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Warming up in cars, leaning on friends: Austin faces another night without power as resources dwindle
Jimena Gamboa Bonilla grew up in Houston, so she says she's familiar with natural disasters. When her power went out early Monday morning, the Barton Hills resident turned her faucets to a drip, filled up some water bottles in case of burst pipes and began covering her windows for some insulation.
"I'm concerned about the situation right now," she told Austonia. "But I'm really concerned about what's going to happen with the water later this week."
By 5 p.m. on Monday, Gamboa Bonilla realized that her power wasn't likely to return and made a last-minute effort to escape her place, where the internal temperature was in the thirties. Aware of the risks of driving, she mapped out a route that avoided hills. But while trying to cross I-35, her car spun out. "I miraculously skidded toward the side of the road," she said.
Gamboa Bonilla called a friend who lived nearby, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Because her car was in a relatively safe spot, she left it to walk to her friend's apartment. "I'm so grateful she said."
Jimena Gamboa Bonilla, left, is staying with her friend in Capitol Hill until it is safe for her to return to her Barton Hills home. (Jimena Gamboa Bonilla)
Nearly 200,000 Austin Energy customers are without power, and the local utility has said they should be prepared for the outage to continue through Tuesday night—and perhaps longer. As a result, many residents are stuck in near-freezing homes, unable to leave because of the snow or iced-over roads, and concerned about their and others' safety.
Bill Kibler's power went out early Monday morning. Thanks to a working fireplace, he was able to heat his home to around 60 degrees. A gas stove allowed for tea and warmed up leftovers. His kitchen sink pipes have frozen but not yet burst. On Tuesday morning, he was "rescued" by his son-in-law who had borrowed a car with four-wheel drive. "Now doing fine in their heated and on the grid home in Circle C," he wrote in an email.
Not everyone has been able to find shelter elsewhere.
John Dwyer lives in a Northwest Hills duplex on a steep hill that is "impossible to navigate." He has been shuttling back and forth between his home and his car, where he can warm up and charge his cell phone. "We burned everything that was combustible last night to keep the temp inside the duplex 41 degrees as we attempted to sleep under a mountain of blankets, waking to almost freezing temperature inside and having to again move to the car," he wrote in an email.
Dwyer is concerned because it seems unlikely that his power will be restored by Wednesday, when his cars will have run out of gas. "To say we're enraged by (a) state government that would allow this to happen is a gross understatement!" he added.
Local officials recommend that people without power stay inside, dress in layers and use flashlights and battery-operated lanterns rather than candles and kerosene lanterns, which can carry fire risks and fume hazards. They also say that generators should not be used indoors.
Austin Travis County EMS is on track to receive more than 1,000 calls on Tuesday for the second day in a row. Since Monday, the agency has received at least 22 calls related to carbon monoxide, which can be deadly. Other noteworthy trends include falls, exposure and collisions.
#ATCEMS is again poised to break the 1,000 call for service mark today! As of noon we have received 524 calls. Noteworthy: Falls-48, Exposures-26, Carbon Monoxide-9, & Collisions-6. By eliminating preventable calls for service we can respond to higher priority medical emergencies pic.twitter.com/RiUfFlWogR
— ATCEMS (@ATCEMS) February 16, 2021
Austinites are also concerned about their loved ones, especially those with medical conditions that require electric devices.
Tom Banning lives in the Allendale neighborhood and lost power around 3 a.m. on Monday morning. Yesterday afternoon, his household relocated to his mom's house. But he remains concerned about his 80-year-old aunt, who lives in a local assisted living facility that is also without power. "There is a reason she and others live in assisted living," he wrote in an email. "It's because they need help."
The city of Austin has opened three additional warming centers since Monday, bringing the current total to four. But space remains limited and officials are asking residents who can remain home, even without power, to free up room for vulnerable individuals or those with medical needs.
Although Gamboa Bonilla is "so grateful" that she has found a safe haven at her friend's place, she doesn't expect to return home until the weekend—at the earliest. And she is worried about how elderly people and Austin's homeless population will survive another night in the cold, especially given the number of sirens she heard last night.
"It's truly heartbreaking," she said.
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17 years and three medals later, Osterman's last ride with USA softball is over. What's next for Cat?
Nearly two decades after her debut with the University of Texas and 17 years after her first Olympic gold, softball icon Cat Osterman stepped off the Olympic pitcher's mound for the last time with a silver medal to take back home.
Osterman, a three-time Olympian who has been called the "Michael Jordan of softball," will officially retire from the international realm at 38 after a decorated career that included Olympic golds, years of retirement and plenty of adversity—from a worldwide pandemic to dashed gold-medal dreams.
Osterman and her crew left Tokyo on a bittersweet note on Tuesday with a silver medal in hand.
Osterman with Team USA in 2008. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
Osterman in the final in 2021. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
After a year of sparse in-person training and over a decadelong hiatus, Team USA and Osterman flew to the finals. In five games, the team beat Italy (2-0), Canada (1-0), Mexico (2-0), Australia (2-1), and Japan (2-1).
