AUSTIN (KXAN) — A day of delays and cancelations at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport after a power outage caused ground operations to a halt inside and had massive impacts outside the airport, too.
Austin Energy said it’s still trying to figure out what caused underground electric equipment to fail.
Exits to the airport were closed, and passengers could be seen on traffic cameras leaving their rides on the highway and walking to the airport, suitcases in tow.
The Texas Department of Transportation said it changed its signs to inform drivers the airport was closed, but said it’s law enforcement’s job to manage the traffic.
“We only back them up when requested. We received no request this morning,” a TxDOT spokesperson told KXAN in a message.
Austin Police Department said airport officials asked them to close the entrances around 5:30 a.m.
“We had to keep traffic flowing to allow normal operations on the roadways and allow employees of the airport to get to work,” an APD spokesperson said.
But Guy, a rideshare driver who didn’t want to reveal his last name, said traffic wasn’t flowing.
“My reaction was how poorly it was handled,” he said. “APD showed up, and all they did was block people from turning into the airport. Well, that meant that everybody just pretty much created a parking lot, thinking that they would sit there and wait for the police to let them into the airport.”
Guy said he drives people to the airport about four times a week, and he’s been doing that for about seven years now.
“When I started to care for an elderly mom that started needing some help, and so, I left my job, and I did that so that I would not be away from her long periods of time,” he said.
He said he’s never encountered anything like the traffic he did Wednesday morning, as he was traveling on U.S. Highway 183 trying to get onto Highway 71.
“As we got close, the couple I was carrying got a notice from the airline that their flight was canceled,” he said.
But he said the message didn’t say why the flight was canceled.
Guy noticed the TxDOT sign stating AUS was closed but said it didn’t say why or what drivers should do.
“The police department should have been out there, not allowing people to block all the traffic,” he said. “They should have forced the cars to continue forward and not just let that be created as a parking lot there.”
KXAN asked APD if its response Wednesday might change protocol down the road. It didn’t give us any specifics, only saying “officers considered every option during this event. The more prudent thing was trying to get traffic moving.”