Reliably Austin
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
An ice storm hit the Austin area the week of Jan. 30. Hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses lost power as ice-covered trees toppled power lines across the city.

Ice-covered trees fell on Austin roads. The city doesn’t want your help clearing them.

Fallen branches coated in ice block a sidewalk, bike path and car lane.
Michael Minasi
Austin's Public Works crews are trying to clear thousands of miles of roads and sidewalks of fallen branches and other debris.

The ice storm that blew through Austin this week snapped oak trees like popsicle sticks, leaving the city's streets littered with broken branches.

Now, the city is trying to clean up the mess. But they don't want residents to help.

"We ask the public not to touch that debris [on public streets and sidewalks]," said James Snow, interim director of Austin's Public Works Department.

He asked people to call 311 to report downed branches instead.

"Sometimes there's entangled power lines," Snow said. "We want to make sure just to be safe."

Meanwhile, 311 is being flooded with calls. The wait time to speak to a live agent late Thursday morning was under 20 minutes, despite the pre-recorded estimates saying the hold time would be significantly longer.

Public Works will start by clearing major thoroughfares and then move to residential streets.

The task is gargantuan. Austin has more than 2,500 miles of streets. And Public Works has 105 people divided into 15 crews to clear them. Workers who normally fix asphalt and concrete are helping to clear debris. At least three contractors have been brought in to help.

Austin residents clearing debris on their own property can cut up larger items and leave them at the curb for Austin Resource Recovery. The city is resuming collection of trash, recycling and yard waste today beginning with where they left off on Tuesday.

If you found this reporting valuable, please consider making a donation to support it. Your gift pays for everything you find on Thanks for donating today.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
Related Content