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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.

Austin Energy Tells Customers To Prepare To Be Without Power Through Tuesday Night At The Least

People and cars navigate their way through a snow and ice-covered South Congress Avenue on Monday.
Gabriel C. Pérez
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People and cars navigate their way through a snow and ice-covered South Congress Avenue on Monday.

This story has updates on the winter storm and power outages from Tuesday. Read Wednesday's updates here.

Lee esta historia en español.

Austin Energy customers should be prepared to be without power through Tuesday night and possibly longer, the utility said.

While conditions are improving, it said the situation is changing throughout the day.

Austin Energy said it could not rotate outages without affecting circuits going to critical infrastructure like hospitals. Later in the afternoon, however, it said that could be done as a last resort.

The warning comes ahead of more extreme weather. A winter storm warning is in effect for Central Texas until 6 a.m. Thursday.

Freezing rain is expected overnight, then a mix of snow and sleet. The National Weather Service says the area could see 1 to 2 inches of snow, on top of one-tenth of an inch of ice.

Power outages and downed trees are possible, the NWS said, especially with any additional ice buildup. It says travel will be hazardous and urged residents to stay home. You can find the latest road conditions here.

Follow along for winter storm updates throughout the day from the KUT newsroom. Find the latest tweets from the National Weather Service at the bottom of this post.

9:10 p.m. update — Cap Metro service suspended again; flights set to resume Wednesday afternoon.

Capital Metro is suspending all services Wednesday because of expected dangerous road conditions. It said it’s still directing its resources to support the city's emergency operations at cold weather shelters and for life-saving trips. Once service resumes, Cap Metro will suspend fare collection through Sunday.

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport said flights would resume at 1 p.m. Wednesday, weather permitting. All flights scheduled before 1 have been canceled.

6:35 p.m. update — Texas Gas warns customers could lose service

Texas Gas Service is warning of possible widespread natural gas outages. Customers could lose service to their homes or businesses.

Texas Gas says its suppliers are experiencing freezing gas wells, which is reducing how much they can sell. Making matters worse: When a natural gas supplier goes down and Texas Gas loses service, it takes a long time to get service restored. When the system is back up and running, work crews must visit each home to check for leaks to re-establish service.

Texas Gas is asking everyone to reduce the amount of natural gas they use.

4:30 p.m. update — Extreme weather affecting water supplies

Weather conditions are affecting water supplies in communities across Central Texas. In Williamson County, some cities are asking people to boil or conserve water.

Residents in Pflugerville, Taylor, Liberty Hill and Florence were advised to begin boiling their water following power outages affecting water treatment facilities.

Taylor spokesperson Stacey Osborne says the power and water issues are beyond the control of the city, so it is focusing on keeping people informed.

"That's the most important thing we can do right now,” Osborne said. “Telling people to be safe and stay inside if they can. It's a tough situation. It's tough all over the city. All over the state."

The water supply in Leander has been reduced, and there is a possibility customers could lose all water service. Round Rock is asking residents to reduce water usage to try to conserve power.

The cities of Buda and Kyle are asking water customers to limit usage as much as possible because of a power outage at the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, which provides surface water. Find more from KUT's Riane Roldan here.

Austin Water says there is no plan to disrupt service.

4:20 p.m. update — Williamson County opens charging stations for people with rechargeable oxygen condensers

Williamson County is opening charging stations until 5 tonight for people with rechargeable oxygen condensers. Residents can go to the Hutto Police Department, Williamson County Sheriff’s Office training room in Georgetown, Leander Police Department or the Williamson County Inner Annex Loop in Georgetown.

The county says those offices will be open to people for this specific purpose only. The sites will open again Wednesday at 9 a.m., weather permitting.

12:50 p.m. update — Palmer Events Center open again as warming center

The Palmer Events Center will continue to stay open as the city's primary warming center, but the city is asking people who can stay at home safely to do so since there is limited capacity.

The city is opening additional warming centers at Mendez Middle School, Northeast Early College High School and Del Valle High School.

The city says the sites at the schools are intended for the most vulnerable populations, especially those with medical devices that need power to operate. They have limited capacity.

