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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.

Be Prepared To Be Without Power Through Wednesday 'And Possibly Longer,' Austin Energy Warns

A pedestrian carries a gas can in South Austin during a winter storm.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
A pedestrian carries a gas can along a snowy street in South Austin on Tuesday.

Lee esta historia en español.

A winter storm warning for Central Texas has been downgraded to an advisory. The National Weather Service says the area can expect mixed precipitation, with a glaze of ice and up to 1 inch of snow. The advisory is in effect until 6 p.m. Thursday.

Additional power outages are possible, especially with trees weighed down from ice and snow knocking down branches on powerlines.

Temperatures in the 50s will return this weekend.

RELATED | How To Help People Without Power In Austin – And How To Find Help If You Need It

Travel will remain dangerous. If you walk outside your home, be ready for slippery conditions. And if you need to drive somewhere, check current road conditions here before heading out.

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.

4:41 p.m. update — Got a 4x4 vehicle? The city is asking for your help

The City of Austin is looking for volunteers with 4x4 vehicles to help drive people to critical sites. The city needs people to help drive emergency workers as well as supplies around the city. If you are interested, you can fill out this form and will be “on call” for rides.

2 p.m. update — Austin Energy restores power to some customers, hopes to implement rotating outages

Austin Energy restored power to some customers Wednesday afternoon, but the electricity will likely not stay on indefinitely.

“We have restored as many circuits as we can at this time across our service territory, and we are prioritizing those customers who have been without power the longest,” Austin Energy General Manager Jacqueline Sargent said during a news conference.

Austin Energy has been following directives from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which manages the state’s electric supply. As ERCOT’s reserves have improved — though they still remain low — Austin Energy says it has been able to restore 16 circuits.

Once the circuits stabilize, and if ERCOT has enough resources, Austin Energy hopes to initiate rotating outages on these circuits, Sargent said. That means shifting outages from place to place so no single neighborhood is without power for too long. The utility hasn’t been able to do that so far, and many residents have been without power for more than two days.

Read more from KUT's Marisa Charpentier.

1 p.m. update — Austin ISD opens more warming centers

Two more Austin Independent School District campuses are being used as warming centers:

  • Joslin Elementary, 4500 Menchaca Rd.
  • Barrington Elementary, 400 Cooper Dr.

They're open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. to families who need a warm place to stay. Lee Elementary and Murchison Middle School are also operating as warming centers during these hours.

Webb and Mendez middle schools are being used as 24-hour shelters. They're being operated by the City of Austin and Travis County. For more information on how to access these shelters, click here.

12 p.m. update — Boil-water notice issued in Southwest Austin, residents urged to conserve

Austin Water customers in Southwest Austin and the Lost Creek neighborhood are being asked to boil their water before drinking it or cooking with it until further notice. Water pressure in some parts of the distribution system has dropped below minimum standards, so the utility is issuing this notice as a precaution.

“This boil water notice is currently in specific areas and is a precautionary measure to ensure the health and safety of our customers. Austin Water has not detected contaminants in the water we are providing,” Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros said in a press release.

Water use in Austin has far exceeded typical demand because of the storm, the utility says. Homes and businesses have had pipes burst, the system has experienced water-main breaks, and many customers are dripping faucets and storing extra water, which is all causing demand to skyrocket.

The utility is telling customers to conserve water, like by no longer letting faucets drip, to prevent further problems to the system. More on the water situation here.

9:30 a.m. update — Northeast Early College High School shelter moves to Webb Middle School

The shelter at Northeast ECHS has been moved to Webb Middle School, 601 E. St. Johns Ave., because of a power outage.

Residents in the northern part of Austin are asked to go to Webb if they need to. This location is open 24 hours. Lee Elementary and Murchison Middle School are open as warming centers until 9 p.m.

7:42 a.m. update — Austin Energy says customers without power should be prepared to have no electricity through today and 'possibly longer'

Austin Energy, which currently has over 181,000 customers without power, says it now has two emergency events: the previous outages since Monday morning that are occurring statewide and outages caused by Wednesday night's ice storm.

In a tweet, the electric utility said if you've had power up until now, you could lose it Wednesday. Customers without power should be prepared to not have it through today and "possibly longer," Austin Energy said.

The utility is also warning people to watch out for downed tree limbs and power lines.

For a list of warming shelters and other ways to stay warm when you've lost power, click here.

6:27 a.m. update — Hundreds of thousands in Central Texas spend another night without power as a second winter storm hits

As of 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, more than 182,000 Austin Energy customers are without power — about 35% of the utility's total customer base. Customers with power are being asked to conserve electricity as much as possible, by turning down thermostats, closing blinds and not using large appliances like washing machines or dishwashers.

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

  • Austin Energy warned that if electricity demand eclipses supply, the entire state grid could shut down. To avoid that, the municipal utility may have to cut power to parts of the city that include critical infrastructure, like hospitals and fire stations, as a "last resort."
  • Texas Gas Service is warning of possible widespread natural gas outages as its suppliers experience freezing gas wells. It is asking everyone to reduce the amount of natural gas they use.
  • 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. Residents in some parts of Williamson County are being asked to boil and conserve water.
  • Late Tuesday, Austin Water said it was aware that some customers in Southwest Austin (78739) were experiencing water outages and low water pressure, and promised to investigate the cause.
  • Capital Metro is suspending all services again Wednesday.
  • Austin-Bergstrom International Airport said flights would resume at 1 p.m. Wednesday, weather permitting. All flights scheduled before 1 have been canceled.

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

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