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Local plumbers have been overwhelmed with customers as the full extent of pipe damage is realized from frozen pipes thawing after days of sub-freezing temperatures.
With so many pipe issues resulting from the freezing temperatures of the past week, plumbing companies are being bombarded with calls for service. Radiant Plumbing and Air Conditioning is experiencing up to a 300% increase in calls, and ABC Home and Commercial Services is receiving about 1,000 calls a day. Such a drastic increase in call volume means that many customers are not able to get through to plumbers or retain appointment slots.
(2) On Tuesday, a major pipe burst under our house (pictured). A plumber from NextDoor called me and coached my partner and I on how to shut off the city valve from the street- residential valve was unusable. pic.twitter.com/9i3ApgGfaC
— emily (@emily86008799) February 22, 2021
Bailey Klentzman, an Austin resident who experienced a burst pipe in her home on Monday afternoon, said her family has had trouble getting an appointment to fix their plumbing because local plumbers are so overbooked.
Despite not being able to successfully book a plumber, they have been able to get a contractor out to assess the damage to the floors and ceilings affected by the water damage. Although the Klentzmans appropriately prepared by leaving faucets dripping and cabinets open, they will still need to replace the floor and ceiling around the pipes due to severe water damage.
While struggling to find a plumber to come out, Klentzman, her husband and two dogs, have been without water for five days as of Saturday evening.
"I'm a hiker and I've done bad hikes before where I didn't plan so I had to ration water in that way, but that's just a few hours," Klentzman said. "Days without water was a little scary. I felt like I was really rationing."
After two days of rationing the little water they had, Klentzman said their neighbors came to their rescue, leaving containers of drinkable water and dog food at their home.
Chris Webb, another Austin resident, also experienced a burst pipe in his home.
Webb was out of town during the freeze, but knew something had gone awry when he received a text from his roommate.
"I got a text message from my roommate while I was trying to get home that just said, 'Code Red, man. Code red.' And I knew that that meant a pipe had finally gone."
Webb, like Klentzman, properly prepared his home to protect their pipes, unfortunately, his home has experienced extensive damage to, not only the plumbing, but the entire bathroom the leak happened in.
Having lost water due to the plumbing disaster since Wednesday after 40 hours without power, Webb and his housemates have finally had a plumber come out and restore their water.
"The whole (bathroom) wall is gutted and ripped out, but we got water running again ... and we're down to one bathroom for the house."
While overwhelmed plumbers scramble to fit Austin customers into their books, Gov. Greg Abbott has temporarily waived certain regulations for registered and qualified Plumber's Apprentices in Texas.
These waivers will allow Plumber's Apprentices, who have met all other qualifications, to temporarily repair plumbing in the state without direct supervision by a licensed plumber.
"These waivers will help meet the plumbing needs of Texans who have experienced burst pipes and other related damage from the severe winter weather," Abbott said. "By allowing certain registered and qualified Plumber's Apprentices to perform these repairs, we will be able to expedite the recovery process throughout our communities."
Despite days without power, burst pipes and extensive water damage, many Austinites share the same sentiment of gratitude for simply making it through a historic storm.
"Even with everything we've been through," Klentzman said, "we're still the lucky ones."
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Matthew McConaughey is reportedly weighing a run for Texas governor in 2022.
The Austin resident and Oscar winner has been "quietly making calls to influential people in Texas political circles, including a deep-pocketed moderate Republican and energy CEO" as he decides whether to run, according to Politico.
McConaughey said a gubernatorial run is "a true consideration" while on a March episode of Houston's "The Balanced Voice" podcast.
Although most political strategists doubt McConaughey's commitment and viability as a candidate, some are still intrigued by the possibility.
"I find it improbable, but it's not out of the question," Karl Rove, a top Republican strategist with a long history in Austin, told the political news site. He added that the big question is whether McConaughey would run as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent.
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP strategist, told Politico he's surprised McConaughey isn't being taken more seriously. "Celebrity in this country counts for a lot," he said. "It's not like some C-list actor no one likes. He has an appeal."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to run for a third term and remains popular among Republican voters, 77% of whom approve of his performance as of April, according to the Texas Politics Project.
Some strategists believe an independent McConaughey run would benefit Abbott. But a recent poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott, 45% to 33%, with 22% opting for someone else.
Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, mulled a McConaughey run in a recent opinion essay from the New York Times. "Texas may not be ready for a philosopher king as a candidate, much less governor," she wrote. "May the best man win, man."
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Some JuiceLand production facility workers and storefront employees are organizing to demand wage increases, better working conditions (including air conditioning in the warehouse) and pay transparency, among other asks. They are also calling on staff to strike and customers to boycott the Austin-based company until their demands are met.
JuiceLand responded on Saturday. "We are listening," the company wrote on their Instagram story. "JuiceLand crew now makes guaranteed $15 an hour or more companywide."
JuiceLand, which was founded in 2001 by Matt Shook and now has 35 locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas, acknowledged the rising cost of living across Texas and the added stress of the pandemic in an email to employees on Saturday, part of which @juicelandworkersrights shared on social media. "There's no denying that times are tough and financial security means more now than ever," the company wrote.
Organized JuiceLand workers rejected this proposal, according to a recent post on the @juicelandworkersrights Instagram account, and reiterated their demands.
"Cost of living in Austin is rising exponentially and will only continue to get worse with the tech boom," the post read. "$15 is barely a sustainable living."