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(Austin Travis County EMS / Twitter)

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.

(Maddy Sembler)

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.




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.

In addition to concerns about people and pets, more than two hundred Austinites also reported broken pipes on Monday, according to city data.

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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