President Biden, first lady to visit Texas on Friday after devastating winter storms

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel Friday to Houston after winter storms ravaged Texas, claiming dozens of lives and leaving some people without power for days amid record cold temperatures.

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White House officials did not immediately release a detailed schedule for the trip.

“The president will meet with local leaders to discuss the winter storm, relief efforts, progress toward recovery and the incredible resilience shown by the people of Houston and Texas,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday at a news briefing. She added that President Biden also plans to visit a health center where COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed.

“Clearly there are still more details of the trip coming together,” she said.

>> Related: Texas grocery store loses power, lets customers leave without paying

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, whose congressional district includes most of central Houston, welcomed news of the Bidens’ planned trip in a statement posted on Twitter.

“Our area has faced such devastation,” Jackson Lee said. “I’m glad to be able to announce that the President of the United States Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will be looking to come to our area this week to be able to give comfort and continued support to the recovery of our community and as well to emphasize the fight against COVID-19.”

The president told reporters last week that he wanted to visit Texas, though he declined to set a date for the trip to avoid becoming a “burden” to officials still responding to power and water supply issues across the state.

“When the president lands in a city in America it has a long tail,” he said.

>> Related: Nearly 5,000 cold-stunned turtles rescued in Texas

At least 70 people died as an icy blast hit Texas and much of the Deep South last week, knocking out power to millions, according to The Associated Press. Snow and ice have since melted across the state, revealing a new host of plumbing issues caused by burst water pipes.

Water restoration efforts continue in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, Psaki said Tuesday, adding that about 9.8 million people remained under boil-water notices.

>> Related: Family of Texas boy who died during winter storm suing power companies for $100M

Officials in Texas implemented rolling power outages in the early morning hours of Feb. 15 amid a sharp reduction in power generation caused by frigid temperatures across the state, according to NPR. Officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages about 90% of the state’s electrical load, said the power grid was “seconds and minutes” away from a catastrophic failure before the controlled blackouts went into effect.

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