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President Joe Biden has declared a major disaster in Texas following the deadly snowstorm

Parts of Texas hit 0F (-18C) on Sunday, and weather warnings are expected to stay in place through the week. According to the US National Weather Service (NWS), this is down to an “Arctic outbreak” that originated just above the US-Canada border, bringing a winter snowstorm as well as plummeting temperatures. The state is experiencing some of its coldest temperatures in more than 30 years, with some areas breaking records that are more than a century old. The south-western state’s energy grid was overwhelmed by a surge in demand for heat as temperatures plummeted to 30-year lows, hitting 0F (-18C) earlier this week. Nearly 80,000 homes were still without electricity on Saturday morning. Earlier this week, amid freezing temperatures as many as 3.3 million homes and businesses were without power. But the power company, Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said consumers were no longer being asked to conserve energy. Close to half of the state’s population have faced some disruption of water services as hundreds of water systems have been damaged by the freeze. Austin, the state’s capital, lost 325 million gallons (1.2 billion litres) of water when pipes burst. Texas’ largest city, Houston, is under a so-called “boil water notice”, with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advising that all water planned for consumption – even if filtered – must be boiled as it may be contaminated.

Fortunately, power is returning across Texas and temperatures are set to rise, but at least 14 million people still have difficulty accessing clean water. Mr Biden has said he will visit Texas as long as his presence is not a burden on relief efforts. Nearly 60 deaths have been attributed to cold weather across the US. The administration had already declared a state of emergency for Texas, along with Oklahoma and Louisiana.

In a statement on Texas released by the White House, President Biden said he had “ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe winter storms”. “Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programmes to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” the statement said.

Mr Biden has been in touch with the mayors of some of Texas’ biggest cities, such as Houston, Austin and Dallas, to ensure they have access to government resources, an administration official said. Several other southern states hit by snow and ice storms this week have also reported water service outages. Winter weather also cut off water in the city of Jackson, Mississippi – home to around 150,000 people – as well as the largest county in Tennessee that includes the city of Memphis, with more than 651,000 residents. City officials in Jackson say water treatment plants are now running again, but 43,000 households still have no or low water pressure, WLBT TV reports. Across the US South, a region unaccustomed to such frigid temperatures, people whose pipes have frozen has taken to boiling snow to make water.

Due to the deadly storm, the recorded deaths in Texas include people who have died in traffic accidents, as well as some who suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from running cars and generators indoors to stay warm. In Harris County, home to Houston, there were more than 300 suspected cases of carbon monoxide poisoning during the cold snap. At least four people were killed following a house fire in Houston that officials said may have been started by candles. Separately, police said two men found alongside a Houston highway were believed to have died due to the cold.

By Jumana Jabeer

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