Social media exploded Thursday after reports surfaced that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had jetted off to Mexico as millions of his constituents suffer without power or drinkable water during a freak storm system that has crippled his home state.
Nearly four million people have no electricity and seven million have been told to boil water before drinking it as historic levels of snow and ice blanketed wide swaths of Texas, reaching the Mexican border. At least 20 people have died, several from carbon monoxide poisoning while trying to stay warm in their powerless homes as temperatures dropped below freezing.
State Democrats demanded Cruz resign after media reports from CNN, The Associated Press, NBC, The New York Times and Fox News said Cruz had left with his wife and children for the Mexican resort late Wednesday.
Photos posted to social media showed Cruz in Houston's international airport Wednesday night, and boarding a jetliner.
As outrage grew, Cruz boarded a flight back to Houston on Thursday.
"With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon," Cruz said in a statement Thursday, after hours of no comment from his office about his whereabouts.
"My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas. We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm.
"My team and I will continue using all our resources to keep Texans informed and safe," Cruz added.
Photos of him at the Cancun airport showed Cruz with a suitcase and large tote bag.
Cruz's staff had contacted local police Wednesday night asking for help at the airport, according to authorities.
“They reached out to us, let us know that he was going to be arriving and could we assist, so upon his arrival to the Houston airport we monitored his movements,” the department said in a statement.
Law enforcement agencies across the struggling state have been stretched thin as they opened warming centers, responded to calls of elderly residents stranded in their dark, freezing homes, conducted mass welfare checks worked around the clock answering reports of downed electrical lines, trees and unpassable highways.
As residents fought to stay warm, many resorted to living in their cars with the heater running, some reported burning their furniture for lack of fire word and others posted photos on social media showing ways to avoid freezing temperatures including erecting a tent in a bedroom and covering it with blankets as insulation.
Social posts also took derisive aim at Cruz, a Republican stalwart Trump supporter, making fun of his decision to leave during a declared emergency in his state.