Four days after an ice storm left hundreds of thousands of Texans without power, Governor Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for seven counties affected by severe weather.
Subzero temperatures combined with rain to produce a nasty storm that covered much of the Texas Hill Country in ice, bringing down tree branches and knocking down power lines. As of Saturday night, more than 60,000 homes were still without power.
“The State of Texas has provided all assistance requested during this week’s severe weather, and we continue to ensure that our state’s communities have the resources and support they need to recover from winter weather,” Abbott said in a statement.
Abbott issued the statement for Denton, Hays, Henderson, Milam, Smith, Travis and Williamson counties, all of which sustained significant damage over the past week. Abbott said more counties may be added based on damage assessments still ongoing.
Abbott said the declaration would allow the state to provide assistance to individuals and communities with property damage. He encouraged residents to report the damage, with details and photos if possible, through the Texas State Individual Assessment Tool survey .
The statement came after Austin officials faced criticism over the awkward communication about the storm and for not following through on initial promises of a speedy resolution of the outages.
Austin Mayor Kirk Watson and Austin Energy officials waited more than 24 hours after people began losing power to hold the first news conference. And hours after they spoke Thursday, the power provider backtracked on its estimate that power would be restored by the end of the third day of outages, adding to the sense of uncertainty. Finally, the city-owned utility said it could no longer promise when power would be fully restored.
Despite frustration at the initial slowness, progress has been made. Between Thursday and Saturday, power was restored to nearly 100,000 Austin customers.