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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.

Travis County To Distribute 1 Million Gallons Of Water To Residents

Shoppers leave the H-E-B at the Hancock Center on Friday with carts full of water and other goods.
Julia Reihs
Shoppers leave the H-E-B at the Hancock Center on Friday with carts full of water and other goods.

Travis County leaders discussed plans to distribute more than 1 million gallons of water to residents in need during an emergency meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court on Friday.

“Today, what we are hoping to do is distribute a portion of that – a small portion of that – to some very severely impacted, targeted areas to address some urgent needs,” said Charles Brotherton, the county's executive of emergency services.

Starting Saturday, the county will set up a hub to distribute water. The hours and locations will be shared over the county’s Facebook and Twitter social media accounts once they are determined. The Texas Department of Emergency Management was planning to send a C-130 with an additional 28,000 bottles of water to Austin, Travis County Judge Andy Brown said.

Eric Carter, the county's chief emergency management coordinator, advised residents to take pictures and keep track of any expenses related to burst pipes and water damage. He said that documentation will help in the likely event the Federal Emergency Management Agency offers assistance to help people affected by the disaster. He said the information may also be useful for insurance companies.

Brown warned residents to be wary of "fake plumbers or fly-by-night construction companies" that offer to do plumbing work or repair water-damaged homes. He advised not paying upfront – especially if it isn’t an Austin-based business.

Travis County Attorney Delia Garza also warned against price gouging – the practice of selling or demanding “an exorbitant or excessive price for a necessity” during a declared disaster. That includes for things like fuel, food, medicine, lodging, building materials, and constructions tools.

If you can’t resolve an issue with a business directly, Garza said you should send details to her office, including pictures and receipts. While her office can’t provide legal counsel, the information can be used to identify illegal activity, send cease and desist letters and file civil lawsuits.

The commissioners also extended the county's disaster declaration indefinitely. And Brotherton said there are no plans to close the 14 shelters and four warming locations the county is still operating.

“We recognize that even while people might have power restored, they may not have water and they may not have a safe home to return to,” he said.

Sangita Menon is a general assignment reporter for KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @sangitamenon.
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