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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.

Austin Water Has Restored Service To Residents, But Broken Pipes Remain A Big Issue

WaterDistributiAustin and Travis County are distributing water at locations around the county.on_GP_Feb21.jpg
Gabriel C. Pérez
Austin and Travis County are distributing cases of drinking water at locations around the county.

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Areas of Northwest and Southwest Austin that are still under a boil-water notice could be in the clear Tuesday afternoon, Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros said during a news conference Monday.

“We have collected samples in areas yet to be lifted from the boil-water notice,” he said. If samples come back clear, he said, Austin Water should be able to lift the boil notice Tuesday afternoon.

Water service and pressure have been restored to customers, Meszaros said, adding that the water-treatment plants are running well and producing “abundant” amounts of water.

There are still isolated areas of customers who don’t have water, though. Those outages are likely due to water main breaks caused by the freeze, he said. Water must be turned off to make repairs at apartment complexes that have had pipes burst, for example.

“The biggest remaining task we have in the recovery of the water system is repairing water main breaks,” Meszaros said, adding there were more than 100 mainline water main breaks and likely tens of thousands of private breaks at homes and businesses.

“I think as we look back on this event, we’re going to find that it was the preponderance of all of these public and private breaks that was really the main cause of our system draining out of water," he said.

He said crews are working 24 hours a day to get everything fixed.

Austin, Texas severe weather response update: Feb. 22 | KVUE

Local officials are continuing to distribute cases of water to residents without safe drinking water. The city and county have distributed more than 2.1 million bottles of water, according to City Manager Spencer Cronk. Distribution sites will continue to run this week; the city will announce locations and times daily on its website and social media.

Food has been another concern. The region was already facing higher-than-normal rates of food insecurity because of the pandemic, and the storm has exacerbated the problem. People who lost power last week also lost refrigeration. Many grocery stores are understocked after trucks couldn’t safely make it here to refill them. Many residents also couldn’t work, causing them to lose income.

Edwin Marty, the city’s food policy manager, said the city has been partnering with the Red Cross and local organizations over the last few days to get food to people in need. He said the city has secured 30,000 emergency meals in the last 24 hours that are being distributed at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex at 1156 Hargrave St. in East Austin.

The distribution is happening until 6 p.m. Monday and will run again Tuesday from 1 to 6 p.m. The distribution is set up as a drive-thru, but walk-ups are also allowed. The meals are ready to eat and don’t require cooking. Bottled water is being provided, too.

City officials are also trying to help residents who need to repair their homes after the storm. The city has set up a phone line – 512-974-1500 – to help answer questions about emergency repairs. Information, like what type of work requires a permit and what type does not, can also be found on this city webpage.

Austin City Council will consider ordinances this week that would waive residential permitting and development fees for repairs related to the storm, Denise Lucas, director of the Development Services Department, said.

“We recognize that this is a critical time, and so we are doing everything that we can to do our part to help you get back to normal operations,” she said.

Marisa Charpentier is KUT's assistant digital editor. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @marisacharp.
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