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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
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Police have arrested one of two suspects involved in a mass shooting at Austin's Sixth Street in the early morning hours on Saturday, leaving 14 people injured and two in critical condition.
The arrest was made by the Austin Police Department and the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force. One suspect is still at large.
Police started receiving 911 phone calls at 1:24 a.m about a man that fired shots into a large crowd, and responded to a chaotic scene on the 400 block of East Sixth Street. Detectives are surveying video footage captured by bystanders and cameras on the scene to identify the suspect.
The Austin Police Department has narrowed down their search to two male suspects and believes there was "some type of disturbance" between the two parties.
No deaths have been reported. Fourteen victims are receiving treatment in a hospital in stable condition with one treated in an emergency room; two are in critical condition.
According to Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon, "almost all" of the victims are innocent bystanders but police have not ruled anyone out at this time.
Shooting on 6th Street Austin Texas 6-12-2021 (Aftermath) youtu.be
The shooting occurred on the weekend of the Republic of Texas Motorcycle Rally. With lots of people downtown, police say it was difficult to get EMS in and out of the scene. Police arrived while the scene was still an "active threat," officers "immediately began lifesaving measures" and drove six victims to the hospital in their squad cars, said Chacon, and four were transported in ambulances.
Chacon said that the incident is believed to be isolated, and they optimistic they will be successful in getting the two suspects into custody. Multiple departments, including APD, the FBI, Texas DPS and the ATF, are involved in the investigation.
Austin police are also requesting state troopers for patrol assistance in the coming days. Chacon stressed staffing issues are increasingly making responding to emergency calls "very hard."
"Overall, we remain a safe city," Chacon said. "Also keep in mind when you come downtown, you need to be safety conscious. Be vigilant of your environment and your surroundings."
Today marks the five-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in which 49 were killed and 53 wounded in Orlando, Florida. Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call 911 or 512-472-TIPS.
This story was updated at 2:47 p.m. to include new information and will be updated as more details are revealed.
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Austin police are investigating a homicide in North Austin where a woman was shot and killed, just hours after a mass shooting in Downtown Austin hospitalized 14 people.
APD is working a suspicious death near the 1900 block of W Rundberg Ln. PIO is en route and will update with media staging location. PIO6
— Austin Police Department (@Austin_Police) June 12, 2021
Police originally responded to Ironhorse Flats Apartments, 1900 block of W. Rundberg Lane, at 3:20 p.m. when they found the woman with multiple gunshot wounds. She was transported to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 4:07 p.m.
No one is in custody as of yet but police are speaking with potential witnesses. Officials said they believe this was an isolated incident with no danger to the public but said possible relation to the downtown shooting has not been specifically ruled out.
Officers could not provide a suspect description and the relationship to the victim is still unknown.
This is a developing story that will be updated as details become available.
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