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.
My mom is one of the only people who still has power in her small duplex community in Austin. Even tho her pipes burst and she's down to a bathtub filled with water, she's hosting and feeding her elderly neighbors who lost power🥺 IF U HAVE POWER IN ATX RN YOU CAN DO THE SAME!
— Lolo (@laurenlamie) February 17, 2021
If anyone in the Austin area is in need of something like firewood, blankets, water, food, etc. please tweet me your need & location (neighborhood) & I'll RT it for you to try to find help. We have to look out for each other & help our neighbors get thru this
— atxwxgirl (@atxwxgirl) February 16, 2021
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.
.@TexasGasService provided me with this map of the affected area. Still no word on what caused the leak or when it will be fixed. I'm in direct contact with the company and will bring you updates as I get them. pic.twitter.com/rEn5eOcn1y
— Natasha Harper-Madison (@NatashaD1atx) February 18, 2021
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.
Structure fire at 2025 E. 7th was caused by an oven left on when power went out. When power was restored the fire started. Please make sure your cooking and heating appliances are turned off when electricity is out. No injuries pic.twitter.com/b4zA6JS5G5
— Austin Fire Info (@AustinFireInfo) February 18, 2021
- Austin faces third day without power, pipes bursting - austonia ›
- 3 reasons Texas and Austin don't have enough power - austonia ›
- Water conservation is now Austin's 'immediate priority' - austonia ›
- Austin Water investigates water outages in southwest Austin - austonia ›
- Austin could see more power outages, 'total system blackout ... ›
- Austinites face 'multi-day' water crisis amid winter weather - austonia ›
- Food, bottled water en route to Austin amid weather crisis - austonia ›
- Austin faces 'multi-day' water crisis after winter weather - austonia ›
- Austin Water partially lifts boil notice, 99.9% have power - austonia ›
As Texas gets ready to lift the mandatory mask mandate on March 10, food and bar workers gathered at the Texas Capitol to express their frustration with the lack of COVID-19 precautions without adequate access to the COVID-19 vaccine.The event, which began at 1 p.m. on Monday, was hosted by the Austin chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, Restaurant Organizing Project and The Amplified Sound Coalition.
Christa McWhirter<p>Crystal Maher, a member of the Restaurant Organizing Project, stands in front of the Texas Capitol to express to other protesters in attendance how not being eligible for a vaccine has impacted her ability to safely keep her job. </p>
Christa McWhirter<p>Kiara Collins, Eric Santos and Taylor Escamilla are all essential workers who have been questioning their safety in their workplace. As many of the other protesters, the three wore masks with the word "Expendable" on it. According to Collins, they were only given to essential workers in attendance to represent how they have been treated since the onset of COVID-19.</p>
Christa McWhirter<p>As Maher continues to introduce speakers, two essential workers who came out to support the protest, record as counter-protesters heckled the event's speakers.</p>
Christa McWhirter<p>Some of the counter-protesters in attendance were live streamers from InfoWars, an extremist organization, who heckled speakers until the rally dispersed. </p>
Christa McWhirter<p>A representative of the Del Valle Community Coalition spoke about the impact the lack of vaccine access has had on the Del Valle area. As she attempted to give her speech, anti-masking protesters yelled at her causing many people to attempt to block them out.</p>
Christa McWhirter<p>Protesters blocked the way of anti-mask counter protesters as they heckled the event's speakers and held "My Body My Choice" signs. "It's kind of insane how they're using 'my body, my choice.' It doesn't only affect you. So it's not just your body," Taylor Escamilla said.</p>
Christa McWhirter<p>Jeanette Gregor, cofounder of Amplified Sound Coalition, also had to fend off counter-protesters as she gave an impassioned speech about the danger essential workers place themselves in by going to work and have yet to qualify for COVID-19 vaccine. </p>
Christa McWhirter<p>Around 2 p.m., State Troopers began to arrive at the Capitol amid heightening tensions from protesters and counter-protesters. As police presence began to increase, the event came to end about 15 minutes later. Despite the constant back and forth between sides and the arrival of law enforcement, the protest came to end peacefully.</p>
The world has changed drastically over the past year, and South by Southwest, one of Austin's most beloved institutions, has, too.
After being abruptly canceled by the city last year, one week before it was set to kick-off due to the increasing understanding of the potential impact of COVID-19, it returns this year in a virtual format March 16-20.
- SXSW goes virtual for 2021, possible in-person event - austonia ›
- Oprah confirmed to kick off SXSW EDU - austonia ›
- SXSW Music Festival announces showcasing artists - austonia ›
Austin Public Health will release first dose COVID-19 vaccine appointments on a weekly basis starting Monday evening. The specific days and number of appointments made available will depend on the weekly allocation from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Previously, APH released first dose appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
- Everything we know about Austin's COVID vaccine rollout - austonia ›
- Austin healthcare offering COVID-19 vaccine waitlists - austonia ›
- Austin Public Health will release 4k COVID vaccine slots - austonia ›
- Testing sites close, vaccine appointments stay on track despite cold ... ›
- Austin Public Health will release extra COVID vaccine slots - austonia ›