'Just stay home': Ice covering Austin-area roads makes travel dangerous Thursday
Freezing rain and sleet fell throughout Austin and surrounding counties Thursday, creating dangerous, icy conditions on roads and sidewalks.
"If you absolutely have to be out and about today be sure to check DriveTexas.org to get current road conditions," the National Weather Service said in a tweet. "But seriously, just say home and don't get out on the roads today if you can avoid it."
The Austin area is under a winter storm warning until 9 p.m. Thursday. Temperatures fell from the 30s into the 20s during the morning hours.
Why isn't it snowing even with below freezing temperatures? The NWS says there is a warm layer in the atmosphere that's keeping snow from forming, resulting in freezing rain and sleet.
Heavy rain overnight has closed several low water crossings around Central Texas. Austin has received at least 2 inches of rain since Wednesday. Sidewalks and pavement are slippery, and people will be at risk for hypothermia if they spend a lot of time outside and aren't dressed in layers and gloves.
How's the electric grid doing?
There haven't been widespread power outages in Austin. Austin Energy's outage map showed there were 11 active outages around noon, affecting 3,140 customers — and 99.4% of customers had electricity. Here are some links to help you check up on road conditions, power outages and services that may be disrupted by the freeze.
"If your power is out right now in Texas, it’s not because of rolling blackouts — likely a power line down. ERCOT [which manages the state's electric grid] is still running a huge power surplus this morning," KUT's Matt Largey said.
Governor gives update on the severe weather
Gov. Greg Abbott held a news conference around 11 a.m. Watch below:
Austin's airport expects more flight disruptions tomorrow
About 90% of departing flights were canceled today at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and more delays and cancellations are expected tomorrow.
The runways are staying open at ABIA with the help of hundreds of gallons of liquid deicer being slathered across the airfield.But the domino effects of even worse weather-related problems, like Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport closing its runways this morning, could take days to resolve.
"For tomorrow, we are expecting flights to continue to be impacted," Austin airport spokesperson Sam Haynes said. "Any time there's a large scale disruption to airline operations, it takes a little time to get back to a regular schedule."
Where to stay warm
Community shelters in Austin opened Thursday at 9 a.m. for anyone seeking shelter from the wintry weather. The shelters are located at recreation centers across the city: Dove Springs, Dittmar, Gus Garcia, Givens, and Parque Zaragoza recreation centers. Around 5:30 p.m., the city said Givens had reached capacity.
The centers will operate 24 hours a day for as long as the region is impacted. People can sleep there and have a place to charge their electronic devices.
Warming centers will also be open Friday at Cowan and Wooten elementary schools from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The city says people should call 311 if they need transportation to a shelter.
The Williamson County Sheriff's office has opened a warming and charging center at 508 Rock St. in Georgetown for those without power.
Cold weather shelters for people experiencing homelessness will reopen Friday night. People are asked to register in person from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at One Texas Center at South First Street and Barton Springs Road. Anyone who needs a ride to registration and those who don't register by the 2 p.m. cutoff should call 311.
Capital Metro to run limited service Friday
CapMetro is operating on a new "critical service schedule" Friday. The regional transit agency will offer limited service from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Buses will run on 30 to 60 minute frequencies. MetroRail service will remain suspended.
Also canceled Friday:
- UT shuttle service
- Flyer routes
CapMetro is providing some emergency transportation for MetroAccess customers and others who need to get to lifesaving medical treatments. The agency plans to return to a normal schedule on Saturday.
School closures and other disruptions
Many school districts and universities are closed, including Austin ISD and UT Austin. Find a list of school closures here.
Austin Public Health and Travis County's COVID-19 vaccine and testing operations have also been shut down Thursday and Friday.
Austin Resource Recovery is canceling its services for the remainder of the week. The Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center will also be closed until Monday. The city's waste management utility is asking customers to bring their carts in to avoid them sliding away.
H-E-B announced stores in the greater Austin area and Hill Country would close at 5 p.m. Thursday and reopen Friday morning at 8. Central Market locations in Austin will close at 8 p.m. The company said curbside and delivery options would be limited in certain areas.
To receive updates about the winter storm from Austin Emergency Management, text ATXWEATHER to 888-777.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.