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Restoring water to tens of thousands of customers currently experiencing outages and lifting the boil water notice will be "a multi-day process," Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros said during a press conference Thursday afternoon.
For those residents who lack both water and power to boil it, local officials have little immediate support to offer.
"Water has been purchased and is on the way," Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Juan Ortiz said. "As soon as we are able, it will be distributed into the community." However, because of the statewide nature of the crisis, the city had to purchase water from out of state, and it will take time for it to be delivered. In the meantime, Meszaros recommended residents without water or power reach out to friends and neighbors who may have water to share.
After Austin Water's largest water plant temporarily lost power Wednesday and a surge in demand led to low water pressure system-wide, the local utility issued a boil water notice Wednesday evening that remains in effect. Freezing temperatures caused pipes to burst and water mains to break, which further exacerbated high demand, along with faucet dripping. The leaks also caused Austin Water's reservoirs, which typically hold around 100 million gallons of water, to drain out. "At the low point, they were all nearly empty," Meszaros said.
Similar to the power restoration process, Meszaros said the water restoration process will take time as the utility works to identify and repair leaks. If the restoration process is rushed and leaks remain unattended to, restoring the water system could result in the same situation the city is in now: low pressure and emptied reservoirs.
The reason there is a boil water notice in effect is because of the low pressure, which introduces the possibility of contamination. "Even though the risk is low and we don't know of any particular source of contamination, it's very important that customers boil their water before using it," Meszaros said.
Once Austin Energy is able to restore pressure, the utility will have to go through a sampling and testing process as required by state law before it is able to lift the boil water notice. Texas Commission of Environmental Quality Executive Director Toby Baker said there are only 135 labs in the state that can do the necessary sampling, which means notices in Austin and elsewhere could linger, according to the Texas Tribune; approximately 12 million Texans across around 590 public water systems were experiencing service disruptions as of Wednesday afternoon.
Although Austin Energy has restored power to tens of thousands of customers since Wednesday, just over 8% percent—or 41,597—are still impacted. The local utility is working to get those customers back on the grid, prioritizing those areas that have gone without power the longest, but the process takes time to avoid system overloads. "I wish getting everyone back online was as easy as flipping a switch or pushing a button, but it's not," General Manager Jackie Sargent said.
City officials also provided additional updates and recommendations regarding emergency services, road safety and other public services:
- Austin Fire Department Assistant Chief Brandon Wade asked residents not to burn items other than firewood and approved logs in places other than fireplaces because of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning and fires. Residents who see smoke or fire should immediately call 911 because of delayed response times due to the road conditions.
- Austin residents continue to report broken pipes. Austin Water is no longer recommending faucet dripping in an effort to lower demand and restore the system, and the fire department cannot respond to all calls immediately due to high demand. So residents are encouraged to locate their water shutoff in case they need to use it.
- Public Works Director Richard Mendoza said two 70-person crews are working in 12-hour shifts to clear roads. So far, about 60%—or 118 lane miles—have been cleared in one lane each direction, and the department expects to address the remainder by Friday afternoon.
- Curbside trash and recycling will resume on Friday, weather permitting, but crews may take longer due to the road conditions.
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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."
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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.
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