winter weather

White House Approves Emergency Declaration for Texas in Wake of Winter Storm

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for the state on Friday

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The White House on Sunday approved a Federal Emergency Declaration for Texas as parts of the state face several inches of snow and dangerously low temperatures that are forecast to drop into the single digits.

The declaration allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide emergency measures for mass care and sheltering.

"I thank President Biden for quickly issuing a Federal Emergency Declaration for Texas as we continue to respond to severe winter weather throughout the state," Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said in a statement. "This disaster declaration provides Texas with additional resources and assistance that will help our communities respond to this winter weather.

The federal aid comes on the heels of a disaster declaration Abbott issued Friday for all 254 Texas counties.

Texans are urged to stay off the roads as much as possible and to help conserve energy over the next few days as severe winter weather makes its way into the state, Abbott said Saturday.

As part of the declaration, Abbott ordered the Texas State Operations Center to expand to daily, 24-hour operations through the end of next week.

Abbott said there had been more than 1,000 crashes in the state since Thursday, which resulted in 10 deaths. He also asked people to conserve energy as much as possible in an effort to avoid outages due to demand.

Texans are urged to stay off the roads as much as possible and to help conserve energy over the next few days as severe winter weather makes its way into the state, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Saturday.

“We’re facing extreme demand on the system," Public Utility Commission Chair DeAnn Walker said.

Though she said they're working to address it, she asked all Texans to be proactive to prevent outages.

Ways she suggested Texans could conserve energy included keeping their thermostats at 68 degrees or below, to keep shades and blinds closed to keep heat in, to unplug electronic devices not in use and to avoid using large appliances, like a dishwasher, washer or dryer in the morning or evening.

Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd also warned about the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, which he said happens more frequently during cold weather events.

He urged Texans to avoid heating their homes with ovens or stovetops and to only use generators or grills outdoors and away from windows.

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"Texas should heed the guidance of their local leaders and stay alert to changing weather conditions in their area," said Abbott, in a prepared statement. "These resources will help us respond to this severe winter weather and keep our communities safe. The State of Texas remains in close contact with officials on the ground and will provide any additional resources and support that are needed." 

At the direction of the governor, the Texas Division of Emergency Management has deployed the following state resources to support winter weather response operations:

  • Texas Department of Transportation: Winter weather roadway preparation equipment and response crews as well as road condition monitoring.
  • Texas Highway Patrol, Texas Department of Public Safety: Courtesy patrols to assist stranded motorists along major travel corridors.
  • Texas Military Department: Winter weather equipment and personnel to support Amarillo, Wichita Falls, Abilene, Fort Worth, and Waco to assist in stranded motorist operations.
  • Texas Parks and Wildlife Department: Four-wheel drive vehicles and personnel to assist with stranded motorists along major travel corridors.
  • Texas A&M Forest Service: Motor graders and personnel to assist with snow/ice clearance and saw crews to assist with removal of downed trees.
  • Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, Texas Task Force 1: Search and rescue equipment and teams. 
  • Public Utility Commission of Texas: Monitoring and reporting of power outages and monitoring of any issues impacting the power generation capability in the state.
  • Texas Animal Health Commission: Response equipment and personnel to address livestock concerns due to frigid temperatures.

But even with additional help on the ground, in a press conference Saturday, Abbott urged Texans to take personal responsibility to keep themselves and others safe.

“If everyone follows the responsible steps that they themselves can control, we are going to get through this challenge in ways that reduce the loss of life, that maximize our ability to access the power that we need, and also maximize the safety and security of everybody in this state," Abbott said.

To help essential workers who must be on the roads to get to work, the North Texas Jeep Club is teaming up with DFW Scanner and Potts Law Firm to offer safe rides.

“We’ve been able to take submissions of about 600 healthcare workers and first responders that are going to be getting free rides to and from work in a safe vehicle with a safe, experienced and vetted driver," said the founder of DFW Scanner John Burgdorf.

Burgdorf said it's their way to give back to frontline workers still working tirelessly through a pandemic.

For now, the group's received all of the submissions they can take. But with dangerous road conditions expected to last several days, they're hoping to reopen the link for submissions soon.

For those who must leave home, visit drivetexas.org to check road conditions before driving.

Stranded or stuck drivers can call Texas Roadside Assistance, listed on the back of a driver's license, at 1-800-525-5555.

NBC 5's Chris Blake contributed to this report.

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