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Sam Pitasky is a light sleeper. So when his noise machine cut out around 2 a.m. on Monday morning, he woke up.
Like more than 40% of Austin Energy customers, Pitasky, 29, and his wife, Maddy Sembler, 31, were facing a power outage.
The couple got up and went into the backyard of their Hyde Park home, where their three chickens—two goldens named Abbi and Ilana and black-and-white Eleanor Roosevelt—live in a homemade enclosure. They moved the chickens into the bathtub, which is now filled with hay.
"If the power hadn't gone out, they might not have made it," Pitasky told Austonia.
By 6 a.m., it seemed clear to them the outage was not a rolling one, and he texted a couple they are friends with to see if they had power. After hearing back a couple hours later, he and Sembler tried to decide if it was safe to drive to nearby North Loop. With four-wheel drive and few cars on the road, they decided to go for it—and arrived at their friends' condo around 10 a.m.
"Things like this have been happening a lot this year," Sembler said.
A common experience
The couple isn't alone in trying to make sure their pets, property and selves are safe. By Monday evening, more than 212,387 Austin Energy customers were without power, slightly more than earlier in the day, and many took to social media to share updates and, in some cases, concerns.
Historic Austin winter storm, closed stores, dangerously icy roads, and power outage lasting from 2am this morning to tomorrow afternoon all got me in survivor mode. Gotta enjoy the view at least pic.twitter.com/iNuaj8AFZO
— AJ Maguddayao (@azn_pinoy_95) February 15, 2021
Have been without power since I guess 2 a.m.? Have been relying on battery-operated radio and access to internet has been impossible. Idk if this tweet will send tbh.
— Estefanía de León (@estefaniadeleon) February 15, 2021
We lost power at 1am last night and it hasn't been back! Austin is not rotating power outages, instead leaving certain areas on/off. It's 53 in our house but at least we have a fire place. I hope our food stays good. 🙃
— Kari Downing (@areyouKarina) February 15, 2021
And it won't melt most likely until Wednesday- and it's now difficult to distinguish between power outages and load shedding! Been out of power since mid-day and I know folks who've been out of power since 2Am,
Stay safe #ATX pic.twitter.com/hfWwXMJEf6
— Ganesh Padmanabhan (@_ganeshp) February 15, 2021
When city officials hosted a midday press conference on Facebook live, thousands of viewers commented. Some were worried about Austin's homeless residents and whether they had access to indoor shelter; others had family members with medical needs who were facing outages.
"It's 35° in our house... my son needs his oxygen back on and our E tanks are out ... we need our electricity turned on!" one woman wrote. "My mother is elderly and on oxygen - she hasn't had power since 2:00 AM!!! What is she supposed to do? I can't get to her," another commented.
By 6 p.m. Austin-Travis County EMS received more than 1,000 calls for service, and the Austin Police Department had issued a request to residents not to call 911 to report power outages so that people in need of immediate attention could get through.
The OMD has been sharing OLMC calls and telemed consults among 4 MDs and a PA, running calls in the field, performing ultrasounds, setting fractures, repairing lacerations, and generally trying to free @ATCEMS and @austinfiredept crews for the MANY emergency calls. pic.twitter.com/4ZghZ8i1lB
— ATCEMS OMD (@ATCEMSOMD) February 15, 2021
In addition to concerns about people and pets, more than two hundred Austinites also reported broken pipes on Monday, according to city data.
hi! i haven't had power in 12 hours, pipes are frozen, supplies are running low, and backup generators are barely keeping the phone network up. i feel like i'm in the last 5 minutes of THE THING. welcome to Austin
— robin leads a murder of crows (@robin7crows) February 15, 2021
Another day ahead
Local and state officials expect the power outages to continue through Tuesday and advise residents to stay home, conserve energy and avoid driving, especially after dark, until power can be restored and roadways are cleared.
Back at the Pitasky-Sembler residence, their chickens remain in the bathroom. The couple plans to return home on Tuesday to make sure they're safe and—hopefully—find that their power is back.
"We said it was weird that we were leaving the house and the chickens were staying," Pitasky said.
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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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