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Food, bottled water on its way to Austin

(HEB)

Local elected officials announced food and water are en route to Austin as residents face concurrent power and water crises.

"Food and water is the highest priority that we have," Austin Mayor Steve Adler said during a Facebook live hosted by Travis County Judge Andy Brown on Thursday evening.


City officials ordered one million gallons of water in 16-ounce bottles from six states in the Southeastern U.S. that is due in the next couple of days. "Trucks are on their way," Brown said.

Additionally, the Texas Department of Emergency management is due to deliver two 18-wheelers full of water from a FEMA site in Fort Worth Friday morning.

National Guard members are also helping to get a "flotilla of delivery trucks" full of food from H-E-B storehouses in Temple and San Antonio to Austin, Adler said.

Freezing temperatures have left Austin roads coated with ice and snow, making supply chain distribution processes difficult. The winter weather and power outages have forced many area grocery stores to close; those that have remained open have been wiped bare by customers in need of provisions.

A surge in demand for water coupled with a power outage at the city's largest water treatment plant led Austin Water to issue a boil water notice on Wednesday evening, which remains in effect. Tens of thousands of customers are also facing water outages, Director Greg Meszaros said during a press conference earlier in the afternoon. Those who still have water may not have electricity to boil it for safe use and are encouraged to take conservation measures.

Although it will be a "multi-day process" to restore the water system, Meszaros said, there have been improvements in the city's ongoing power outage. As of 5:34 p.m., 40,231 Austin Energy customers were still impacted—or just under 8%. This is a significant improvement from Wednesday evening, when around 27% of customers were still facing outages.

Although the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which maintains around 90% of the state's power grid, is no longer mandating outages, local utilities such as Austin Energy have to restore power incrementally to avoid overloading the system. Additionally, some outages are due to damage from the winter weather, which will require on-site maintenance.

In addition to these updates, Austin Mayor Steve Adler also reminded residents that the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing. Although Austin Public Health does not yet know when it will be able to resume vaccine appointments, the department and hub provider will be increasing its hours and the number of vaccine clinic locations to ensure vulnerable residents get their second shots, Adler said.

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