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Sixteen counties in North and East Texas have been declared a disaster area after severe weather on Oct. 20.

Counties named in Gov. Greg Abbott’s declaration are: Cass, Cameron, Collin, Dallas, Ellis, Erath, Hunt, Kaufman, Lamar, Panola, Rains, Rockwall, Rusk, Tarrant, Van Zandt and Wood.

“By issuing this declaration, Texas is providing local officials with the resources they need to quickly respond and recover from this storm,” Abbott said.

In addition to providing access to state resources, the declaration waived certain regulations to make it easier for utility companies to bring in out-of-state resources to assist in restoring power.

The storm brought high winds, heavy rains and at least four tornadoes.

Tornadic action ravaged a swath 40 miles long through the Dallas area, causing widespread destruction in residential areas and businesses. It also forced many closures and resulted in the loss of electrical power to tens of thousands of customers.

Damages attributed to the storm, currently estimated at more than $2 billion, continue to be updated.

Report: The digital divide More than two million Texas households still do not have access to high-speed internet service.

Those findings are included in the top story of the October edition of “Fiscal Notes,” a monthly publication produced by the Comptroller’s office.

The story says the digital divide between urban and rural Texans “has serious implications for education, telemedicine, agriculture and small business.”

Texas Comptroller Glen Hegar commented about the story in a Wednesday, Oct. 23, news release, saying, “It’s a wired world today, and we can’t expect our state to flourish unless we make sure as many Texans as possible have access to dependable high-speed internet for everything from educational and medical services to agricultural technology and online sales.”

Air monitoring increases The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is enhancing its air-monitoring capabilities thanks to new equipment funded by the Texas Legislature and savings from the agency’s 2019 budget.

The Legislature granted TCEQ’s request to equip up to three new vehicles with real-time, mobile air-monitoring technology.

Meanwhile, budget savings are being used to fund the installation of three new automated gas chromatograph air monitoring stations in the Houston area and the purchase of new hand-held air monitors.

Previously, TCEQ’s vans were equipped with instruments only capable of collecting data while stationary and required a time-consuming process to deploy and calibrate.

The newly equipped vans will provide the ability for rapid survey assessments, allowing the agency to quickly sample pollutant hot spots, map air concentrations and identify locations for sampling over longer durations.