100% Austin news, info, and entertainment, straight to your inbox at 6 a.m. every morning.
In five minutes, you're fully informed and ready to start another great day in our city.
Rolling blackouts 'stuck' in statewide shortage, 40% of Austin without electricity likely through Tuesday
This story was updated at 7:15 p.m. to include the most recent number of affected customers reported by Austin Energy.
Nearly 12 hours into a statewide power outage caused by severe winter weather, city officials answered some pressing questions, such as when power might be restored (likely not until tomorrow) and why the outages are lasting so long (to preserve power for "critical loads," such as hospitals).
When will power be restored?
Officials at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates about 90% of the state's electric load, said Monday morning that statewide outages will continue through Tuesday morning and possibly into the afternoon.
What is causing the outages?
The massive winter storm led to unprecedented demand for electricity across Texas while also forcing some generating units—such as power plants and, to a lesser extent, wind turbines—to shut down.
As a result, ERCOT began implementing rolling blackouts early Monday morning in an effort to restore the power grid. "Every grid operator and every electric company is fighting to restore power right now," ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said in a statement early Monday morning.
Although these blackouts were intended to be brief, lasting between 10 and 45 minutes, Austin residents have reported hours-long outages.
Are the outages "rolling"?
When ERCOT directed energy providers to implement rolling outages, Austin Energy randomly selected areas that did not include "critical loads," such as hospitals, fire stations and water treatment plants, General Manager Jackie Sargent said during a midday press conference.
However, due to the severity of the situation, Austin Energy quickly withdrew power from all of the areas that do not include critical loads. "There's no more energy that we can shut off at this time to bring these customers back on," Sargent said.
As a result, the outages are not rolling but rather static for those customers currently without power. "Basically we're stuck here until we can get some reprieve from ERCOT ... and get into rotating those outages," she added. "It's a tough situation. We understand that."
Q: why can't @austinenergy turn power back on?
A: @austinenergy says state has ordered power off. So all non-critical circuits turned off. If you have power, it's likely because your house shares circuit w/ hospital, fire station, 911 center, or other critical building
— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) February 15, 2021
Where are the outages?
All over town. Austin Energy reported that 212,634 customers—or more than 40%—were without power, as of 7:07 p.m. Monday. A full map of impacted areas can be found here.
The utility planned outages in areas that do not include critical loads. "The outages are across the system and they are designated by specific circuits," Sargent said, explaining that those areas with power are likely connected to a circuit serving a hospital or other designated critical load.
My power is out. What should I be doing to stay warm and safe?
Austin Energy and the city of Austin advise the following:
- Stay inside
- Dress in layers
- Avoid downed power lines
- Don't use generators indoor
- Use flashlight and battery-operated lanterns rather than candles and kerosene lanterns, which carry fire risk and fume hazards
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed and follow USDA guidelines regarding food safety during a power outage
- Turn off major appliances to avoid overloading electric lines when power is restored
- Report the outage online here
I need to get to a warming center. How do I get there?
The Palmer Events Center opened as a warming center on Monday morning, and evening shelter is available upon request. Although city officials recommend that Austinites stay off the roads, they are encouraging residents who need to relocate to a warmer place to travel during daylight hours as a precaution. Residents can call 512-305-ICEE for more information about warming centers and 211 for food assistance.
Cold weather shelters, which serve homeless residents and are typically only open at night, are now open 24 hours a day. More than 280 people stayed at such shelter locations Sunday evening, the city's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Juan Ortiz said.
A homeless camp along Lady Bird Lake was covered with snow on Monday. (Austonia staff)
What can I do to help?
Austin Energy is asking residential customers who have power to conserve energy by doing the following:
- Setting the thermostat at 68 degrees or lower
- Turning off lights that aren't needed
- Unplugging items not in use
- Keep blinds open during daylight hours and closed during nighttime
The city of Austin is also asking residents to stay off of the roads unless absolutely necessary so as to keep them open for ambulances and other first responders. The Texas Departments of Public Safety and Transportation are advising the same.
Crews are putting themselves in harm's way to clear the roads for emergency response vehicles and essential workers. The freezing temps are continuing to create DANGEROUS road conditions. Please, stay home. #ATXtraffic #WinterStorm #EndTheStreakTX pic.twitter.com/0JjNnbpNGD
— TxDOT Austin (@TxDOTAustin) February 15, 2021
"This is one of those things that happen once in several generations that will require us to pull together and help one another," Austin Mayor Steve Adler said.
- Polar Vortex: Austin brrraces for record-cold temperatures - austonia ›
- 10,000 without power in Austin as temperatures drop - austonia ›
- Winter Storm Warning: vaccine appointments canceled, power ... ›
- Winter freeze: Icy roads, power outages and school closures - austonia ›
- Austin Energy asks residents to save electricity and avoid blackouts ... ›
- Austin works to keep people, pets and pipes safe without power - austonia ›
- Austin faces day two without power, some without water, internet - austonia ›
- Why downtown Austin lights are on amid mass power outages - austonia ›
- Austin may face power outage through Tuesday night—or longer - austonia ›
- 3 reasons Texas and Austin don't have enough power - austonia ›
- Austin faces another night without power as resources dwindle - austonia ›
- Austin could see more power outages, 'total system blackout' - austonia ›
- Austin faces third day without power, pipes bursting - austonia ›
- Natural gas outage affects 300 East Austin homes - austonia ›
- Austin local businesses open their doors—and hearts—to those stuck in the cold - austonia ›
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."
- Week 1 roundup: One gold, two silvers and more to come for ... ›
- Going for gold: 27 athletes with Austin ties heading to the '21 Tokyo ... ›
- Week 1 roundup: One gold, two silvers and more to come for ... ›
- Former UT diver Alison Gibson competing at Tokyo Olympics ... ›
- 21 athletes with Austin ties are heading to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics ... ›
- An Austinite's guide to the Olympics: how to watch, who to cheer on ... ›
- UT to host first sporting event at 100% capacity tonight - austonia ›
- Texas State notebook: London signs, Osterman departs - Austin, TX ›
- The Statesman Interview: Cat Osterman - Sports - Austin American ... ›
- Olympian Cat Osterman to coach Round Rock Express softball ... ›
- Charity softball event again brings together Osterman, Ricky ... ›
- Team USA Softball player Cat Osterman comes out of retirement for ... ›
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.
- Should Texans be concerned about the delta variant? - austonia ›
- Here's where you can get vaccinated and avoid Delta today - austonia ›
- The Delta variant is spreading—Here's what you need to know ... ›
- Delta variant, unvaccinated fuel rise of Austin COVID cases - austonia ›