Fewer than 10% of Austin Energy customers are without power, as of 1:08 p.m. Thursday. This is a significant improvement from Wednesday evening, when about 27% of customers were experiencing outages, and from earlier in the week, when more than 40% were impacted. However, 45,712 customers are still affected, and a citywide boil water notice has exacerbated the situation.
District 4 Council Member Greg Casar tweeted around 1 p.m. that Austin Energy crews are working to restore power to the red areas on its outage map today. "Everything is dynamic and subject to change, especially if the state orders any more power off during this process or if there is really major storm damage to the area," he wrote.
⚡ 1PM Update I got from @AustinEnergy: AE employees are out in the cold trying right now to turn power on for those out the longest, especially the red areas on the outage map: https://t.co/oTbj9exiic. Details below ⬇️
— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) February 18, 2021
Officials at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which maintains about 90% of the state's power grid, said they are no longer mandating controlled power outages and are instructing utility companies to restore power during a press conference this morning. This process will take some time, however.
Austin experienced "some of the most extreme versions of the weather in the state," Casar added, which is why the region has struggled to restore power compared to other parts of the state.
Austin Energy is in the process of restoring power to its customers, prioritizing those who have been without the longest, Chief of Staff Stuart Reilly said during a Facebook live hosted by Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison Thursday morning. To avoid overloading the system, the utility is restoring power in sections and asking customers without power to turn off everything except one line and those with power to take conservation measures.
The power crisis resulted in a water crisis in Austin, along with many other regions across the state. Austin Water issued a boil water notice Wednesday evening due to a power outage at its largest water treatment plant and dropping pressure across the system caused by a surge in demand. Dripping faucets and burst pipes contributed to water use 250% greater than usual on Wednesday.
Although power has since been restored at the treatment plant, the utility is still facing a water shortage and the boil water notice remains in effect.
"I think it is important for people to understand that the boil water notice is a precautionary action," District 10 Alison Alter wrote in an email update sent early Thursday afternoon. "Austin Water has not detected contaminants in the water they are providing." Due to the time required to test water for contaminants, residents should expect "a lag time" before the notice ends, she continued.
Austin Water officials do not yet have a timeline for when the notice will be lifted or the pressure issues will be resolved, Chief of Support Services Anna Bryan-Borja said during the Facebook live.
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When Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he would rescind business capacity limits and a statewide masking mandate on Texas Independence Day, he framed it as a step forward. "With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny," he said during a press conference at a Mexican restaurant in Lubbock.
But some local restaurants and bars, which have been caught in the regulatory crosshairs since Texas' first positive COVID test 364 days ago, have chosen to ignore Abbott's overture. Instead, they will continue to maintain pandemic precautions once the executive order takes effect next week, citing a desire to keep their staff and patrons safe.
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(AUSTIN, TEXAS) Austonia has hired Claire Partain as a reporter covering Austin FC, the MLS expansion team that will be Austin's first major league sports franchise.
Partain is a former sports editor for the The University Star, Texas State University's daily newspaper. She edited, covered sports, produced podcasts, and hosted a pre-game TXST football tailgate live series. Partain has been freelancing with the company since January, prior to accepting a staff position.
A native of Fairfield, Texas, Partain grew up playing youth soccer. In her high school years, she played alongside her mother in what was then called the Freestone County Hispanic Women's Soccer League.
Claire's coverage philosophy: "I like to bring out the humanity of sports, and I want to make this the most accessible sports coverage possible."
She notes that soccer is the predominant sport for young people. "It's a global sport, and we're more connected to the world than older generations."
That approach fits the team's already visible presence in Austin, says Austonia CEO Mark Dewey. "Austin FC has established itself as a leading Austin brand, one that stands for a more unified Austin community, a bigger global presence for Austin and fun. Austonia shares those values."
Partain's soccer coverage begins immediately, with her free, hosted text service—Austonia FC. For updates, special access and inside info, all moderated by Claire, sign up below.
Austonia is the city's independent, free, locally-owned and all-digital source for Austin news, information and entertainment.
Connect with Austonia through its daily email newsletter and text updates, @austonianews Instagram feed, @austonianews and @austinist Twitter feeds, @austonianews Facebook page and its website austonia.com.
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Austin Public Health will release another batch of first dose COVID-19 vaccine appointments for Thursday on Wednesday evening. A department spokesperson estimates between 3,000 and 4,000 slots will be available.
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