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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.

Austin-Travis County Distributes Thousands Of Cases Of Water From FEMA

Austin and Travis County officials distribute cases of water at the Austin Community College Pinnacle Campus in Southwest Austin on Sunday.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Austin and Travis County officials distribute cases of water at the Austin Community College Pinnacle Campus in Southwest Austin on Sunday.

Pallets of water arrived Sunday morning at 10 distribution sites around Austin and Travis County intended for people who were not able to purchase or boil water. Volunteers, firefighters and law enforcement officials placed a free case of water in each car at the drive-thru sites.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the Austin Community College Pinnacle Campus' distribution site in Southwest Austin was “really high” on the city’s priority list. While Austin Water has been able to provide at least low-pressure water supply to many areas of the city, the Southwest Austin area still shows no pressure on the water department’s outage map.

“It’s really good we’re getting water to people,” Adler said. “I’m still frustrated and angry, as I know these folks are, that it’s taken this long to get the water, that they’ve been out of water for so long.”

He said in addition to getting water from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the city is sourcing water from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Chicago and the West Coast.

Ann Howard, the Travis County Commissioner for precinct 3, said between 20 to 40 pallets of water were on their way to the Pinnacle campus. She said they would continue to distribute water as long as the need exists and encouraged those with access to city water at home to continue conserving.

“If you think you have plenty, share it with a person who doesn’t have the basics – drinking water,” Howard said. “Continue to check on your neighbors, the elderly, people with infants that need to make baby formula."

Howard said there was a lot to learn from this event in terms of both infrastructure and community needs.

“I think our job as government and elected officials is to learn from this so that we’re not caught quite so flat-footed the next time,” she said.

Got a tip? Email Sangita Menon at Follow her on Twitter @sangitamenon.

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