicting that much of the U.S. was expected to see subfreezing temperatures for several days to come.
Public health officials have been warning about concerns of hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning in recent days, and the winter weather has also led to dangerous impediments to fire departments.
In Killeen, Texas, where the city announced it was conserving water due to “extremely limited” supply, a Hilton Garden Inn went up in flames late Friday. Late Thursday, an apartment complex near San Antonio burned down.
Fire hydrants were freezing, leaving firefighters with little water to put out fires, Bexar Bulverde Fire Department Chief Jerry Bialick told the Associated Press. “That’s our problem, once we make a little advance on a fire, we run out of water,” he said.
‘Warmth is on the way’
There’s good news: “Warmth is on the way,” the National Weather Service said Friday. “It may even feel tropical by early next week,” the service said.
AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said a “major thaw is forecast for the recently winter-bombarded south-central United States.”
“Even though temperature swings won’t be as dramatic in the Midwest and East, AccuWeather meteorologists say the extreme winter weather of late should ease up in intensity into the end of February,” Sosnowski said.
Contributing: The Associated Press