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As millions of Texans continue struggling through a dayslong winter storm without power or potable water, Gov. Greg Abbott provided few details Wednesday on when they can expect their situations to improve.
In Abbott’s first press conference since winter weather battered the state’s power infrastructure, the governor and other state officials largely deferred residents to state and local non-emergency numbers. Some 2.7 million households were still without power Wednesday morning.
Abbott said he had ordered natural gas producers in Texas to stop selling fuel outside of the state and to instead sell it to the state’s power generators in an attempt to help restore electricity to millions of residents still without it. Abbott also said more power is being brought online to get people’s electricity back. When asked which areas should expect restored power or when that may happen, the governor said he did not know.
“That is information that has not been provided to me,” he said.
After Wednesday’s press conference, the governor tweeted that power had been restored to roughly 1.6 million homes during the day. It was unclear whether Abbott was counting residents who had been without power for days, were experiencing rolling outages or had temporarily lost electricity Wednesday due to more local issues, such as power lines being down. A spokesperson for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said they did not have additional information to provide and a spokesperson for the governor did not immediately respond to a request for more information.
Officials also said there were more than 300 warming centers operating across the state that were being run mainly by local governments, and that they were working to add additional sites as needed. Officials suggested people living in cities call 311 if they need help locating warming centers and residents in rural areas to call 211 for assistance. They also referred residents with internet access to tdem.texas.gov/warm.
Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, listed a litany of agencies that are providing aid throughout the state. But he noted that icy roads continue to hamper government entities’ ability to get water, food and other supplies to people. Kidd did not provide details on what areas those are.
“There are some places that the roads are so bad that we can’t get to them,” he said.
Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said 7 million Texans are living under boil-water notices — and that number is expected to increase.
“It is an ongoing issue, and this number is probably going to grow over the next day or two,” he said.
Abbott also said he planned to ease licensing regulations for plumbers in an effort to meet an expected spike in demand for people to fix water pipes damaged by the frigid temperatures and suggested residents start lining up plumbers as soon as possible. He also told residents to work with their insurance companies on any damage from broken water pipes.
“This is a once-in-every-120-year cold front that we have to respond to,” Abbott said.