People who have COVID-19 should call 311 to get transportation to one of the city's isolation centers and not go to a warming center, City Manager Spencer Cronk said.

As of Monday evening, about 350 people were sheltering at the Palmer Events Center.

12:15 p.m. update — ERCOT asked Austin Energy to shed more load, utility complied

A spokesperson for Austin Energy confirmed that earlier today ERCOT, the state entity that manages the flow of electricity to Texas residents, asked the municipal utility to cut off power to more households. Austin Energy complied, and a spokesperson confirmed it did not affect critical infrastructure, such as hospitals.

Later in the day, ERCOT told Austin Energy it could restore power to some households, although a spokesperson confirmed this was a very small number.

Austin Energy's outage map shows more than 202,000 customers currently without power.

9:30 a.m. update — Why is downtown Austin still lit up at night? Austin Energy has an explanation

As hundreds of thousands in the Austin area have been without power for more than a day now, many looked to shining lights downtown at night and asked, "Why do they have power?" Some noted how many empty office buildings, parking garages and construction zones seemed to be fully lit.

Austin Energy released a statement this morning explaining why shutting off power to downtown is not on the table.

The electricity provider says downtown is excluded from controlled outages because so many critical buildings are in the area, including Dell Seton Medical Center, warming centers, the COVID-19 Alternate Care Site, the Texas Capitol complex and Austin City Hall.

"Shutting down the downtown network would also cut off electricity to these critical buildings, which may also house vital communications equipment," Austin Energy said.

The utility says it's working with the Building Owners & Managers Association and the Downtown Austin Alliance to ask their members to shut off nonessential energy use.

8:22 a.m. update — Capital Metro suspends all services Tuesday

Capital Metro is suspending all services today.

"We’re focusing all efforts on emergency operations with the City of Austin to support those at cold weather shelters and those needing life-saving trips," Cap Metro said in an emailed statement.

The agency says it expects operations on Wednesday will be affected by the winter weather as well.

7:10 a.m. update — Austin Energy says ERCOT is not allowing it to restore power

Austin Energy says ERCOT, the manager of Texas' electric grid, is not allowing it to restore power due to "grid stability concerns."

In a news conference Monday, ERCOT officials said if it rotates the outages, demand might exceed supply too much, damaging the grid.

"We’ve been working through the night on this critical situation," Austin Energy said in a tweet. "We are specifically looking at additional conservation efforts in our downtown area."

The electricity provider reminded people with electricity to use the absolute minimum by dropping the thermostat, turning off the TV and unplugging nonessential lighting and appliances.

The Austin Energy outage map now shows more than 219,000 customers are without power — or about 43% of all customers.

6:27 a.m. update — 215,000 Austin Energy customers still without power

At least 42% of Austin Energy customers – about 215,000 of them – are still in the cold and dark this morning. ERCOT, the state's electricity operator, says those outages are likely to continue into the day as it tries to restore power.

The ongoing wintry weather is affecting operations around the area. Here are some more weather updates from the past 24 hours:

  • The Austin Independent School District has canceled all classes for today, tomorrow and Thursday. The district isn't trying to do remote learning those days because of ongoing power outages. Students will have asynchronous lessons (at their own pace) on Friday. Check out other Central Texas school district plans here.
  • UT Austin has announced it will stay closed through at least Thursday at 8 a.m. All classes and events are canceled. No virtual or online classes will be held.
  • Austin Community College will stay closed today and tomorrow. All classes and work have been canceled.
  • Capital Metro will operate most MetroBus service from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Tuesday. No other Cap Metro services, including MetroRail and MetroExpress, will be offered.
  • All flights are canceled Tuesday for the second day in a row at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Anyone with a scheduled flight in the next couple of days is advised to check with their airline before traveling to the airport.
  • Several Central Texas governments have closed operations and canceled scheduled meetings for Tuesday. That includes the City of Austin, Travis County, Cedar Park, Georgetown, Williamson County and Hays County.
  • H-E-B grocery stores in the Austin area will be open from noon until 5 p.m. Tuesday.

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

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