For a week, Texas has been mired in what is a steadily worsening climate disaster. A cold snap across parts of the American south, combined with the failure of the state’s power grid, has been responsible for at least 60 deaths. It is the first major disaster of the Biden presidency, and he has declared a major disaster in the state, but it in not the president who the focus is on.
Ted Cruz has long been one of the biggest Republican stalwarts railing against climate change and Mexican immigration, but when his home state went into a cold–weather crisis, he fled. Citing a wish to be a ‘good dad’ he took his family across the Texas border into Mexico, as citizens faced its worst crisis since Hurricane Harvey flooded the state in 2017.
Just days later, facing mounting pressure for abandoning those he was supposed to represent – as lawmakers from other states flew to Texas to support its citizens – he was forced to retreat back across the border. He refused to apologise for his trip, but told reporters that it was a mistake to leave. Many had taken issue with him also leaving behind his poodle, Snowflake.
Cruz left his state just days after schools had been forced to close due to plummeting temperatures, caused by a storm, left the state with temperatures of up to minus 18 degrees Celsius – the lowest recorded in more than three decades.
Texas has long opted out of the United States’ national power grid, instead operating a state-wide system, but the plummeting temperatures and storm conditions left many power stations unable to operate at full capacity, leaving potentially millions without power. The freezing temperatures resulted in a surge of demand, overwhelming the state’s power grid and seeing an initial 80,000 homes lose their power, which had extended to 3.3 million within days.
The cold weather has also impacted the supply of water, with estimates suggesting that up to 14 million people are having difficulty accessing clean water; close to half the state’s population. Texas Governor, Greg Abbott has asked residents to shut water off at their homes in order to ensure that pressure was maintained at hospitals and other essential infrastructure.
Texas’ largest city, Houston, has been particularly badly hit, and is under a ‘boil water notice’. The American Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advised all citizens to boil any water that is for human consumption, with burst pipes potentially contaminating the supply.
The cold snap has also resulted in disruption to food supplies, with supermarkets having their shelves stripped in recent days.
In a statement following his trip to Mexico, Ted Cruz said that he, like many other Texans, had also lost his water and power supply. He added; ‘the greatest state in the greatest country in the world has been without power’.
Throughout the state, nearly 60 deaths have been attributed to the cold weather, with other nearby states, Oklahoma and Louisiana also impacted.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has raised an estimated $3 million to support the affected Texans, whilst President Biden’s declaration of a major disaster will allow extra resources to be diverted to the state.