Texans weathering harsh winter conditions will get some relief from the cold on Saturday, although many in the state are still without basic utilities.
Saturday morning temperatures may be as low as 20 degrees for many inland locations, including Dallas and College Station, but the welcome return of onshore winds and full sunshine will warm the state into the 50’s and 60’s in the afternoon, said CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam. Most of the state will stay above freezing after that initial thaw.
A weak cold front is forecast for Sunday evening, but is expected to bring only minimal effects.
The brutal temperatures, ice and snow once caused millions of people in Texas to lose power, but as of early Saturday morning, only about 70,000 people in the state were left in the dark, according to Poweroutage.us, a website that tracks US power outages. However, more than 14.4 million people – half the state’s population – had reported disruptions in their water service in 192 of the state’s 254 counties as of Saturday afternoon, according to Gary Rasp, a spokesman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
By Saturday, Houston’s water system was at “normal operating pressure citywide” but a boil advisory remained in effect, according to Carol Haddock, Houston Public Works director. Mayor Sylvester Turner said the advisory could be lifted by Monday but warned that it “could be a day or two on either end.”
Austin’s water utility said it was more than halfway to restoring minimum water pressure to serve the city. The system requires a minimum of 100 million gallons in storage and had more than 50 million gallons on Saturday morning, according to the water utility. City officials said service could be back by the end of the weekend.
President Joe Biden has approved a major disaster declaration for Texas, unlocking additional federal resources to assist the state’s recovery, the White House said in a statement Saturday.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the federal assistance “an important first step” but said it was a “partially” approved request. The Republican governor had requested both individual and public assistance for all 254 counties and the Biden administration approved individual assistance in 77 counties and public assistance in all counties, according to a statement from Abbott’s office.
The Public Utility Commission of Texas said Saturday it was investigating “factors that combined with the devastating winter weather to disrupt the flow of power to millions of Texas homes.”
Abbott convened an emergency meeting to look at what state officials said were “unreasonable spikes” in energy bills in the aftermath of 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,” the governor said in a statement.
Texas mayor has lost faith in state political leaders
Larry Wallace, mayor of the city of Manor outside of Austin, told CNN Saturday that thousands in his city still had no electricity or water. He said he was frustrated with the poor communication from utility companies and state political leaders.
“I’ve lost all faith in senior leadership,” he said.
In Austin, Smita Pande told CNN she lost power to her home early in the week, and she and her husband stayed at a friend’s house until the water went out there, too. The group then traveled to another friend’s house that had operating utilities until their water supply failed as well. The three households returned to Pande’s home, where they relied on collecting snow to melt in order to flush their toilets.
Although power is now restored, Pande heard that the wait for water may last for a few days.
“At this point we’re planning on getting water in a week. We have to assume the worst-case scenario,” Pande told CNN’s Don Lemon in an interview Friday. “We’re hearing two or three days at this point. We’re going to hope for the best.”