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Central Texas experienced historic winter weather the week of Feb. 14, with a stretch of days below freezing. Sleet followed snow followed freezing rain, leading to a breakdown of the electric grid and widespread power outages. Water reservoirs were depleted and frozen pipes burst, leaving some without service for days.

First Round Of Water Delivered To Shelters Across Austin And Travis County

Boxes of bottled water.
Michael Minasi
A group of local organizations distributed bottled water at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex in East Austin on Friday.

Residents in desperate need of potable water should go to one of the shelters used earlier this week for warmth to pick up bottled water, city and county leaders said Saturday.

“If you are experiencing a dire water emergency [and] do not have access to water, you can go to a shelter to get a couple of bottles of water," Travis County Judge Andy Brown said at a news conference.

This includes the Palmer Events Center, Del Valle High School, Mendez Middle School, Reilly Elementary, Murchison Middle School, Joslin Elementary, Barrington Elementary, Russell Lee Elementary and Northeast Early College High School.

The shelters are not yet considered water-distribution centers, but are meant to help tide people over until Sunday. Austin Mayor Steve Adler says that's when officials expect to have enough water to open distribution sites in all 10 districts.

“It could be that many districts have one place,” he said. “It could be that we’re going to be opening up distribution in several churches in a district that may have large parking lots.”

The City of Austin says it has received nearly 13,500 cases of water to distribute to the community so far.

The Red Cross, Capital Metro, the Austin Disaster Relief Network and Meals on Wheels are all helping with the effort.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency delivered around 54 pallets of water Friday night. City leaders said they’ve bought water to be brought in from neighboring states, since the entire state of Texas is struggling. Brown said the county is also expecting to receive truckloads of water from private donors in the next few days.

“[We’ve] sounded the alarm to everyone we can,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to get more water here.”

City and county leaders are asking the community to help one another until they can get more resources. Anyone with water should try to get water to those who have none.

"We need the community to take care of the community until the resources get here," Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion said.

Brown said it's not known exactly how many people are still without water. Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros has said it's somewhere in the "tens of thousands."

Those who do have water should continue to boil it as a precautionary measure for drinking and cooking. Meszaros said Friday he hoped to lift the boil-water notice by next week.

Adler said the area had 15 "priority one" water leaks and was down to three as of Saturday morning. He said Austin's average daily water use is 30 million gallons a day, and right now it's at 70 million, likely because of water losses.

He said demand is less than the ability to produce now, however, which was a positive sign. He urged Austinites to still continue to conserve.

Nadia Hamdan is a local news anchor and host for NPR's "Morning Edition" on KUT.
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