The city of Austin has not set up official water distribution sites for the general public as of Saturday afternoon, but city leaders said they are continuing to keep their warming shelters open for emergency water distribution through the weekend.
In a press conference Saturday, Austin leaders including Travis County Judge Andy Brown, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and County Commissioner Jeff Travillion said that more water is coming in as the city begins distributing drinkable water to certain vulnerable groups.
As of 3 p.m. Saturday, the city has distributed 8,066 cases of water to warming centers, COVID-19 isolation centers and other Phase I priorities. Through its community partners, 2,812 cases have also been distributed as part of Phase II.
In addition to water, Travillion said that the city provided 800 free meals to residents on Friday and another 20 pallets of food on Saturday.
According to Adler, official water distribution sites will be disclosed on Sunday. Although it is unclear how many sites will be available and how much water will be in supply, the city hopes to set up at churches in each city council district as soon as possible.
In the meantime, the city is teaming up with Capital Metro, Meals on Wheels and others to distribute to those without access to any form of water, especially seniors and at-risk groups.
Customers with Capital Metro's Metro Access service, which is designated for those with disabilities, are currently eligible to get drinking water. Cap Metro said it has already contacted the service's nearly 3,000 customers.
Travillion said that Austin is working to give resources especially to those that have traditionally been disadvantaged.
"We are going to continue to try to work in communities that have historically been in the back of the line," Travillion said. "We are not going to rest, we're not going to stop working, until we get our issues addressed, but it is going to take time."
Warming shelters that are still open are also being used as emergency centers for residents to get a few bottles for free if their situation is dire.
Here's a list of warming centers that are still open and under capacity:
24/7 city shelters:
- Del Valle High School, 5201 Ross Rd, Del Valle
- Mendez Middle School, 5106 Village Sq Drive
- Reilly Elementary School, 405 Denson Drive
24/7 Church Shelters through the Austin Disaster Relief Network:
- Austin Stone-North Campus, 1150 McNeil Road, Round Rock
- Friendship Creekside, 14455 FM 1826
- University Ave Church of Christ- 1903 University Ave.
Warming Centers (9 a.m.- 9 p.m.):
- Georgetown Rec Center, 1003 N Austin Ave. Georgetown
- Round Rock Baca Center, 301 W Bagdad Ave. #2 Round Rock
- Murchison Middle School-West, 3700 N. Hills Drive
- Joslin Elementary School, 4500 Menchaca Road
The city is distributing water from its pool of 1 million gallons of drinkable water. Eighteen pallets of water were flown in from FEMA's Fort Worth distribution center on Friday night, while 36 pallets arrived by truck from the same source that night. Fifteen truckloads are expected by Saturday night, and 45 total trucks are to be sourced from significant donors. An undisclosed private donor is set to deliver 16 trucks in the coming week, while the city of El Paso is looking to deliver five trucks of water on Monday.
Adler said that because demand is currently lower than what Austin Water can supply, more residents are beginning to get their water utilities back. For those who now have running water, Adler recommends that they boil what they have instead of using bottled water to conserve resources.
Austin Water has said that it hopes to have all its customers with at least limited running water by the end of the weekend, but some issues could last much longer.
The city has predicted that the current boil-water notice could linger into next week as the city scrambles to sample water and ensure that it is safe.
With long term issues such as leaky or burst pipes, Brown said that he believes it will be at least a month before much of the damage from the winter storm is fixed. Brown also cautioned that phony plumbers or other repair services could be looking to capitalize off of the crisis.
"My guess is that there is an extreme need for plumbers, and that it sounds like we're at least a month out from everybody having their things fixed," Brown said. "I would also caution that in times of disaster like this, it is very common for people to claim that they are a plumber, or that they can rehabilitate your house, but they're really just trying to take your money."
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The Austin woman suspected of killing star cyclist visiting from out of town, Moriah "Mo" Wilson, has now been captured after evading arrest for more than a month.
Kaitlin Marie Armstrong, an Austin yoga instructor, is believed by officials to be the killer of Wilson, who was found with gunshot wounds in a friend's house on May 11. The murder is being investigated as a crime of passion after Wilson met up with Armstrong's ex-boyfriend.
According to the U.S. Marshals, Armstrong was located at a hostel on Santa Teresa Beach in Provincia de Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Officials said she may have been using her sister's name after fleeing Austin on May 14, the day after police questioned her. She was last identified at Newark Liberty International Airport on May 18.
Federal authorities say they plan on returning Armstrong to the U.S., where she'll face charges of murder and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Here's a timeline of events since the night of Wilson's murder.
