The snow and ice may have melted, but Winter Storm Uri has left a flurry of busted pipes and other damages that could take several weeks to repair.
Austin Water's water leaks map is now flooded with long-term repairs across the city, and plumbers are booked weeks or months in advance as Austinites clamor to get their homes fixed.
As the city was besieged with a long-term freeze, water in pipes quickly turned to ice, leading to increased pressure, expansion, and eventually, tens of thousands of leaks.
Twitter user Colin Sullender compiled all broken water pipe reports from the Austin Fire Department's Active Fire Incidents page and found that over 2,000 calls have been made since Feb. 15. According to AFD's Twitter, the department was only able to respond to a fraction of those reports.
The @AustinFireDept has received over 2,000 "Broken Water Pipe" reports since February 15th according to their Active Fire Incidents page with a peak of almost 90 reports in one hour on Tuesday. Incident reports were distributed across the #Austin city limits. #atx #txwx #txlege pic.twitter.com/lzro4i0ajD
— Colin Sullender (@shiruken) February 21, 2021
While some have had busted pipes since Winter Storm Uri first reached Central Texas, others are only just finding out they have damages as water is slowly trickling back into their homes. According to an Austin Water spokesperson, the department has not been able to find many leaks because of low water pressure.
With the city unable to respond to the influx of calls, many Austinites took to social media to vent their concerns, give advice and even provide plumbing services.
On Reddit's Austin page, users created a plumbing "megathread" that gives tips on at-home pipe repairs, Austin Water updates and more advice on handling the water crisis. The thread saw nearly 700 comments with similar tips, questions and links for extra help.
One user offered to help with free plumbing services to anyone in need. Others discussed melting snow in bathtubs or creating DIY contraptions to get clean drinking water. Many posts talked about the community created on the platform during the crisis, calling the page a "lifesaver" full of important tips and "camaraderie."
On Twitter, users have found that pipes are continuing to burst as water thaws.
Not good to see this pipe burst at the end of my street @AustinWater #allandale #austin pic.twitter.com/z7A8xFAtuj
— Elizabeth Catlos (@ElizabethCatlos) February 21, 2021
Others are offering free temporary fixes as well.
Hey fam - if you're in Austin and can't turn on your water because of a pipe break, let me know. I can help with a temp fix while you wait for a plumber. I'm hearing of waitlists stretching into April.
— Bill Blackstone (@BillBlackstone) February 20, 2021
Thousands of burst pipes have also resulted in water loss on a massive scale that has contributed to the city's current water outage. At its peak on Tuesday and Wednesday, Austin Water utility director Greg Meszaros said that 325 million gallons of water were lost.
With a sudden surge in leaky pipes and increasing demand in running water, Austin Water is still working to refill its reservoirs and bring back running water to much of the city. As of Sunday, the reservoirs are at 72 million out of the 100 million gallons needed to restore normal utilities.
Two more city zones saw a return in low-pressure running water on Sunday morning, but five of the nine are still completely dry. Austin Water said it hopes to bring back water utilities to all zones by tomorrow.
Since the city's water filtration plants lost power during the storm, Austin and many others remain under a boil-water notice for at least the next few days.Nearly half of Texas' population was under a boil-water notice at one point this week.
In addition to the city, most Austin plumbers are booked for weeks, if not months, in advance due to such high demand. Travis County Judge Andy Brown said in a press conference on Saturday that repairs could take a month to address, and phony plumbers are a secondary issue that could occur as services remain scarce.
"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."
The spike in burst pipes, the citywide loss of water and power outages during the winter storm has left many to question what changes need to be made to the city and state's infrastructure as both face many uncertain weeks of recovery.
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As Texas gets ready to lift the mandatory mask mandate on March 10, food and bar workers gathered at the Texas Capitol to express their frustration with the lack of COVID-19 precautions without adequate access to the COVID-19 vaccine.The event, which began at 1 p.m. on Monday, was hosted by the Austin chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, Restaurant Organizing Project and The Amplified Sound Coalition.
Christa McWhirter<p>Crystal Maher, a member of the Restaurant Organizing Project, stands in front of the Texas Capitol to express to other protesters in attendance how not being eligible for a vaccine has impacted her ability to safely keep her job. </p>
Christa McWhirter<p>Kiara Collins, Eric Santos and Taylor Escamilla are all essential workers who have been questioning their safety in their workplace. As many of the other protesters, the three wore masks with the word "Expendable" on it. According to Collins, they were only given to essential workers in attendance to represent how they have been treated since the onset of COVID-19.</p>
Christa McWhirter<p>As Maher continues to introduce speakers, two essential workers who came out to support the protest, record as counter-protesters heckled the event's speakers.</p>
Christa McWhirter<p>Some of the counter-protesters in attendance were live streamers from InfoWars, an extremist organization, who heckled speakers until the rally dispersed. </p>
Christa McWhirter<p>A representative of the Del Valle Community Coalition spoke about the impact the lack of vaccine access has had on the Del Valle area. As she attempted to give her speech, anti-masking protesters yelled at her causing many people to attempt to block them out.</p>
Christa McWhirter<p>Protesters blocked the way of anti-mask counter protesters as they heckled the event's speakers and held "My Body My Choice" signs. "It's kind of insane how they're using 'my body, my choice.' It doesn't only affect you. So it's not just your body," Taylor Escamilla said.</p>
Christa McWhirter<p>Jeanette Gregor, cofounder of Amplified Sound Coalition, also had to fend off counter-protesters as she gave an impassioned speech about the danger essential workers place themselves in by going to work and have yet to qualify for COVID-19 vaccine. </p>
Christa McWhirter<p>Around 2 p.m., State Troopers began to arrive at the Capitol amid heightening tensions from protesters and counter-protesters. As police presence began to increase, the event came to end about 15 minutes later. Despite the constant back and forth between sides and the arrival of law enforcement, the protest came to end peacefully.</p>
The world has changed drastically over the past year, and South by Southwest, one of Austin's most beloved institutions, has, too.
After being abruptly canceled by the city last year, one week before it was set to kick-off due to the increasing understanding of the potential impact of COVID-19, it returns this year in a virtual format March 16-20.
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Austin Public Health will release first dose COVID-19 vaccine appointments on a weekly basis starting Monday evening. The specific days and number of appointments made available will depend on the weekly allocation from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Previously, APH released first dose appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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