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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Expect some whiplash this week, Austinites: with an expected high of 103 degrees, Monday is predicted to be the hottest day of the year, but a midweek cold front is on the way to bring that first glimpse of fall.
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport could see its first 100-degree temperature this year on Monday as temperatures citywide are expected to exceed this year's record of 102 degrees.
The cold front arrives Tuesday afternoon to evening.#atx #atxwx #cbsaustinwx https://t.co/rQni6ug3y4 pic.twitter.com/PoFeHPYtnM
— Chikage Windler WX (@ChikageWeather) September 20, 2021
After a typical summery Tuesday with highs in the mid-90s, Wednesday will welcome the first signs of fall as a cold front drops lows into the 50s.
Expect more wind and a chance of rain come Tuesday with a 40% chance of scattered storms. The cold front, which should last through Friday, will bring drier, crisper air that could cause fire hazards on Wednesday.
Highs will be in the upper 80s and lows in the 50s and lower 60s for the front's final two mornings.
After near record heat today, a cold front arrives tomorrow! Hang in there South-Central Texas, we have almost made it. pic.twitter.com/yd9UbNo7hY
— NWS Austin/San Antonio (@NWSSanAntonio) September 20, 2021
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After months of speculation, a new report says political personality Beto O'Rourke is mulling a run for Texas governor that he will announce later this year.
Sources tell Axios the former congressman is preparing his campaign for the 2022 election, where he will likely vie for the position against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. The only other candidate that has announced he will take on Abbott for governor is former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West—no Democrats have announced they are running as of yet.
"No decision has been made," Axios reports David Wysong, O'Rourke's former House chief of staff and a longtime adviser, said. "He has been making and receiving calls with people from all over the state."
A new poll from The Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler shows O'Rourke is narrowing the gap between himself and Abbott's prospects for governor. In the poll, 37% said they'd vote for O'Rourke over Abbott, while 42% said they'd vote for Abbott.
Abbott has been in the hot seat due to his handling of COVID-19 and the signing of landmark legislation into law, including new abortion and voting rights laws; 54% of poll respondents voted they think the state is headed in the "wrong direction." Still, Texas hasn't had a Democrat as governor since the 90s.
O'Rourke's people-focused approach to the 2018 Senator race, which he lost to Sen. Ted Cruz, gave him a widespread following and many hoped he'd throw his hat into the ring since he said he was considering it earlier this year.
"We hope that he's going to run," Gilberto Hinojosa, the state chair of the Democratic Party, told Axios. "We think he'll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott because he's vulnerable."
Austin rapper Jordi Esparza may not have won the 2021 Red Bull Batalla, the world's largest Spanish freestyle rap competition, but for a spirited two rounds, the 22-year old Mexican native looked like he had every right to.
On Saturday evening in Los Angeles, the event itself looked like Cobra Kai meets Star Search with graphics adding a very Batman Beyond aesthetic. Over a dozen rappers hoping to represent the U.S. in the international round of the competition took to the stage with in-your-face jabs at accents, sexual orientation and odors, among other things.
This was Esparza's second rodeo; he had placed third at the 2020 National Finals, automatically securing him a spot this year.
However, things were different this year. He was not nervous about the contest. Unlike in 2020, when he made his Red Bull Batalla debut, the anxiety of the event led him to "feeling so bad."
Affecting a casual calm, the locally-based landscaper said he just felt "so relaxed, so happy" and primarily wanted to "enjoy everything."
Choosing his first-round opponent, Esparza, whose stage name is Jordi, elected to go against LA-based Boss.
Esparza freestyled an attack on his opponent's weight and cholo style of dress.
Boss—bracketing his Latin freestyle with English appeals to the crowd—mocked Jordi's lack of education, made fun of how clean Jordi's shoes looked and suggested that Jordi just came back from a Footlocker.
That first round went to Jordi.
But his next opponent Eckonn would prove to be his undoing.
Eckonn compared Jordi to Hannah Montana, while Jordi soulfully explained that he had learned from the best.
Esparza's verbal dexterity is matched by a rattling rhythm and a game face that is as mawkish as it is mockish. The overall effect is that of an underdog with bite.
Eckonn beat Esparza in that round with the overall championship going to Palm Beach-based rapper Reverse.
However, Esparza was just happy to be there. He recently told Austonia going to the finals again was a dream come true—a pinnacle that he said he won't know how to top.
With his nimble jabs and sneaky prowess, honed from pop culture and the swagger of a young working man hungry to be more, Jordi Esparza is just getting started.