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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.

ERCOT Starting To Restore Power To 500,000 Households, But Outages Likely Through Tuesday

Several inches of snow fell on this Southwest Austin neighborhood and across Central Texas late Sunday night and into Monday morning.
Julia Reihs
/
KUT
Several inches of snow fell across Central Texas late Sunday and into Monday morning. The National Weather Service says that snow fell on top of a layer of ice.

This story has power outage and winter weather updates from Monday. Read Tuesday's updates here.

Lee este blog en español.

Up to 6 inches of snow fell on top of a layer of ice overnight in Central Texas, the National Weather Service said. Temperatures are not expected to get above freezing until Wednesday afternoon.

The winter storm could lead to "major stress on the region's infrastructure as well as cripple travel," the weather service says.

Power is out for hundreds of thousands of people across Central Texas. The state’s grid operator has ordered rolling blackouts because of the high demand for electricity.

RELATED | 2 Million Texans Are Without Power. State Energy Group Can't Say When It Will Come Back.

State and local officials are asking people to conserve energy by using only what they need for safety and heating, and setting thermostats no higher than 68 degrees.

Roads remain icy and treacherous, so officials are advising people to stay home. Many roads are closed because of dangerous conditions.

Follow along for winter storm updates throughout the day from the KUT newsroom:

8:05 p.m. update – All fights in and out of Austin's airport canceled Tuesday

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport announced that all flights arriving into and departing from the airport Tuesday have been canceled because of ice and snow.

8 p.m. update – Cap Metro to resume most services starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday

Capital Metro said it plans to resume most services starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday and running until 8 p.m.

The following services will not be in service:

  • MetroRail service
  • Rail Connector service (Routes 465 and 466)
  • MetroExpress service (Routes 935, 982, 985, and 990)
  • Flyer route service (Routes 103, 105, 111, 135, 142 and 171)
  • Round Rock service (Routes 50, 51, 150 and 152)
  • Lago Visa feeder (Route 214)
  • Pickup service
  • UT Shuttle service

A spokesperson said until services resume, Cap Metro would be supporting the city's emergency operations like helping transport people to shelters.

7:45 p.m. update – UT Austin to stay closed until at least Thursday morning

UT Austin will remain closed until at least 8 a.m. Thursday, university President Jay Hartzell said in an email to the community. That includes all classes and events – both virtual and in person.

"The severe winter weather continues to cause significant issues for many in Central Texas," Hartzell said. "Power outages and other challenges have made it difficult or impossible for many to work or learn, even remotely."

He said UT would continue to monitor the situation and announce a reopening when it was determined to be safe.

7 p.m. update — There are more Austin Energy outages now than at any other time today

With more than 212,000 customers without power as of 7 p.m., there are now more households without power than at any other point today. About 41% of all customers are in the dark right now.

5:05 p.m. update — ERCOT is in the process of restoring power to 500,000 households in Texas

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas says it is beginning to restore power to 500,000 homes that have been without electricity during Monday's below freezing temperatures and winter storm.

“It’s also important to remember that severe weather, mainly frigid temperatures, is expected to continue, so we’re not out of the woods," ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness cautioned.

ERCOT, which manages Texas' electric supply, says it was already contending with frozen wind turbines and limited gas supplies on Sunday when additional sources of power went offline with the worsening weather.

The outages will likely continue through tomorrow, according to the operator. Read more on ERCOT's response from KUT's Claire McInerny.

4:39 p.m. update — Austin ISD cancels classes through Thursday

The Austin Independent School District has canceled all classes for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. There will be no virtual learning or in-person learning on these days. On Friday, there will be remote learning but it will be asynchronous, where students learn at their own pace and there aren't live classes.

For more school schedule changes in the Austin area, visit our updating story here.

4:34 p.m. update — How to stay warm when the power is out

The National Weather Service in Fort Worth shared several tips on how to stay warm when the power is out. Here's what you can do:

  • Keep blinds or curtains closed to keep in some heat
  • Close off rooms to avoid wasting heat
  • Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight warm clothing
  • Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors
  • Eat and drink to stay warm (avoid caffeine and alcohol, NWS says)

4:21 p.m. update — City of Kyle running out of water, Pflugerville under a boil water notice

The water supplies of Kyle and Pflugerville are in danger of running out due to statewide power outages. In Pflugerville, the city has said water needs to be boiled before being consumed. The city recommends residents gather two gallons per day of potable water for every member of your household for a 72-hour period.

"One way to gather this water is to collect water dripping for your faucets to prevent freezing," the City of Pflugerville said in a tweet. "Please continue to use water wisely, and spread this message to people who do not currently have power or internet access."

The City of Kyle is simply asking residents to suspend all water use until further notice.

3:20 p.m. update — Williamson County first responders ask residents to stay home as calls pile up

Williamson County Emergency Medical Services paramedics are responding to a spike in calls for fall-related injuries due to the weather.

The county reported that EMS responded to 12 calls on Saturday for injuries related to falls. The county received 44 of these calls Sunday.

The county is asking residents to stay inside and avoid slick ground outside to reduce the risk of a fall requiring emergency services.

“Although our paramedics are prepared to respond to all calls, we ask that our residents do their part right now to avoid any potential hazard,” Williamson County EMS Director Mike Knipstein said in a news release. “Preventing a fall by staying indoors allows our field paramedics to continue working around the clock to answer serious and life-threatening emergencies.”

Paramedics are also seeing more calls related to people running low on oxygen. They advise residents to contact their providers and use the minimum amount of oxygen allowed to make their supply last.

