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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 Water Map Shows Entire City Has Low Pressure Or No Running Water At All

A vehicle is stuck in the snow in front of Travis High School in South Austin on Monday.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
A vehicle is stuck in the snow in front of Travis High School in South Austin on Monday.

Lee esta historia en español.

A hard freeze warning is in effect for Central Texas until 10 a.m. Friday, but the area may finally get above freezing sometime in the afternoon and hit the 50s by Saturday. Before we get there, we'll have to go through one more night of freezing temperatures, with an expected low around 21 degrees overnight Friday.

Austin Energy said nearly 97% of its customers had power Friday morning, and it was still working to restore electricity to some 16,000 others. It is prioritizing those who have been without power the longest.

  • How to help — and how to get help: Are you looking for ways to help out? Or, are you trying to find a place to get warm? Here are some options.

A citywide notice to boil water remains in effect, but many residents are still without water. Austin Water could not give a timeline for when service would be restored. The utility said it is prioritizing hospitals, power plants and fire departments.

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

9:20 p.m. update — UT Austin to remain closed until Wednesday

The UT Austin campus will remain closed through at least Wednesday as it continues to face power and water challenges.

“Our campus facilities have been affected by the weather, and they are unlikely to be ready immediately for full operations after the thaw,” UT President Jay Hartzell said in an email to the campus community.

He said things won’t be “business as usual for a while” as the staff works to restore the campus and its operations. Classes are canceled until Wednesday as well, but he said faculty can use class time to “creatively” keep students connected, like by providing optional lectures or holding Zoom discussion sections. But students aren’t obligated to participate.

“Students will be coming back from serious adversity, and faculty members should consider delaying due dates for major exams or assignments this coming week,” Hartzell said.

Though some dorms had been without running water earlier this week, Hartzell said the water supply is stable and now all on-campus residence halls have operating restrooms. Portable restrooms are being placed near buildings that don’t have working ones.

9 p.m. update — Austin ISD won't have school until Wednesday

Austin Independent School District will not have school remotely or in-person on Monday or Tuesday, Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde wrote in a letter to families.

The district is "tentatively planning" to offer 100% remote learning on Wednesday and Thursday and have Friday be a day of asynchronous instruction.

"While we've seen some improvements in the city as the weather begins to warm up, we recognize that many students and families may still be facing challenges," Elizalde said. "We want to provide our students, families, and community the opportunity to recover and reset during this time."

In-person learning won't resume until March 1. She said the district is working to get meal sites up and running again and will let families know when they are.

6:20 p.m. update — Travis County prepares to distribute water

Travis County is working with the City of Austin and the Austin Disaster Relief Network to begin getting water to people who don’t have service.

Starting Saturday, the county will set up a hub to distribute 1 million gallons of water. The hours and locations will be shared over the county’s Facebook and Twitter social media accounts once that is determined.

“We will begin standing up a point of distribution sort of hub and spoke model, starting tomorrow," Charles Brotherton, county executive for emergency services, said. "Details to come. We are working actively to get those plans in place.”

He said the county is working to identify the areas where need is greatest.

1:50 p.m. update — Adjusted grocery store hours

Austin-area H-E-B stores are open today until 5 p.m.
The Central Market location on North Lamar is expected to be open until 7 p.m. The Westgate Central Market location is closed today.

9:03 a.m. update — Austin Water releases map showing all of Austin either has low water pressure or no running water at all

An Austin Water map showing water pressure and outage levels as of Friday morning. Everything outside of the city's Central Pressure Zone is shown as having a water outage.
Austin Water
An Austin Water map showing water pressure and outage levels as of Friday morning. Everything outside of the city's Central Pressure Zone is shown as having a water outage.

An Austin Water map released this morning shows downtown, Central, Southeast and East Austin as having low water pressure currently. As for the rest of the city? No running water at all.

To get each of the utility's nine water pressure zones back to normal operations, Austin Water says it's maintaining pressure in the Central Pressure Zone — the "delivery hub for both the North and South Zones."

The utility says it's continuing to fill water in the other parts of Austin to get them up to the "low pressure" orange zone.

Austin Water asks that people continue to conserve as much water as possible. This will allow the utility to put excess water in storage, which it describes as "critical for the health of the entire system." Consumers can report potential water main breaks here.

A second graph from Austin Water shows today's current water production, usage levels and how much water is stored in reservoirs. "For a healthy system, we need to maintain a minimum of 100 million gallons in storage," Austin Water says. "Today, we are at 32 million gallons and climbing."

A map showing the current water usage, production and storage levels in Austin. The utility is urging consumers to conserve water until it can build up city reservoirs.
Austin Water
A map showing the current water usage, production and storage levels in Austin. The utility is urging consumers to conserve water until it can build up city reservoirs.

6:41 a.m. update — "They were posting videos about how to boil water, which feels very irrelevant if you are like us and don't have water."

Rachel Finken lives in the Oak Hill neighborhood in Southwest Austin with her husband and two young kids. They got their power back after a couple days without it, but now they don’t have running water.

“Wednesday morning when we woke up, we thought maybe a pipe had burst because no water was coming out of our upstairs faucets and the water downstairs was just really low pressure,” she said. “And then pretty quickly it all just stopped completely.”

Her neighbors’ water stopped, too. When she saw city leaders posting online about the boil-water notice, she grew frustrated they weren’t addressing the fact many actually lacked water.

“They were posting videos about how to boil water, which feels very irrelevant if you are like us and don’t have water, and you’re like many people who maybe have water but don’t have a means of boiling it right now,” she said. “It just feels pretty tone deaf to post that without acknowledging that there’s neighborhoods that have no water at all to boil.”

Read more from this story by Marisa Charpentier here.

5 a.m. update — Austin Water says it will be "multi-day long process" to restore service

Austin Water provided updates this morning in a series of tweets. Three of the agency's water treatment plants are currently stable, producing 86 million gallons of water in the past 12 hours. The typical production is around 140 million gallons a day this time of year, according to the agency.

Water pressure has also been restored to "major pipelines that are the backbone of our water distribution system." Austin Water says this will allow them to start restoring service to customers in more areas across the city. But the utility says it will be a "multi-day long process" to get service back to all customers.

Crews are still working to fix water main breaks and broken pipes for individual customers, according to the agency. It also reports that a major water transmission line is leaking and in need of repair.

Right now, the agency says it's prioritizing hospitals. So far, it has restored water to three major hospitals on Thursday but did not specify which ones.

Here are some other updates from the past 24 hours:

  • All Austin Public Health COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites will remain closed Friday, the agency said. APH said it's unknown when vaccinations will resume, but that people with current appointments would be contacted to reschedule.
  • ERCOT said some power plants and infrastructure knocked offline due to the freezing weather were up and running again, and power was being restored to the millions of Texans without it since Monday. It said, however, that if your power does return, you might expect it to go off again periodically as grid managers “rotate” the power cuts to try to provide electricity to more people for brief periods of time.
  • Capital Metro has returned to limited service from 8 a.m.to 9 p.m. Fares will remain suspended through Sunday.
  • Curbside trash, compost and recycling collection is expected to start again Friday.
  • The Palmer Event Center in Austin was at capacity and unable to accept any more people in need of shelter. There was limited room at Del Valle High School, Mendez Middle School and Reilly Elementary School.
  • A number of faith-based groups were also providing shelter. Find a list of locations through the Austin Disaster Relief Network here.
  • Individuals in need of transport to a shelter should call 311 or 512-305-ICEE (4233).
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