AUSTIN (KXAN) — Since the ice storm about two weeks ago, City of Austin crews across different departments have cleared thousands of loads of brush. But they’ve still got more to do, and work could pile up even more this week.

“In my entire experience in Austin, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Ryan Coplon, who has lived in Austin for about 12 years.

He stands in his front yard, a pile of branches stacked up behind him, stretching down several feet toward his neighbors.

Traces of the ice storm that linger two weeks later.

“All of this has been people either doing it themselves or probably like an independent contracted group of some sort, like we did,” he said.

He and his wife hired a crew to climb up into their treetops, sawing off about two thousand pounds of wood and branches, adding the branches to their neighborhood pile.

Coplon said a neighbor put in a request for debris pickup with 311 a couple days after the ice storm.

“Still got a small forest in between us,” he said.

Austin Resource Recovery is the department responsible for picking up neighbors’ debris piles.

They said they’ve collected 2,569 loads of storm debris, so far, and they’ve hired contractors to speed up that process.

The agency said they’ve got more than 70 crews at work.

In a press release Monday, the city said crews have cleared nearly all rights-of-way from downed trees and branches.

Public Works has cleared more than 1,412 sites, but said their workers are still out, too.

The city said about 180 Austin Public Works employees are clearing more rights-of-way, including a street & bridge crew responding to reports of hanging tree limbs.

Public Works also coordinated with the Texas Department of Emergency Management to bring in saw teams with the Texas A&M Forest Service to help with debris removal, the city said.

They explained that those crews are using a grid system “to methodically address debris that is located on streets and sidewalks across the city.”

They say clearing all rights of way in the city could take another week or more.

With high winds coming in, that could prove to take longer.

“We anticipate high winds may create more debris as loose limbs and damaged trees are susceptible to wind damage,” a Public Works spokesperson said.

KXAN meteorologists forecast the first round of gusty winds to hit Monday night through Tuesday afternoon, then again Wednesday night to Thursday morning.

More possible power outages

Austin Energy sent out an alert Monday, stating that trees and branches that may still be damaged from the ice storm could break or come into contact with power lines.

“The concern right now is that a lot of those trees may be compromised because of the winter storm and may be even more brittle and more likely to break,” said spokesperson Matt Mitchell.

Those winds also pose a threat to workers, he said.

“That does hamper our ability sometimes to get as high in those elevations as we’d like to do to make those repairs,” Mitchell said.

He added that they don’t expect widespread outages and crews “are perfectly capable of attending to those outages quickly and safely.”

They issued these warnings for neighbors:

  • Be aware of their surroundings when out walking or in their yard.
  • Do not leave pets or children unsupervised under trees.
  • When possible, do not park vehicles under trees.   

As Coplon and his neighbors wait for their brush pick up, there may be more to see from the ice storm’s impact.

“Definitely if we get some winds, there’s a couple [branches] still hanging’ up here that you can see that would probably prevent us from hanging out in the backyard, considering they’re hanging right over the top of us,” he said.

Austin Resource Recovery said it took their department 41 days to collect all the storm debris in 2021.

They hope to have their first round of debris collection done by the end of this month, and all debris picked up by April.

“But we will know more once we have a full scope of how much material there is,” a spokesperson said.