Biden Approves Major Disaster Declaration in 7 Texas Counties After Deadly Storm

Tom Ozimek
By Tom Ozimek
May 18, 2024US News
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Biden Approves Major Disaster Declaration in 7 Texas Counties After Deadly Storm
A journalist shoots footage of damage at a tire shop in the aftermath of a severe storm in Houston, Texas, on May 17, 2024. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

President Joe Biden has approved a major disaster declaration in seven Texas counties affected by severe weather and flooding.

The White House announced Friday that the president had declared that a major disaster exists in parts of Texas, unlocking federal funding to affected individuals in the following counties: Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity, and Walker.

The declaration allows affected Texans to apply for funds from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for expenses like emergency home repairs, temporary housing, uninsured property loss, and funeral expenses associated with the disaster.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, asked the president in a letter Wednesday to declare a disaster as the Lone Star faced a bout of severe weather that began on April 26 and led to major flooding and extensive damage.

“The extensive damage caused by these severe storms, historic river flooding, and tornadoes requires comprehensive, robust action by all levels of government to help Texans rebuild and recover,” Mr. Abbott said in a statement.

The governor asked for individual assistance for seven impacted counties and public assistance programs for 26 impacted counties, with President Biden’s Friday declaration approving the seven-county request, with the remaining one still pending.

“The partial approval of my Presidential Disaster Declaration request is a crucial step in the right direction in helping Texans rebuild and recover from recent severe weather events,” Mr. Abbott said in a Friday statement.

The request for FEMA’s public assistance program, which is still under review, would cover emergency work and repairs, including costs related to removal of debris.

The mayor of Houston, which was hit hard by the storm, thanked President Biden for his “swift support” in approving the disaster declaration.

“This step makes federal funding available to individuals affected by the storms. Together, we will rebuild and recover,” said Houston Mayor John Whitmire’s office, in a statement posted on social media.

Deadly Storms

On Saturday, the Houston area worked to clean up and restore power to thousands after deadly storms that left at least seven people dead.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said three people died during the storm, including an 85-year-old woman whose home caught fire after being struck by lightning and a 60-year-old man who had tried to use his vehicle to power his oxygen tank.

Mr. Whitmire previously said at least four people were killed in the city when the storms swept through Harris County, which includes Houston.

The National Weather Service issued flood advisories and watches for parts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

The National Weather Service in Houston warned that with temperatures hitting around 90 degrees this weekend, people should know the symptoms of heat exhaustion. ”Don’t overdo yourself during the cleanup process,” it said in a post on X.

The balmy weather is a concern in a region where more than a half-million homes and businesses remained without electricity Saturday morning—down from nearly 1 million, according to PowerOutage.us.

Fierce storms Thursday with winds of up to 100 mph blew out windows in downtown Houston, while a tornado touched down near the northwest Houston suburb of Cypress.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Friday that it could take weeks for power to be restored in some areas.

The widespread destruction brought much of Houston to a standstill. Trees, debris, and shattered glass littered the streets. One building’s brick wall was ripped off.

School districts in the Houston area canceled classes Friday for more than 400,000 students and government offices were closed. City officials urged people to avoid downtown and stay off roads, many of which were flooded or lined with downed power lines and malfunctioning traffic lights.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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