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Friday, March 5, 2021

Gov. Greg Abbott issues statewide disaster declaration due to “severe winter weather”

by Megan Menchaca, The Texas Tribune.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration Friday afternoon for every county in Texas as a massive winter storm enveloped the state.

The Texas Division of Emergency Management is deploying resources to help local response efforts, according to a press release. Abbott has also ordered the Texas State Operations Center to expand its operations to 24-hours a day until the end of next week.

“Texas should heed the guidance of their local leaders and stay alert to changing weather conditions in their area,” Abbott said in the release. “These resources will help us respond to this severe winter weather and keep our communities safe.”

The order comes as the National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings or watches for most of the state. The freezing weather is expected to last through the weekend and into Monday evening. The Dallas-Fort Worth and Central Texas areas could see light ice and snow accumulations of 3 to 6 inches, according to a warning.

Some areas have already experienced power outages or icy roads. In Fort Worth, more than 130 vehicles were involved in a deadly highway pile-up on Thursday.

The North Texas warning said the wind chill is expected to dip as low as minus 15 degrees. The service is also predicting record-low, single-digit temperatures across much of Texas over the coming days. The forecast of 6 degrees on Tuesday in Austin would be the coldest low since December 1989, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

“Travel will be dangerous,” the National Weather Service alert said. “Hazardous conditions will persist for several days given the expected prolonged duration of extremely cold temperatures. The cold wind chills as low as 15 below zero could result in hypothermia if precautions are not taken.”

In the declaration, Abbott wrote that the weather would pose an “imminent threat” of property damage, injury and loss of life due to the freezing temperatures, snow and rain.

Abbott ordered the Texas Division of Emergency Management to deploy a variety of state resources, including through the Texas Department of Transportation to prepare roads, the Texas Highway Patrol to help stranded drivers and the Public Utility Commission to monitor and report power outages.

Correction, Feb. 12, 2021: Due to a Reuters error, a previous caption for the picture on this story misstated where the photo was taken. It depicts Corpus Christi, not Robstown.

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