Deja vu struck in the final match. On one side, Osterman and fellow 2008 Olympic teammate Monica Abbott took the mound; on the other was the 39-year-old Yukiko Ueno, a familiar foe who helped the team beat Team USA last go-round.
"Just like 13 years ago," Ueno said in a press conference, "we were facing each other in the final."
Ueno, who had lost hopes at gold to Osterman in '04, outpitched her longtime opponent with six scoreless innings as Team USA was held to just three hits. The same team that squandered their gold-medal hopes 13 years before had done it once again.
Your Tokyo 2020 Olympic Silver Medalists 🇺🇸#TokyoOlympics | @TeamUSA pic.twitter.com/MOMNOedHUd
— USA Softball Women's National Team 🇺🇸 (@USASoftballWNT) July 27, 2021
"There's a little bit of disappointment in not bringing home the gold since that's the eye on the prize when you go over there and you know you have a shot at it," Osterman told Austonia. "But more than anything, I'm very proud of the way our team handled everything that was part of this journey and not just the six games."
It's that very loss at the 2008 Olympics that partially motivated Osterman to get back on the mound. She officially put down the glove in 2015 after six seasons with the USSSA Pride, took time with family and began coaching at Texas State University.
Osterman helped ace Randi Rupp to greatness while a coach at Texas State University. (Active Voice Health/Twitter)
She thought her Olympic endeavors were well over—until talks of reinstating softball into the Games reentered the conversation.
"It wasn't until 2016 or 2017, that it ever crossed my mind to possibly put the USA uniform on again," Osterman said. "After the World Championships in 2010, I walked away, and I thought that my career on the international stage was done. So this was a pleasant kind of new opportunity."
Three years after facing any competition, Osterman was on the field once more with world-class athletes. Some, like Osterman and Abbott, had been playing together long enough to form a formidable "Fire and Ice" duo on the mound. Others had just graduated college.
Osterman said playing with a younger generation of athletes was one of the most rewarding aspects of this year's Games.
"It can be very different when you have 24- and 38-year-olds on the same field," Osterman said. "The adversity put us in some challenging positions and we came through with flying colors. And this group will forever be special just because what we had to go through is so different."
While on the mound, Osterman's job was to give the team a calm start. Off of the field, she felt her role had much of the same effect: she knew that new Olympic feeling, and she served as a deep breath to her first-time teammates.
"There's no words to explain how nervous and excited you get knowing that the whole world can be watching," Osterman. "I think using those emotions and figuring out how to get all our butterflies lined up and going in the right direction, so that way we were all moving together, was kind of my role outside of pitching."
We've heard her retire once before, but this time Osterman said she's gone for good—even from coaching. After her final time with Team USA on Sept. 27, she plans on returning to Austin, where she'll look to work for a nonprofit.
A gold and two silvers will have to do for one of the most decorated athletes in U.S. softball history.
"To be able to say you're a three-time Olympic medalist is a pretty special deal, right?" Osterman. "I played for a long time. But those are the pinnacle, in my mind, and kind of what elicits the dream to keep playing."
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Hospitals are facing a "significant" increase in admissions of pregnant women due to COVID-19 complications, Austin-Travis County health officials say, revealing what could be a long-term side effect of the virus.
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes met with three maternal medicine specialists on Monday morning to warn of yet another COVID-19 Delta variant concern: severe cases of the disease affecting unvaccinated mothers-to-be.
The doctors said unvaccinated pregnant women face an increased risk of preterm births, long-term effects, preeclampsia, ICU stays, stillbirths, being put on life support and even death if they are unvaccinated.
"We are really concerned that we are not getting that population of folks to hear this message of the safety of vaccines, so today we're assembled, one and all to say, wear a mask and please get vaccinated," Walkes said. "Vaccinations are the way to prevent severe disease and hospitalizations and death."
Medical Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at St. David's Women's Center of Texas Dr. Kimberly DeStefano said 95% of pregnant women admitted with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, stressing that all pregnant and lactating women should get the vaccine not only to protect themselves but to protect their babies from infection, which can be passed through breastmilk or birth.
"We know that the earlier in pregnancy you are vaccinated, the more antibodies are present at the time of birth for the infant," DeStefano said. "This is something that's very important, both during the pregnancy and postpartum."
Catching COVID-19 while pregnant can cause adverse effects on the baby, particularly because it increases the risk of preterm births. Baylor Scott & White Maternal Obstetrics Chief of Maternal Medicine Dr. Jessica Ehrig, said that preterm births are one of the "biggest impacts" on childhood development.
"We know that (preterm births) can have long-term effects depending on how early a baby's born," Ehrig said. "It increases the risk for long term respiratory issues, for blindness sometimes (and) for neurologic development delays."
Since mid-July, COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on a steep rise that sent the city back to recommending Stage 4 guidelines. As the seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations surpassed 50 admissions, Stage 5 guidelines could be on the horizon. The city reported 54 new admissions and 546 total new cases on Friday.
Delta is more contagious than chickenpox, Walkes said, and even vaccinated individuals can catch and spread the virus without symptoms. The group of doctors asked everyone, especially pregnant women, to mask while in public as local hospitals pass the Stage 5 threshold.
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