HOUSTON (CW39) — Many in Texas remain outraged after losing power due to last week’s historic and devastating winter storm.
Now, President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden visited Houston this afternoon to discuss relief efforts with Gov. Greg Abbott and other leaders.
While in town, they visited the Houston Food Bank, Harris County Office of Emergency Manageme and NRG Stadium.
Follow below for updates throughout the day:
The Bidens are expected to take off around 6 p.m. and return to Washington, D.C.
Biden spoke about the situation in Texas, as well as efforts to vaccinate people against COVID-19.
He said he wanted Texans to know his and Jill Biden’s prayers are with them in the aftermath of the storm.
“We will be true partners to help you recover and rebuild from the storms, this pandemic and the economic crisis. We’re in it for the long haul,” he said.
President Biden is expected to speak at NRG Stadium around 5 p.m. That location is a FEMA COVID-19 mass vaccination site. Its 11 drive-through lanes dole out 6,000 shots each day to those with appointments. The site first opened Feb. 24 and will remain open seven days a week.
3:30 p.m. The Mayor thanked the President via social media.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee posted this on Twitter of the President at the Houston Food Bank
President Joe Biden has joined the First Lady at the Houston Food Bank. Update below from the White House Pool reporter:
Biden and Abbott first stopped in the main lobby for several minutes and received a rundown of the food bank’s food distribution process from Nicole Lander, the organization’s chief impact officer. Lander told the first ladies that the food bank distributes an average of 18 million pounds of food per month during disasters, the equivalent of 20 tractor trailer loads. Lander also noted that one in four children in the Houston area lack consistent access to nutritious food.
At 1:15 p.m., Biden and Abbott moved to a warehouse room down the hall from the lobby and joined volunteers in packing bags of food for the food bank’s Backpack Buddy program, which distributes food on weekends to students who rely on school meals during the week. They were joined by Houston Independent School District Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan.
“We’re here to help, so put us to work!” Biden said upon entering the room.
Biden packed canned peaches, while Abbott packed boxes of raisins.
John Cornyn said he’s pleased to have President Biden visit Texas. “The governor & Sen Cruz & I asked for a declaration from the federal government which provides access to public & private assistance through FEMA. That’s going to be important for our recovery.”
President Joe Biden is at the Harris County Emergency Operations Center alongside Gov. Abbott.
Judge Lina Hidalgo welcomed them and explained how people have been working at the center tirelessly over the past few weeks.
“Thank you for what you’re doing,” Biden said.
He received an update on the status of Texans and the storm response.
Harris County alone at one point had 1.5 million people without power, 3.5 million without water and boil water notices had to be in effect. 10,400 have reported broken pipes.
TDEM Chief Nim Kidd said almost 12 million bottles of water have been distributed in the state. They’re still working to understand the effects in all the counties.
He added more than 4,600 school buildings in more than 700 districts had broken pipes throughout the state.
“We’ve got a long way to go, Mr. President,” he said.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden is at the Houston Food Bank, while President Joe Biden is at the Harris County Emergency Operations Center.
Nexstar reporter Wes Rapaport shared information from the White House pool related to Texas, including that Deputy National Security Adviser Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall told reporters as of yesterday the federal government awarded $9 million to Texans in storm assistance. He is double checking that number.
“Although we’re encouraged by the progress that has been made, and we’re seeing the numbers come down dramatically right now in terms of who needs to still go and boil water in Texas, we will continue to look for ways to help through this next phase of recovery,” she said.
“Helping individuals who don’t have insurance for example to recover from the impacts of these storms…I think that’s the most immediate thing,” she added.
When asked about incentivizing changes to Texas’ power grid, she noted the state uses an “autonomous grid,” adding “The question now going forward is whether the state of Texas decides that it wants to move in the direction of bringing more resiliences on its own system.”
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the grid, is the subject of hearings in the Texas House and Senate over its roll in blackouts in the state.
President Biden and the First Lady landed in Houston around 12:16 p.m. They were greeted by Gov. Greg Abbott on the tarmac.
Sen. Ted Cruz is not among the state leaders joining Biden Friday in Houston. He spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday in Orlando and made light of the controversy surrounding his recent trip to Mexico while Texas was dealing with its winter storm.
“I gotta say… Orlando is awesome. It’s not as nice as Cancun… but it’s nice,” Cruz joked to a mixture of cheers, boos and laughs as he started his speech.
According to the White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, “there was neither an invitation” or request from Cruz related to Biden’s visit.
The President and first lady are expected to arrive in Houston around noon.
As you travel around Houston throughout the day, keep in mind the local traffic destination route for President Biden. Police and traffic will be managed by local police and traffic management to get the President to each destination safely.
REMINDER: Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo this morning tweeted a traffic alert for driver to be aware of:
FEMA has added 18 Texas counties to President Biden’s Major Disaster Declaration for individual assistance. These counties were included in Texas’ request submitted Thursday asking 54 counties be added to the declaration.
“Thank you to our federal partners at FEMA for granting approval for these 18 counties,” said Governor Abbott. “I look forward to working with them to ensure the remaining counties in this request are approved, as well as other counties throughout our state who are in need of assistance.”
Atascosa, Bandera, Brooks, Duval, Eastland, Ector, Goliad, Howard, Jim Hogg, Karnes, Kleberg, Leon, Llano, Newton, Robertson, Trinity, Webb and Willacy were added. See all counties under the declaration below:
The following people will visit with President Biden:
- Governor Greg Abbott
- Senator John Cornyn
- Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo
- Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner
- Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia (TX-29)
- Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18)
- Congressman Al Green (TX-09)
- Congresswoman Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (TX-07)
CW39’s Carrigan Chauvin who covered the ice, snow and local weather in Texas and in our community. Chauvin has this recap of its historic impact on our community.