President Joe Biden has declared a major disaster in Texas where at least 30 people have died, 14million are without water and towns have been cut off from the electricity grid for seven days.
The move - announced on Saturday - makes federal funding available to individuals across the state, including assistance for temporary housing, home repairs and low-cost loans for losses on uninsured property.
The victims of the crisis including 11-year-old Cristian Pavon, who perished of hypothermia in his family's mobile home a day after he was pictured enjoying the snow - the first he had ever seen in his life.
Among the other dead are a man who reportedly froze to death in his recliner chair with his 'nearly dead' wife by his side; three children who perished in a fire as they huddled in a fireplace for warmth; and a mother and daughter died who from carbon monoxide poisoning as they bundled in their car in a garage.
Many of the deaths came as Texas Senator Ted Cruz and his family were packing their suitcases to fly to the $309-a-night Ritz-Carlton in Cancun where temperatures were 85F - compared to a low of -2F in Texas.
Colette, Edison, and Olivia Nguyen died on Friday alongside their grandmother after a fire at their house in Sugar Land on Friday. The children's father, Nathan, starts in an HBO show called House of Ho, which chronicles the lives of the members of a wealthy Vietnamese-American family living the American Dream in Houston
Volunteers stack cases of water during a water distribution event at the Fountain Life Center on Saturday in Houston
Elmo Houston waiting in line at St. Elmo Brewery in Austin for free drinking water on Saturday after many people lost their water supply
Cristian's mother found him unresponsive, huddled under a pile of blankets, on Tuesday - after his home in Conroe lost power at the weekend and temperatures plunged to single digits. His stepfather had checked on him in the night.
The boy, who had no pre-existing conditions, was declared dead that afternoon. Just hours earlier, he'd been excited to see snow for the first time after moving to the US from Honduras in 2019 to live with his mom.
Home video footage taken by family on Monday shows him playing in the snow.
Other victims include 84-year-old Mary Gee, whose family said she froze to death in her home in Houston before a burglar robbed items from her apartment.
Over in Abilene, a man was found frozen to death Wednesday in his recliner chair and his wife was taken to hospital where she remains 'in peril' after suffering without power for several days.
Another man died at a health care facility in the city when a lack of water pressure made medical treatment impossible.
The three children who perished in a house fire in Sugar Land when they huddled in a fireplace to stay warm during power outages have now been named as Olivia, Edison and Colette Nguyen.
The siblings and their grandmother Le Loan died in the early hours of Tuesday morning during the blackouts.
Firefighters were called out around 2 am and tackled the blaze but the four victims were confirmed dead. The children's mom Jackie Nguyen and a friend were also injured and taken to hospital.
The children's father, Nathan, starts in an HBO show called House of Ho, which chronicles the lives of the members of a wealthy Vietnamese-American family living the American Dream in Houston.
In Houston, Etenesh Mersha and her 7-year-old daughter Rakeb Shelemu died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning Monday after they huddled in their car in the garage for warmth amid a blackout in their home.
Etenesh's husband Ato Shalemu Bekele and their 8-year-old son Beimnet Shalemu were also rushed to hospital where the little boy was still in ICU two days later.
Wesley Crow, 57, collapsed and died in his old farmhouse just outside Santa Fe after he and his sister Laura were left for almost two days without power.
'He just collapsed, his eyes rolled up into his head and just stopped breathing,' Crow told ABC13.
Meanwhile, Carrol G Anderson died of hypothermia inside his car in 19F weather while driving to try and find an oxygen tank.
It comes as about 78,000 people in the state are still without power according to PowerOutage.US. Officials believe some lingering power outages could drag on for days.
Carrol G Anderson (pictured on the left with his wife, Gloria) died of hypothermia inside his car in 19F weather while driving to try and find an oxygen tank. Mary Gee (right) also died of hypothermia
A relative wrote on a Go Fund Me page for the Nguyen family, who lost three children and their grandmother: 'These angels were witty, funny, each with their owners funky and sassy attitudes, and each were extremely loved by me and the entire family'
President Joe Biden speaks to member of the media Friday after leaving Air Force One on Friday at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Also pictured is Wesley Crow, 57, (right) died at home in Texas after going without power and heat for almost two days
Declaring a major disaster makes federal funding available to individuals across the state, including assistance for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans for losses on uninsured property
President Biden said Friday that he hopes to travel to Texas next week but doesn't want his presence and the accompanying presidential entourage to distract from the recovery.
'They're working like the devil to take care of their folks,' Biden said of Texas officials. He said he'd make a decision early next week about travel.
Biden, who offered himself during the campaign as the experienced and empathetic candidate the nation needed at this moment in time, is working on several fronts to address the situation - and to avoid repeating the mistakes of predecessors who got tripped up by inadequate or insensitive responses in times of disaster.