- The night of her death, Wilson met with Armstrong’s ex-boyfriend Colin Strickland, a fellow pro cyclist. According to an affidavit, the pair went swimming, then to dinner, before he dropped Wilson off at her friend's home where she was staying in East Austin at around 8:30 p.m.
- While Wilson and Stickland had previously had a romantic relationship, Stickland said the two were friends. The affidavit says Strickland lied to Armstrong about his whereabouts that evening.
- Video footage shows Armstrong’s Jeep pulled up nearby the home within a minute of Wilson arriving home.
- At around 10 p.m., Wilson's friend called Austin police after finding her in a pool of blood. Wilson had been staying with the friend ahead of the upcoming bike race in nearby Hico, Texas.
- Armstrong was brought in for questioning the day after the murder and released after appearing “very still and guarded” when confronted with video evidence.
- The Lone Star Fugitive Task Force said her black Jeep Cherokee was sold to a South Austin CarMax dealership on May 13 for $12,200.
- She leaves from the Austin airport on May 14.
- Shell casings found on the scene matched a gun belonging to Armstrong.
- Austin police obtained an arrest warrant for Armstrong on May 17.
- She took a flight from Newark Liberty International Airport to San Jose, Costa Rica on May 18 using a fraudulent passport, according to the Marshals.
- On May 25, another warrant was obtained for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
- On June 29, she was captured by the U.S. Marshals
On Thursday, the Supreme Court limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority in regulating greenhouse gases, a move that comes at a time when experts have warned about the need to take action on climate change.
The ruling was brought after a challenge to a lower court opinion brought by Texas and more than a dozen other states.
Vaibhav Bahadur, an associate professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin called the SCOTUS decision significant, noting that Texas is the biggest energy producer in the U.S., and produces more energy than the United Kingdom.
“Power generation accounts for a significant fraction of U.S. carbon emissions, and the EPA loses its ability to control what's happening in about half of that sector,” Bahadur said. “And it's not just the U.S., I think people and environmentalists on pretty much anywhere on the planet will be disappointed because this is going in the wrong direction. We know we want to be decarbonizing, and this is essentially putting a roadblock on progress toward decarbonization.”
So, we’re going to need some insurance, Bahadur says. He’s carrying out work that’ll act as such through his research on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), the process of sucking carbon from the air and burying it.
For the past five years, he’s been working on a novel approach to storing carbon. It involves supercharging the formation of carbon dioxide-based crystal structures and storing billions of tons of carbon under the ocean floor.
“If all of this is successful, then we will have another option for safely and responsibly storing carbon at the bottom of the seabed for essentially eternity,” Bahadur said.
Still, Bahadur talked about a different approach to responsibly cutting down emissions in the next decade, and doing so in a meaningful and substantial way, then the environment will eventually heal itself and we might not need CCS.
But that’s not the path we’re headed down.
“We're already starting to see temperature records being shattered this year, and we're still to hit peak summer,” Bahadur said. “All of this just makes me think that we need CCS to a larger extent, and possibly sooner than what a lot of scientists anticipate, especially if we can't keep our emissions in check.”
Gary Rochelle, a professor in the department of chemical engineering at UT, thinks CCS was ready to be deployed in 2010 and those 12 years have made a difference.
“But now we've emitted all that CO2,” Rochelle said. “And unfortunately, unlike other pollutants, when you emit CO2, it's there. It's not going away.”
Gary Rochelle and Vaibhav Bahadur are both researching technology to address carbon emissions. (UT)
Still, the delay is good in that now researchers like him have had time to learn about and improve the technology, allowing for fewer problems once it's deployed.
In December, UT announced a licensing agreement with advanced technology company Honeywell. The technology from that is targeted at power, steel, cement and other industrial plants to lower emissions.
Rochelle has been working on the technology since 2000 as part of an international collaborative effort. When he talked to Austonia on Thursday, he had just had calls with collaborators in Germany and Norway. Currently, he’s working with some Ph.D. students on addressing a chemical reaction that can happen with the technology known as oxidation that could lead to ammonia emissions and cause problems for a large-scale commercial unit.
Rochelle says he’s driven to this work because he wants to make a contribution.
“We're trying to develop this technology so that we can make a difference,” Rochelle said. “It's a nice problem to work on. The students are motivated and those are the primary things which drive us.”
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott celebrated the high court’s decision which acted as a blow to President Joe Biden’s plan to reduce emissions.
“Today’s landmark victory against an out-of-control administration is also a big win for Americans who worry about skyrocketing energy costs due to expensive federal regulations that threaten our energy industry,” Abbott said. “President Biden cannot keep attacking the energy industry and the hardworking men and women who power our nation.”
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