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Energy & Environment
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.

'This Is A Life Or Death Situation': What You Need To Know About Hays County's Winter Storm Response

South Hays Fire Department firefighters respond to an emergency during the overnight winter storm.
South Hays Fire Department
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South Hays Fire Department firefighters respond to an emergency during the overnight winter storm.

Residents in Hays County are being asked to conserve energy, limit water usage and stay inside as much as possible as wintry weather and freezing temperatures continue across the state.

Hays County, and several major cities within it, are operating under disaster declarations. Over the weekend, County Judge Ruben Becerra and the mayors of San Marcos and Buda issued the local disaster declarations, which are in effect for seven days or until the winter weather conditions no longer exist.

Limited water supply, boil-water notice issued in Kyle, Buda and San Marcos

Boil-water notices are now in effect for all three major cities along the I-35 corridor in Hays County. A boil-water notice is also in effect for parts of Dripping Springs.

Officials in Kyle said employees have been working "around the clock" to get well sites and pump stations operating. The city has had more continued power at sites and stations, but it still takes time pump enough water to provide pressure so that water can be distributed, the city said on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the city said it's close to running out of their water supply and asked that all water use be suspended until further notice, writing "water should only be used to sustain life at this point." Two utilities in the city have issued boil-water notices: The County Line Special Utility District and Monarch Utilities.

CLSUD issued notices for Waterleaf, Cool Springs, Bunton Creek Village, Bunton Reserve, Woodlands, Sunset Ridge and Creekside Trail neighborhoods. A list of neighborhoods in the Monarch Utilities notice is available here.

The City of Buda's notice is for neighborhoods east of Onion Creek. That includes Downtown Buda, Sequoyah, Bonita Vista, Bradfield Village, Ashford Park, and the commercial area along I-35. It may have to issue a boil water notice for the west side of town due to loss in system pressure, the city said on Thursday.

Both cities have been dealing with limited water supply this week because of power outages at the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, which operates a water treatment plant in San Marcos where they get their water. But because of power outages, the GBRA was unable to supply water from Lake Dunlap to the plant, the City of Kyle said Monday.

The situation was further complicated by dangerous road conditions. Service from GBRA of Texas has been brought back online, but local power outages have prevented water service from being fully restored, the city said.

San Marcos also issued its boil-water notice because of water pressure dropping within the distribution system, something caused by the constant power outages and interruptions.

"This is only a precautionary measure and does not mean that your water is contaminated, only that there is a possibility of contamination," the city said. "We understand that boiling water may be difficult, if not impossible, for many at this time but this is a regulatory TCEQ requirement."

The VFW at 1701 Hunter Rd. is filling up portable water containers on Friday. Bring your own container. The building is heated, and residents are welcome to use the center to warm up.

Residents should boil all water or snow before consuming. The water should be brought to a vigorous rolling boil and then boiled for two minutes.

Power outages

San Marcos and Buda are slowly getting power back, according to city websites.

The City of San Marcos said that as of 3 a.m. Thursday, all San Marcos Electric Utility substations are back online, and that the utility is meeting its state load-reduction requirement without experiencing rolling outages.

But the SMEU estimates that as many as 2,800 customers are still without power. Crews are at work in these neighborhoods: Elm Hill Court, Oak Ridge, Post Oak Villa Apts, Junction Apts, The Woods Apts, Blanco River Lodge, Blanco River Village, and Autumn Chase Apts. Currently there is no timeline for restoration.

If you are still without electricity and haven’t reported it to SMEU, the city asks you to call 512-393-8313 or email poweroutinfo@sanmarcostx.gov. At this point, the outage may be from a localized issue at your address, which will need to be investigated by city crews. The city website also has a FAQ section with more information about outages.

The City of Buda said on Wednesday that the Pedernales Electric Cooperative restored power to most residents in Buda.

The city also set up a phone line for people to report needs and issues related to the severe winter weather. This includes things like frozen pipes and power outages of 12 hours or more. The city said it has limited ability to provide direct assistance, but it does want to know what people are dealing with.

The number, for nonemergency use only, is 512-523-8900. The line will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. People can leave a message after hours.

Seeking shelter

A temporary warming center is available at the Kyle United Methodist Church on 408 W. Lockhart St. until Saturday at 1 p.m. The entrance is around the back at the Family Life Center.

School buses are being converted into portable warming centers for people to get temporary relief from the cold. Buses are available at locations across the county. Residents who use the buses must wear face coverings when they're onboard. Check back for locations.

The Hays County emergency management website compiled a list of local organizations that may be able to help those in need of shelter or warmth over the next few days. The county is asking people to call in advance to make sure shelters can accommodate requests and asks that people bring sleeping gear, such as sleeping bags or air mattresses.

  • Southside Community Center, 518 S. Guadalupe St., San Marcos. 512-557-0795.
  • The Salvation Army, 300 S. CM Allen Parkway, Ste. 100, San Marcos. 512-938-2596.
  • Hays Hills Baptist Church, 1401 N. Farm to Market Rd. 1626 Buda. 512-295-3132.
  • Dripping Springs United Methodist Church, 28900 RR 12 Dripping Springs. 512-894-7123.
  • Westover Baptist Church, 1310 Advance St. San Marcos. 512-214-2258.
  • First Baptist Church of Wimberley, 15951 Winters Mill Parkway Wimberley. 432-634-2364.

School closures

Districts across Hays County have canceled school, including virtual classes, for the rest of the week. That includes Hays CISD, San Marcos CISD, Wimberley ISD and Dripping Springs ISD.

Many have pointed to the difficult circumstances caused by the severe weather — power outages, icy roads, water issues — as factors in their decisions.

Texas State University will be closed until Saturday. Continued power outages have impacted the university's phone lines and computer networks, the university said. All classes and events are canceled, including virtual classes. University offices will also remain closed.

Stay home

Kyle Fire Department Chief Kyle Taylor pleaded with residents in a Facebook post on Sunday to stay home as much as possible over the next few days.

“Please don’t go outside. Our resources are overwhelmed with accidents from people driving when it is not an emergency. We have run on numerous falls on the ice leading to significant injuries,” Taylor wrote. “This is a life or death situation. We will respond to every emergency call but it is going to take us a while to get to you and it is going to get worse before it gets better.”

The Hays County Sheriff’s Office urged people not to drive because of reports of stranded motorists who couldn't be reached by firefighters, EMS or deputies because of the dangerous driving conditions.

The Sheriff's Office said first responders will be dispatched, but there is no guarantee they can reach you. The agency also said if you decide to abandon your vehicle, let dispatch know and try to get it off the road.

COVID-19

The winter weather has caused interruptions in services across the county, including ongoing coronavirus vaccinations by the local health department.

Appointments for people expecting their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine were originally scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in Dripping Springs. They will now take place next week on Monday and Tuesday. Vaccine clinics are still by appointment only, and officials are asking people not to show up at a clinic without one.

Second-dose appointments that were moved to Friday at San Marcos High School have also been moved to next week. County officials said people will receive emails or phone calls with the new information.

The county has a vaccine waitlist, you can sign up here.

Got a tip? Email Riane Roldan at rroldan@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @RianeRoldan.

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