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President Biden issued a major disaster declaration for the state of Texas on Saturday, after a winter storm knocked out power and heat across the state and left millions of residents without potable water.
Residents of Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and other cities are being told to boil water, and 1,180 public water systems in 160 counties in the state reported service disruptions as of Friday morning, The Texas Tribune reported. Many residents were cut off from power and heating for the past week, although the state’s electrical grid restored most service on Friday.
Biden “declared that a major disaster exists in the State of Texas and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe winter storms,” according to a statement from the White House. “Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.”
The president said on Friday that he intended to travel to Texas as soon as possible, but that he didn’t want his visit to create logistical hurdles for responders on the ground.
The storm could cause roughly $18 billion in property damage, according to predictions by catastrophe-modeling firm Karen Clark & Co.
“This event has snow and ice, but it is predominantly a freezing event and most of the claims are going to be related to water damage,” Clark told The Wall Street Journal. Much of that damage is caused by water pipes that have frozen and burst in buildings across Texas.