Just this week, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas showed how quickly one bad move during a crisis can become a public relations disaster for a politician.
Cruz came under attack for traveling to Mexico while his constituents suffered without power, heat and running water. His explanation - that his daughters pushed for the getaway because they were out of school - was particularly panned. Cruz later said the trip was a mistake.
Biden has tweeted about Texas and the other affected states, while the White House has issued numerous statements aimed at demonstrating that the federal government is in command of the situation. The president is getting regular updates from his staff and already declared states of emergency in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana - adding the disaster designation announced Saturday for Texas.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has shipped dozens of generators and supplies, including fuel, water, blankets and ready-to-eat meals, to the affected areas.
Biden has spoken to the governors of the seven states most affected by the winter weather. He tweeted a photo of himself on the phone with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas.
The recent weather has the supply chain to stores causing many stores to run out of food supplies for customers. Pictured are shoppers at a Costco on Saturday
Huge queues form outside a Costco in Austin on Saturday following widespread power outages caused by a series of severe storms
Oklahoma´s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, a staunch supporter of Trump's, was quick to praise Biden for swift action on a disaster declaration.
After speaking with Biden by telephone earlier this week, Stitt specifically thanked the president for 'taking the time to reach out this afternoon and offer the federal government´s help for Oklahomans. We had a very productive call and I look forward to working together to find solutions as we recover from this historic storm.'
Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Center, said Biden is 'well-suited' to deal with the disaster because of his decades of service in the U.S. Senate and as a former vice president and because of 'his genuine concern for people.'
'He's got to show empathy right off the bat,' Perry said in an interview. 'It's important for a president to go to a place that´s been battered, but be careful about the footprint. He doesn´t want to make things worse.'
Biden, should he decide to visit Texas next week, could also use the trip to press his point that climate change is real and must not go unaddressed, and that the state could do things like winterize its power plants to be better prepared for future storms, Perry said.
But he should take care to not do so in a scolding kind of way.
'We know he cares about climate change, and this is a way to convince people,' Perry said.
Texans have seen electric bills surge as high as $17,000 after two powerful storms knocked out power.
Mark Maybou scrapes snow from a wall and piles it into a bucket to melt it into water in Austin on Friday
Cruz enraged his state by fleeing in the midst of the worst snow storms to hit Texas in decades
While most Texans are on a fixed rate plan on which they pay the same monthly amount throughout the duration of their contract, some are on a variable or indexed plan which sees rates vary based on the market.
One of these customers, Ty Williams, told WFAA-TV that his combined electric bill last month for his home, guest house, and office was $660.
As of this month, he owes more than $17,000. ‘How in the world can anyone pay that?’ Williams asked.
Meanwhile, temperatures as low as -2F have burst many of the state's water pipes, leaving residents forced to scrape snow off the walls to boil to make it safe for cooking and drinking.
Ty Williams was a subscriber with Griddy, the Houston-based wholesale electricity company that charges customers a monthly fee to connect members to the wholesale energy market.
He said: ‘I mean you go from a couple hundred dollars a month...there’s absolutely no way...it makes no sense.’
Unlike fixed-term pricing, Griddy charges customers based on fluctuations of the market, which could change minute to minute.
This week, Griddy took the unusual step of urging its customers to switch providers, knowing that the bills they would be charged would be exponentially higher than normal.
Volunteers unload bales of water at the Astros Youth Academy in Houston on Saturday as millions of people were left without water
Much of Texas is still struggling with historic cold weather, power outages and a shortage of potable water after winter storm Uri swept across 26 states
The surge reflects the real-time megawatt hour price of electricity and the cost of congestion and losses at different points across the grid.
Early on Monday, ERCOT said extreme weather conditions forced many power generating units off the grid, upending the supply of electricity.
ERCOT did not respond to an email message about the spike in wholesale electricity prices.
On February 10, well before inclement weather hit Texas, spot wholesale prices on ERCOT settled around $30 per megawatt hour at the end of the day, ERCOT data show.
But on Sunday, the price per megawatt hour surged past $9,000 on the grid.
ERCOT can be more susceptible to wholesale price spikes because it does not have a capacity market, which pays power plants to be on standby during peak demand and weather emergencies, for example.
ERCOT’s model means consumers are not paying for generation that may never be called into action.
But early on Monday, ERCOT said extreme weather conditions caused many generating units - across all fuel types - to trip offline and become unavailable.
That forced more than 30,000 megawatts of power generation off the grid, ERCOT said in a news release.
Griddy released a statement on its web site saying the company was also ‘p****d’ about the price surge.
The company blamed the Public Utility Commission of Texas, the agency that regulates the nonprofit ERCOT.
Earlier this week the PUC issued an order mandating that ERCOT keep pricing at $9,000 per Megawatt.