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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Biden, First Lady to Travel to Texas This Week

President Joe Biden this week will fly to Texas in the wake of crippling winter storms that left millions without power.

Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to the southern state on Friday, the White House said.

The Bidens will go to Houston.

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While there, they will meet with local leaders to discuss the relief efforts, progress toward recovery, and “the incredible resilience shown by the people of Houston and Texas,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington on Tuesday.

“While in Texas, the president will also visit a COVID health center where vaccines are being distributed. Clearly, there are still more details of the trip coming together, and as we have those, we will make those available,” she added.

Biden had held off going to the state because he didn’t want to draw resources away while so many people were struggling in the aftermath of the storms, the White House said last week.

“He is eager to go down to Texas and show his support. But he is also very mindful of the fact that it’s not a light footprint for a president to travel to a disaster area. He does not want to take away resources or attention,” Psaki added on Sunday during a television appearance.

Texas was slammed with storms on Feb. 15, leading to widespread power outages and problems obtaining clean water.

A man walks to his friend’s home in a neighborhood without electricity as snow covers the BlackHawk neighborhood in Pflugerville, Texas, on Feb. 15, 2021. (Bronte Wittpenn/Austin American-Statesman/USA Today Network via Reuters)

Temperatures plunged below freezing, and portions of the power grid went offline as demand skyrocketed. The state’s energy council implemented rolling blackouts in order to avoid a statewide blackout.

Bill Magness, CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said the system was just moments away from such a blackout, prompting operators to take action.

“If we hadn’t taken action, it wouldn’t have been we would have waited a few days and see what happens. It was seconds and minutes, given the amount of generation that was coming off the system at the same time demand was still going up,” he told reporters in an online briefing last week.

The system’s output has since caught up to the demand, but authorities are probing the council’s actions before and during the storms.

It wasn’t clear whether Biden will meet with Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican with whom he’s spoken several times about the storm and what the federal government can provide to the state to assist in relief efforts.

Biden partially approved Abbott’s request for a major disaster declaration over the weekend. The administration approved assistance to an additional 33 counties on Monday.

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