Williamson County EMS says the department is fully staffed and working to reach people, but with the uptick in calls, the wait time may be longer than usual.

3 p.m. update — Power outages could last through Tuesday

Nearly 190,000 Austin Energy customers may remain without power through Tuesday as temperatures remain below freezing. General Manager Jackie Sargent called the situation “unprecedented" in a Monday news conference.

Austin Energy says it takes its direction from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which advised rotating outages earlier Monday morning. But Austin Energy can no longer do the rotating outages because it’s already cut off power – or "shed load" – on all available circuits that don’t include some kind of critical needs, like hospitals.

“We’re stuck here until we can get some reprieve from ERCOT,” Sargent said.

More here from Nadia Hamdan.

12 p.m. update – Williamson County state of disaster in effect until weather is no longer a 'threat'

A state of disaster proclamation Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell issued Sunday allows for the county to take necessary measures to protect the health of residents and activates aspects of the county’s Emergency Management Plan.

The state of emergency will last for seven days, unless continued or renewed by the Commissioners Court. The county’s Emergency Operations Center will also be active until the “winter weather is no longer a threat.”

“We want to impress on the people of Williamson County the importance of staying home and not getting on the roads as much as possible,” Gravell said in a statement. “By staying home, you can do your part to keep other people safe, including our first responders.”

A travel advisory was issued over the weekend for west and northwest parts of the county. People who must travel are urged to use extreme caution.

The county will be updating its website with any changes and closures throughout the day.

11:30 a.m. update — H-E-B to close all Central Texas stores

H-E-B is closing all stores in Central Texas on Monday due to safety precautions, it announced this morning.

It said it would monitor the situation and resume regular hours as soon as possible.

11:05 a.m. update — Austin officials discuss opening mass warming site

Austin officials are discussing whether to open a mass warming site, such as the Palmer Events Center, Mayor Steve Adler told KUT's Audrey McGlinchy.

Adler said Austin Energy cannot say when power will be restored to homes and that it can't bring everyone back online right now because it could overload the grid. He said officials with Austin Energy are waiting on information from ERCOT this morning.

Council Member Greg Casar told KUT by text that he has been asking Austin Energy for answers as to when power can be restored, but is “not getting info that we need.”

9:31 a.m. update — Austin-Bergstrom cancels all flights today

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport has canceled all arriving and departing flights today due to the historic winter weather.

"It is critical that passengers with scheduled flights over the next 48 hours check in directly with their airlines before traveling to the airport," the airport said in a statement.

Parts of the airport received more than 6 inches of snow.

9:26 a.m. update — Austin Public Health cancels Tuesday COVID-19 testing and vaccinations

The winter weather has shut down Austin Public Health's testing and vaccine operations Tuesday.

RELATED | Texas Won't Be Getting Its COVID-19 Vaccine Shipments Until Weather Conditions Improve, State Officials Say

9:13 a.m. update — Austin 311 lines and the city's website are down

As a result of power outages and technical issues, Austin's nonemergency 311 line and its official website are no longer working.

Austin Energy's outage map currently shows almost 196,000 customers without power.

7:40 a.m. update — Austin Energy currently unable to rotate outages, urges customers with power to conserve energy

Austin Energy says its ability to rotate outages among customers has been affected, resulting in thousands of households without power since early this morning. The state's electric load must be reduced to fully restore power across Texas, the electric utility said in a tweet.

"If you have power, please try to help the grid by reducing your energy use, your heating being a high-energy user!" Austin Energy said, recommending customers with power turn down thermostats to 68 degrees or lower.

Other ways you can help conserve energy include unplugging any nonessential lights and appliances and avoiding using large appliances like washing machines and ovens.

While rolling outages are normally short events, the electric utility said, they can be longer if the state's electric grid requires it.

7:01 a.m. update — Capital Metro suspends service

Capital Metro says it has suspended service due to the extreme snow and ice.

"We will continue to monitor road conditions throughout the day, and we will resume service if conditions improve," the public transit agency said in a tweet.

6:13 a.m. update — Thousands will be without power "until conditions improve"

Austin Energy says rotating outages that were expected to last only up to 40 minutes will continue "until conditions improve."

"Conservation is still needed by those who have power — especially as you're waking up this morning," the utility said in a tweet. Customers are urged to use only the amount of electricity needed for heating and safety.

“The situation continues to worsen across TX and here in Austin," General Manager Jackie Sargent said in a tweet. "Austin Energy implemented required outages early Monday morning, doing our part to help stabilize the ERCOT grid. The required outages are more extensive than anyone expected and do not allow us to bring affected customers back online at this time."

More than 178,000 customers are currently without power, according to Austin Energy's outage map.

4:01 a.m. update — More than 150,000 Austin Energy customers are without power

As a result of record energy demand during the winter storm, rolling electricity outages are underway across Texas. Austin Energy's outage map shows more than 157,000 energy customers — about 30% of the total — are currently without power.

What's a rolling outage or blackout? Austin Energy says it's a temporary, controlled interruption of your electrical service lasting 10-40 minutes before moving on to another area. But due to the severe weather and state of the electric grid, some of the outages are lasting longer, the utility warned.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which manages the state's grid, declared an energy emergency alert level 3 this morning — meaning rotating outages are underway across the state. ERCOT says the outages generally occur in residential neighborhoods and small businesses.

ERCOT has urged Texans throughout the winter weather event to conserve energy as much as possible.

Citing concerns about the impact of the severe winter weather, the City of Austin and Travis County have declared states of disaster for the next several days. Local officials are asking people to stay off of the roads if they can.

Updates from the National Weather Service in Austin/San Antonio:

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