Lone Star State Besieged by Bad Weather: Biden Declares Major Disaster in Texas
by Eileen Cooney ’23
On Feb. 20, President Joseph Biden declared a major disaster for the majority of the state of Texas in the wake of a severe winter storm that left most of the state without electricity and killed 28 people. In recent days, more than 14 million Texans have been under boil water advisories, which remain in effect for more than 189 counties. The Texas Army National Guard has been deployed across the state in order to conduct welfare checks, assist local authorities, and find those who are in need of warming stations. Additionally, since many Texans are without water, the National Guard has delivered more than 28,000 water bottles.
President Biden’s declaration of a major disaster unlocks grants for temporary housing, home repairs, and low-cost loans in order to protect those who have property that is uninsured. In addition, these funds will help small businesses recover from the effects of the storm and provide federal aid to local government offices and nonprofit organizations so that they can provide protective measures and enact danger mitigation efforts.
Additionally, congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has helped raise more than $4 million in relief efforts in conjunction with Texas’s 29th congressional representative, Sylvia Garcia, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents Houston, TX. In a press conference, Ocasio-Cortez said, “This shows that New York stands with you, but the whole country also stands with you.”
This is in sharp contrast to other politicians who have taken heat for their response to the storm in recent days, in particular, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. On Wednesday, Feb. 17, Cruz was seen boarding a flight with his family to Cancún, Mexico while millions of his constituents remained without power or running water in record cold temperatures. Cruz claimed that he was traveling to Cancún “to be a good dad” to his daughters and wife, saying, “On the one hand, all of us who are parents have a responsibility to take care of our kids, take care of our families. But I also have a responsibility that I take very seriously in fighting for the state of Texas.”
For at least 12 hours after photos emerged of him at the airport, Cruz’s office refused to provide a comment. However, after facing intense public backlash, Cruz flew home, admitting that the trip was “obviously a mistake” and that he had “second thoughts” about it. He spent just one day on his trip.
This winter crisis in Texas and other states across southern America has profound implications, suggesting that climate change is bringing with it intense, volatile fluctuations in weather patterns. Alice Hill, who oversaw planning for climate change risks under the Obama administration, says, “We are colliding with a future of extremes.” Experts have been warning that other states and electrical grid operators should take note of the causes of the current situation in Texas.
On Saturday, the Public Utility Commission of Texas, Texas’s utility regulator, reported that it was investigating the factors that, combined with extreme winter weather effects, disrupted the distribution of electricity to millions of Texans. Additionally, Governor Greg Abbott is convening an emergency meeting to investigate and examine what occurred.