Texas is still reeling from devastating winter storms and for some, recovery could take months
“We used everything we had on (a) hotel this week,” Ware told CNN affiliate KTRK. “After this, it’s like, where are we going to go?”
“For many people in our city with means, with insurance, this week has been a significant inconvenience, but they have the means and ability to quickly transition and move forward,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a news conference late last week. “For many people in our city who are already on the margins … and were fighting every day just to keep a roof over their head and food in their refrigerator, this past week has been a major, major event and has really disrupted their lives.”
“For many of these individuals, many of these families, they will be in crisis mode for weeks and months to come,” Turner added.
Here’s how the state has so far been recovering from last week’s severe weather conditions.
Thousands without power, millions with water disruptions
As of early Monday morning, more than 15,700 people were without power across the state, according to poweroutage.us. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Sunday he expected all power to be fully restored to every house by late Sunday or Monday.
Meanwhile some 8.8 million people — nearly a third of the state’s total population — were still experiencing water disruptions Sunday evening, according to Gary Rasp, media specialist for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
The disruptions have impacted more than 1,200 public water systems in 199 counties in the state, Rasp said, adding that about 147 public water systems serving “just under” 120,000 people were still nonoperational.
About 258 boil water notices had been rescinded as of Sunday evening, Rasp said.
The city of Galveston announced Sunday morning it had lifted its boil water notice and removed water restrictions as “the system has been stabilized and the water supply is sufficient,” officials said on Facebook.
Houston officials also said Sunday they were lifting the boil water notice that had been in place since Wednesday, after confirming tap water met regulatory standards and was safe to drink.
“Customers should flush their water system by running cold-water faucets for at least one minute, cleaning automatic ice makers by making and discarding several batches of ice, and running water softeners through a regeneration cycle,” Houston officials said in a news release.
Document the damage, leaders say
For residents dealing with more lasting damage, Abbott said the state was bringing in more plumbers to meet the high demand of customers with broken pipes and urged residents to get in touch with their insurance agents to help address what may have been destroyed.
“If you do not have insurance, you may qualify for a FEMA reimbursement,” he said. “We have had FEMA assistance granted by the federal government and part of that is individual assistance that will assist individuals whose homes or apartments have been harmed because of the winter storm. If so, you’ll need to document any type of loss that you have.”
Residents should also connect with their local emergency response coordinator to provide that information to be able to receive a reimbursement, the governor said.
Turner, the Houston mayor, said he was aware of several thousands of reports of burst pipes.
“Recognizing that there are many families who are in situations where they don’t have insurance, they don’t have the financial means to make the repairs … their ceilings have fallen in, and furniture and other things have been damaged, and they’re really stressing out in terms of how do we move forward … we’re working to put together a fund, a relief fund to assist people,” Turner said.
A more detailed announcement will be coming “very soon,” he said.
The mayor also urged residents to document damage in their homes in case they are able to be reimbursed.
“Use your video, take pictures,” he said.
Regulations on food delivery trucks suspended
During his Sunday news conference, the governor also announced he suspended regulations to get more trucks on the road in order to deliver food and supplies, after grocery store shelves were emptied amid the storms. Abbott said he also suspended regulations to get more kitchens open and preparing meals — as long as they follow the health department’s food safety guidance.
“Too many Texans … have gone hungry over the past few days,” Abbott said. “Your grocery store shelves are getting restocked as we speak.”
Last week, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said grocery stores were unable to get shipments of some products and severe weather conditions had created a “food supply chain problem like we’ve never seen before, even with Covid-19.”
Abbott also announced in a news release Sunday that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can now be used to purchase hot food and ready-to-eat meals, like grocery store deli foods, at all retailers that accept SNAP in the state.
The state also has received federal approval to allow SNAP recipients to apply for replacement benefits for food that they lost or that was destroyed in the storms.
State officials working to address ‘skyrocketing energy bills’
As the state works to recover from last week’s wide-reaching impacts, state officials are also looking into outrageous hikes in some customers’ energy bills that followed the severe weather.
Abbott said the state Public Utility Commission issued a moratorium on customer disconnections for nonpayment to address “skyrocketing energy bills” that some residents are facing.
The commission will also restrict electricity providers from sending customer invoices at this time, the governor added.
The governor said he held an emergency meeting with legislative leaders to “shield Texas families from unreasonable bills,” and more meetings are scheduled this week to “get to the bottom of this but also to provide relief and support to our fellow Texans.”
“Texans who have suffered through days of freezing cold without power should not be subjected to skyrocketing energy bills due to a spike in the energy market,” Abbott said.
CNN’s Hollie Silverman, Gisela Crespo, Chuck Johnston, Gisela Crespo, and Keith Allen contributed to this report.