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Austinites express unwelcome déjà vu of historic winter storm ahead of cold snap

Temperatures are expected to drop to below freezing on Thursday morning. (File photo)

When the world’s most famous groundhog declared six more weeks of winter Wednesday morning, Austin residents may have tuned in a little more closely as they gear up for an all-too-familiar February winter storm.

Just under a year after Winter Storm Uri shut down much of the state’s power grid, left thousands of Austinites without water and forced many of the city’s most vulnerable populations into unsafe situations, a new “very strong arctic cold front” is expected to hit Austin once more early Thursday morning. Temperatures are expected to plummet below freezing early Thursday morning and stay there through Friday afternoon with freezing rain translating to a quarter-inch of ice.

Though the outlook isn’t as dire as it was last year, many Austin-area residents, including Lindsay Ballard, experienced an unwelcome déjà vu as they tuned in to the week’s forecast.

Seniors made up a majority of Travis County’s 28 winter storm deaths, a fact Ballard almost saw firsthand as she brought emergency relief to residents at Cambridge Villas Senior Living Center. The complex had been without running water or wellness checks for six days, leading to food, insulin and more necessities spoiling.

“The residents I was able to keep up with have moved out of that particular housing into better situations,” Ballard told Austonia. “I’m still concerned for all of the seniors in the storm, though, and I hope it will be as mild and short-lived as the meteorologists are predicting. I’ll be ready to jump in and help if needed.”

Neighbors rallied around the nursing home, providing food in the aftermath of the storm. (Jack Morgan)

Meanwhile, other Austinites are applying the lessons they learned last year to their approach this year.

Jessica Tremblay, a North Austin resident, was in the middle of covering her plants when she spoke with Austonia about the steps she took to get ahead of the cold snap this year. To ensure she would have everything she needed for herself and her two senior cats, she stocked up on nonperishables, firewood and water well before Austinites started panic-rushing grocery stores.

Tremblay said her anxiety didn’t set in until she got a text alert warning of winter weather on Wednesday morning.

“The PTSD and anxiety honestly didn't really set in for me until I got that text this morning from the City of Austin,” Tremblay said. “I really just don't want to have to go through that whole thing ever again.”

Though she loves Texas, Tremblay said if the whole thing were to happen all over again, it would be the linchpin that causes her to move.

"We were almost at 100% total grid failure last year and it just won't take a superstorm to honestly get us to that point again," Tremblay said.

Jessica Trembay spent almost three hours covering her plants outside her home. (Jessica Trembay)

Lifelong Austinite Onesims Banda, who moved to Kentucky last year, said he’s not sure he’ll come back to Texas after the state failed to care for its most vulnerable residents—especially minorities and low-income families—during the winter storm. After living in East Austin, Banda said this wouldn’t be the only time the region had been overlooked.

Due to his home’s proximity to a fire station, Banda’s family experienced minimal power outages. However, it was still far from a pleasant experience: Banda and his wife both caught the flu, still had to care for their two young children and the family’s water supply was in and out.

“The kids, of course were happy about the snow, but what they didn't know and what they couldn't see was how it was affecting everybody across the state,” Banda said. “The fact that our power didn’t go out probably saved our lives.”

While 52% of the 28 killed in Travis County due to the winter storm were white, some populations, including Black residents, seemed to be disproportionately affected. Minorities were more than four times more likely to experience blackouts in Texas when compared to predominantly white neighborhoods, a facet of life that Banda, a teacher, sees affecting his students.

“It sucks when you’re a teacher and you’re speaking to your kids... Who the hell do you call because the government dropped the ball?”

Gov. Greg Abbott, who caught flack for the power grid failure, said blackouts are very unlikely this week, although he said “no one can guarantee that there won’t be a load shed event,” or rolling blackout, in a Monday press conference. The biggest concern instead lies in power outages caused by ice or fallen trees disrupting power lines.

For local emergency alerts, click here, and click here for Austonia’s guide to wintry weather.


1923 Lake Austin mansion demolition request pitting preservationists and some neighbors against owner and city preservation office
Austin Monitor

By Jonathan Lee

The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.

The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'

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Freaky Floats and other Austin food & drink news
Austin Motel

What's new in Austin food & drink this week:

  • Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
  • Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
  • Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
  • Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
  • Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
  • Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
  • The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
  • Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
  • P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.