AUSTIN (KXAN) — With temperatures not expected to get much above the freezing mark Thursday, and even colder wind chills in the teens and 20s, the City of Austin is opening warming centers for those who need them.

During normal business hours, the following city facilities will be available as warming centers:

  • All branches of Austin Public Libraries
  • All Austin Recreation Centers and Senior Centers (as lobby space allows)
  • Asian American Resource Center, 8401 Cameron Rd.
  • George Washington Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St.
  • Dougherty Arts Center, 1110 Barton Springs Road
  • Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St.

All social distancing, masking and capacity limits still apply to the centers, the city said.

The city chose these spots based on their varied locations throughout the city and ability to accommodate a larger number of people while still adhering to social distancing protocols, said Bryce Bencivengo, communications manager for Austin’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

For those who need warming centers overnight, the city has those available, but it doesn’t publish their addresses. People who need shelter should go to the One Texas Center building at 505 Barton Springs Rd. between 6-8 p.m. From there, Capital Metro buses will take people to designated warming centers.

Health screenings for everyone are required before being taken to a shelter, which will include a symptoms questionnaire and temperature check. Anyone with COVID-like symptoms or a fever will then undergo a COVID-19 test.

If they test positive, they will be transported to a separate isolation center for warmth and shelter, to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.

“I think this has been a challenge throughout COVID-19, is we’ve been really clear that people do not gather in large groups and things like that. And then to tell them to come into a shelter or a warming center scenario is kind of a confusing message,” Bencivengo said. “But I do want to share that we’re going to follow all of our own guidelines — masking is required, we’re going to do social distancing and capacity limits are going to be lower, both at the warming centers and at our shelters.”

  • The City of Austin opened warming centers Jan. 20, 2022 as winter weather moved into the area. This is the Mexican American Cultural Center at 600 River St. (KXAN/Frank Martinez)
  • The City of Austin opened warming centers Jan. 20, 2022 as winter weather moved into the area. This is the Mexican American Cultural Center at 600 River St. (KXAN/Frank Martinez)
  • The City of Austin opened warming centers Jan. 20, 2022 as winter weather moved into the area. This is the Mexican American Cultural Center at 600 River St. (KXAN/Frank Martinez)

The city evaluates the need for both overnight shelters and dayside warming centers are evaluated by city staff on a day-to-day basis, he added.

“We do that evaluation every single day throughout the winter season,” he said. “We will take a look, see what the forecast is going to be and then make the calls as to whether shelters are going to be open.”

And while shelter needs vary by day, Bencivengo said this week’s wintry conditions are an important reminder to all residents to have preparations in place in the event of a storm.

“The impacts from this event are predicted to be pretty minimal, but I think it’s a good reminder to all Austinites and people in Central Texas to take a moment to review their emergency plans and make sure that they have a kit on hand.”

A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect until 6 a.m. Friday, and KXAN’s First Warning Weather team forecasts Thursday’s high temperature at 39 degrees and drop below freezing overnight into Friday.