AUSTIN (KXAN) — For thousands of Austin-Travis County residents, Monday morning began dark and cold after hours without power just as unprecedented winter storms pummeled the area.

The overnight hours brought plunging temperatures, dangerous roads and at least half a foot of snow — and hundreds of thousands of power outages.

Now residents want answers.

To help break down the situation, Austin Mayor Steve Adler was joined by Travis County Judge Andy Brown, CoA Manager Spencer Cronk, CoA Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Juan Ortiz, and Austin Energy General Manager Jackie Sargent.

During the event, Sargent explained that providers are struggling with an “electric grid emergency’ and are keeping power flowing to places deemed critical infrastructure, or where putting electricity back on would be problematic.

Ortiz said the rolling outages experienced by residents are being done with the intention of keeping access to facilities like hospitals and other emergency services.

Sargent said that Austin Energy makes emergency plans along with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, and then follow directions from them to strengthen and maintain the grid for the whole state.

“It’s clear that this weather event is so extreme, almost beyond imagination,” Adler said. “It’s a time that the community really needs to pull together and to come together.”

The leaders emphasized the need for residents to help their fellow citizens by conserving power in their homes — as much as possible. For those in need, a warming center has been opened at the Palmer Events Center at Auditorium Shores.

282 people were sheltered overnight in the Austin area.