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Gov. Greg Abbott issues disaster declaration for Texas ice storm

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Shelby Tauber
Texas Tribune
Dora Portello, right, hands out boxes of free food to help people outside of their store, Brianna’s Home Decor Thrift Shop, in Dallas during this week's ice storm

Four days after an ice storm left hundreds of thousands of Texans without power, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for seven counties impacted by the severe weather.

Subfreezing temperatures combined with rain to produce a nasty storm that coated much of the Texas Hill Country in ice, toppling tree limbs and downing electric lines. As of Saturday evening, more than 60,000 households were still without power.

"The State of Texas has provided all assistance requested throughout the severe weather this week, and we continue to ensure that communities across our state have the resources and support they need to recover from the winter weather event," Abbott said in a statement.

Abbott issued the declaration for Denton, Hays, Henderson, Milam, Smith, Travis and Williamson counties, all of which experienced significant damage over the last week. Abbott said more counties may be added based on damage assessments still in progress.

Abbott said the declaration would enable the state to provide assistance to people and communities with property damage. He encouraged residents to report damage, with details and photos if possible, through the Individual State of Texas Assessment Tool survey.

The declaration came after Austin officials faced criticism for fumbling communication about the storm and falling short on early promises of a quick resolution to the outages.

Austin Mayor Kirk Watson and Austin Energy officials waited more than 24 hours after people began losing power to hold the first press conference. And hours after they spoke Thursday, the electricity provider walked back its estimate that power would be restored by the end of the third day of outages, extending the sense of uncertainty. Eventually, the city-owned utility said it could no longer promise when electricity would be fully restored.

Despite frustration about the initial slow pace, progress has been made. Between Thursday and Saturday, almost 100,000 Austin customers had their power restored.

William Melhado is a Poynter-Koch fellow for 2022-23 and a general assignment reporter on The Texas Tribune’s breaking news team.