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Day 4: Austin sees some power return amid continuing energy, water and natural gas crises

(Christa McWhirter)

As Austin heads into the fourth day of a statewide super crisis, an increasing number of residents have had their power restored, but a citywide boil water notice precipitated by low water pressures and a power outage at the city's largest treatment plant has left many without water—or power to boil it. The Texas Gas Service is also urging conservation measures and warning of additional outages, which could further exacerbate the situation.

A power update

Austin Energy was able to restore power to more customers overnight as additional generation became available across the statewide grid. As of 8:52 a.m., 64,616 customers or about 12% are still without power—significantly less than the peak of around 220,000 earlier this week.

The local utility is working to restore power to every affected customer but cannot provide an estimated timeframe for when that will occur. "If we power everyone back up at the same time, we will overload the system," Austin Energy tweeted Thursday morning. "Just like we shut down power in sections, we will restore power in sections."

In addition to outages that were intentional, to lessen demand on the statewide grid and prevent a total blackout that could take months to restore, some Austin customers have also lost power due to broken equipment caused by ice or downed trees. "Some of that damage won't even be obvious until we've reenergized our equipment," according to the tweet update.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which maintains around 90% of the state's power grid, is no longer requiring local providers to increase outages and is instead allowing them to restore some power. Although there was "significant progress overnight restoring customer power, the entity warns that "it is possible that some level of rotating outages will be needed over the next couple of days to keep the grid stable," according to a Thursday morning press release.

Some customers may also remain without power if they're in areas where the recent ice storms damaged equipment or where power lines need to be restored manually. Large industrial facilities that voluntarily went offline to help during this emergency will also likely remain in the dark.

A water update

Austin Water issued a citywide boil water notice Wednesday evening due to power loss at the Ullrich water treatment plant, the city's largest, and drops in water pressures to below minimum standards, which could introduce contaminants into the water distribution system. The local utility is working with Austin Energy to restore power at the treatment plant.

The drop in pressure was caused by the winter storm, which led to a surge in water usage due to dripping faucets, broken pipes and line breaks.

City residents should boil tap water vigorously for at least two minutes before using it for drinking or cooking. (Start your timer when the water begins to bubble.) This applies to water used for brushing teeth, making ice, preparing baby formula, washing raw foods and serving pets. Boiling water removes harmful bacteria in the water that may cause illness. Residents should throw out any ice made during the notice period, as freezing does not kill bacteria.

Unboiled tap water is safe for washing dishes but residents should use hot, soapy water and rinse dishes in boiled water. It is also safe for bathing.

Residents without power but who have access to working gas stoves can use them to boil water, Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros said during a press conference Wednesday. Otherwise they will need bottled water.

St. David's South Austin Medical Center lost water pressure earlier Wednesday, along with "a number of other hospitals in the Austin area," according to a statement issued by St. David's HealthCare CEO David Huffstutler Wednesday evening. The facility's boiler relies on water, so it is also losing heat.

Austin residents have taken to social media to coordinate water distribution efforts.

A natural gas update

The Texas Gas Service, which serves about 250,000 Austin customers, responded to a natural gas outage on East 12th Street Wednesday night and is urging residents to conserve natural gas amid the possibility of further outages.

The outage affected more than 300 homes in the neighborhood between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and East 12th Street.

An emergency update

Austin-Travis County EMS received more than 1,000 calls for service on Wednesday for the third day in a row. Notable calls included 129 related to falls, 24 related to carbon monoxide and 21 related to exposure.

Austin Fire continues to respond to structure fires and broken pipes caused by the weather emergency and power crisis.


Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation

🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway