Austin

News, events, and entertainment happening in and around Austin and the Central Texas counties of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson

Photo by KUT News

Former TYC Administrator Headed for Trial 

Jury selection is expected to start today in Lubbock for a former Texas Youth Commission official accused of sexually molesting teenage inmates.  John Paul Hernandez was the principal at the West Texas State School in Pyote.  The Associated Press reports Hernandez pleaded not guilty.  His trial comes six years after the investigation began into sex abuse at the TYC.

Texas Education Budget Cuts Back in the Spotlight Today

Photo by Mose Buchele for KUT News

The snow is melting but freezing conditions overnight could make travel difficult. Here' s a developing list of cancellations and delays for tonight and tomorrow. If you would like to add anything, post it in the comments below.

Photo submitted to KUT News by Tamir Kalifa

We have some creative KUT listeners! We asked you during Morning Edition to send us photos of the snow in Austin, Texas and our inbox was flooded.  Thank you for sharing your photos with us!  Our first slideshow was here. Check out all the rest below: 

Travis Heights residents woke up to a blanket of snow this morning / Photo courtesy of KUT Listener Mary Parmer

Updated at 12:15 pm: People are out in the streets playing in the snow this morning! A winter storm warning is in effect until noon today.  Austin police say there is ice on some roads and that some cars are slipping and sliding.  APD says there are more accidents out there this morning than usual.  Police have closed eastbound SH 71 in the 19500 block, due to icy conditions.  APD have also barricaded the intersection of East 8th St. and San Jacinto Blvd., because of icy condition at that hilly intesection

Most streets in Austin are clogged with compacted snow and ice, making for very slick conditions. In the past 12 hours, Austin Fire Department has responded to about 100 collisions.

AFD reports 50 alarm activations, many of which were related to broken water pipes.  Learn how to shut off the water to your home by watching this video.

There are some flight delays and cancellations at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, as well.  Check with ABIA or your carrier for up-to-date information.  Capital Metro busses are operating on a Sunday service level.  No MetroRail or UT shuttles service today.

Read our list of closures here:

Image by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The National Weather Service released snowfall totals for towns and cities in Central Texas. (Here's how they measure it.) These numbers are from 10:42 a.m. 

Image by Mose Buchele for KUT News

In unincorporated parts of Travis County, outdoor burning is back on.

County Commissioners voted earlier this week to cut short the current burn ban, ending it at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.  In a release from the Travis County Fire Marshal Hershel Lee's office this morning, the ban is being suspended Saturday through Monday, to allow for he what terms, "necessary burning operations to be conducted."

Commissioners' Court will vote on Tuesday on whether to reinstate the prohibition on any outdoor burning.

Here are photos from our users. We have even more here.

Here are photos of snow downtown and the State Capitol Austin from KUT's Nathan Bernier.

KUT's Ben Philpott took video of this truck that got stuck.

Slipping and sliding on Lavaca St.

The city is urging people to locate the shutoff valve for their water mains in case pipes burst and begin spewing water. City of Austin crews have responded to at least 335 calls for lost water service since Tuesday.

Callie Hernandez for KUT

People are being urged to continue conserving energy, as temperatures remain below freezing.  ERCOT, the state's grid operator, says the state's electric emergency situation has ended.  Energy generation reserves are in better shape today than they were yesterday.  Still, folks have a lot of questions about Wednesday's rolling power outages.  Specifically, some KUT listeners thought Austin Energy did a bad job of communicating what was going on Wednesday. 

Nasha Lee, KUT News

The rolling power outages are over, but the state's energy regulator would still like for you to conserve electricity.  The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) says it is ending the emergency procedures it put in place early yesterday mornin

Photo of National Weather Service map

An updated forecast from the National Weather Service suggests the snowfall may be so light that it melts as soon as it touches the ground.

SNOWFALL TOTALS OF A DUSTING TO AROUND ONE INCH ARE FORECAST OVER THE EASTERN HILL COUNTRY AND AREAS ALONG THE I-35 CORRIDOR.

You certainly shouldn't expect to be doing this.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

An ice or snow storm that wouldn't even slow a northeastern city can cripple Austin, as it did in 2007. Our highway overpasses stretch into the sky, making them easily ice over when temperatures drop. And because it snows so infrequently, we don't have a legion of trucks ready to clear the streets.

"We have three sand trucks on standby right now, with another twelve available, if necessary," City of Austin spokesman David Matustik told KUT News.  That amounts to about one truck for every 47,000 Austin residents.

Photo courtesy of Miranda Martin/via Flickr

**Update @ 7: 20 a.m.: ERCOT says the state's grid condition is improving but it's still urging people to conserve energy, especially before 9 a.m.  From the press release: "Although immediate concerns for the possibility of rotating outages this morning are reduced, ERCOT will be monitoring the grid closely because additional unexpected major losses of generation could force operators to begin emergency procedures to avoid an uncontrolled statewide blackout."

Earlier:

Photo by KUT News.

*updated 7:25 a.m. for weather conditions*

The Austin Independent School District will hold classes as usual at their regular start times .  UT Austin and St. Edwards University will be operating as normal.  All Austin Community College campuses will also be open today and on a regular schedule.  That includes the Rio Grande Campus. ..  .  .  .  .

A wind chill advisory is in effect until 11 a.m.  And a winter weather advisory is in effect from tonight at 6 until Friday at noon.  The cold weather has prompted some Central Texas schools to delay classes Thursday.

Photo by Liang Shi for KUT News

The periodic power outages mandated by the state's power grid operator could continue this evening and tomorrow.

"The grid continues to have more than 5,000 megawatts of generation out of service due to the effect of the extreme cold," the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said in a statement.

Fifty power generation units across the state stopped working overnight, ERCOT said, leading to an initial 7,000 megawatt loss of generation capacity. ERCOT said it was prohibited by market regulations from revealing which power plants they were.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell stressed at a late afternoon news conference today that Austin Energy was not among them.


KUT News sent out interns Mario Carrillo and Liang Shi to ask people how they're dealing with the frigid winter weather. Let us know how you're coping in the comments section!

Image by Mose Buchele for KUT News

Updated at 5:27 pm: Rolling outages implemented by the state's energy regulator are over, but the state's energy regulator is warning people that emergency outages could return.  About 7,000 megawatts of generating capacity went offline last night due to cold weather. The Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) asked local utilities to draw down their consumption to help distribute the load, leading to rolling power outages across the state.

"ERCOT has issued a notice that rotating outages are no longer needed at this time; however, there is a strong possibility that they will be required again this evening or tomorrow, depending on how quickly the disabled generation units can be returned to service," ERCOT's Dottie Roark said in an email. "Energy conservation is still critical during peak demand hours this evening between 6 and 10 pm. "

Now that rolling outages are over, Austin Energy crews are able to address lingering isolated outages. If your power is still out, call 322-9100.  Here's an Austin Energy map showing power outages across town.

Image by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Cold weather caused about 50 generators to die across Texas overnight, reducing capacity by 7,000 megawatts and prompting the state agency responsible for managing power to request local utilities institute rolling power outages.

Capacity is slowly coming back online. KUT News is following the latest developments on this story.

Do you have any pictures that show the cold weather or how the power outages have affected you? Please email them to news@kut.org, or tell us your story in the comments below.

Matt Largey for KUT News

With Austin in the midst of an uncommon cold spell, and rolling blackouts striking parts of Central Texas, Meals on Wheels and More is calling clients to ensure that they won't be trapped in the cold.

"We'll just call [clients] and ask them how they're doing, how their homes are being affect by the temperatures, if they're feeling OK, if they need anything," Sarah Andrews with Meals on Wheels and More told KUT.

Andrews said that a lot of people receiving food are "elderly" or have "critical health needs."

Photo by Liang Shi for KUT News

More than fifty electricity generation units stopped working overnight because of severe weather, reducing capacity by 7,000 megawatts and leading to the rolling power outages across Texas today.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has asked utilities and transmission providers like Austin Energy to implement the rolling power outage underway now.

Image courtesy Austin Energy

We linked to it in an earlier post, but we want to make it as clear as possible about where to find this information. Austin Energy provides data on power outages through its Customer Outage Portal.

Photo by KUT News.

Statewide Power "Emergency" Means Rolling Power Outages in Austin

You may be wondering why your lights are out this morning.  Austin Energy is doing rotating cut offs.  The state’s power grid operator ERCOT is requiring this.  The state’s power grid couldn’t keep up with demand early this morning because some power plants went offline.  Austin Energy says the lights are expected to be out for about 45 minutes at a time in certain neighborhoods.

Photo by KUT News

Aficionados of books and film will have a golden opportunity to meet authors and screenwriters at the same time throughout the year and culminating in a joint festival this fall. The Austin Film Festival (AFF) will run October 20-27 in conjunction with the Texas Book Festival (TBF) October 22-23. Barbara Morgan, Executive Director of the Austin Film Festival, says both nonprofit organizations will benefit writers in the Austin community.

Image by Erik Reyna for KUT News

The City of Austin has activated its emergency cold weather plan for the homeless.  City officials say the program will remain up and running for the duration of the frosty weather, which could last into Friday morning. 

The city's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management says those needing shelter should report to the ARCH or the Salvation Army downtown.  Busses will then transport shelter seekers to other warm places to bed down for the night.

Logo courtesy of Austin Energy.

Austin Power Outages

It's a windy, rainy morning as a cold front moves through Central Texas.  A wind advisory is in effect until 6 p.m.  Highs will only reach the mid 30s today.  Over 2,000 Austin Energy customers were without power as of about 8 a.m.  That's according to Austin Energy's Storm Map.  The outages are spread out across the city.  Crews are working to restore power.

Image courtesy Al Jazeera English http://www.flickr.com/photos/aljazeeraenglish/

Egyptian cities are bracing for major protests Tuesday as revolutionaries demand the ouster of that country's longstanding military dictatorship.  KUT News has been speaking with Egyptians in Austin since the turmoil began. Today, we spoke by telephone with Austin Community College professor Roy Casagranda. He grew up in Egypt and still has family in Cairo.

Image by KUT News

Austin is a long way from achieving a goal set in 2009 of having a park within walking distance of everyone in the city. Fifty-nine percent of inner city residents do not live near those kind of open space amenities, according to the city's Urban Parks Stakeholders Group (UPSG).

The UPSG made this presentation to the City of Austin's Planning Commission last week, and it included some stark comparisons.

Photo by KUT News

Texas Schools Calling Out to State Lawmakers

School districts across the state are planning to lay off teachers and considering school closures.  Districts say they're left with few options as the state proposes to cut back billions of dollars in public education spending.  Today superintendents and school board members from across the state are meeting at Austin's Convention Center

Photo by KUTAustin

Enjoy today's warm weather, because temperatures are supposed to take a nasty, cold turn by midweek.  The high this afternoon is forecast to be in the mid 70s, but an

Photo by Nasha Lee for KUT News

The Liz Carpenter Fountain in Butler Park will be closed for the next few months, as work begins on upgrading it.  The City of Austin is making more than a million dollars worth of improvements to the fountain's filtration system. 

Higher-than-expected use caused the system to shut down in the past, leading to potentially unhealthy levels of bacteria in the water.  Work is expected to be finish on the fountain by May.

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