AUSTIN (KXAN) — Cities, counties and emergency management agencies across Central Texas have been getting ready for this week’s storm expected to bring freezing temperatures to the region.
The City of Austin started its work this past Sunday. Those in Hays County began discussions earlier this week and in Williamson County briefing calls kicked off Tuesday. All that work will only pick up for these agencies Wednesday.
Those at the City of Austin’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) said following last year’s storm they realized they had to do a better job when it came to communicating with the community. In response, they decided to launch a new website for weather alerts a couple of months ago.
“it’s something that we developed because the response to last year’s storm, people felt there wasn’t a centralized location to go. So this website is new and has information in English, Spanish, and a variety of other languages, and it’s going to be updated regularly,” said Bryce Bencivengo with HSEM.
Bencivengo said they will also work to get the word out through social media.
In Hays County, Judge Ruben Becerra said they are working on getting about eight staging areas ready for the community. These will be locations where people can go to warm up and eat. Those who need to can stay overnight. Transportation will be available for those who need it.
Becerra said a lesson learned from last year is to rely on themselves and their neighbors versus waiting on the state.
“Unfortunately, at the moment, we were on our own and we had no choice but to use our county resources in ways that are most creative and I am grateful that we had active and proactive ISDs and cities to help us along the way,” said Becerra.
The judge added that last year they had to do a lot more road work than he anticipated.
In Williamson County, Judge Bill Gravell said they have double the amount of sand they had last year, generators topped off with gas as well as additional emergency crews and vehicles ready to go.
One of the biggest lessons Gravell said they learned from last year that they did not do and now are focused on is ensuring they are in conversation with energy and utility companies to make sure everyone is on the same page.
“We want to know ahead of the curve if there is a problem or there might be a problem that we’re looking at. So that’s a lesson learned,” said Gravell.
Those who would like to sign up for weather alerts can do so online or by texting ATXWEATHER to 888-777 or ATXCLIMA to 888-777. Those who live in Williamson County can sign up for regional alerts online as well as in Hays County through Hays Informed. You can also contact Hays County officials through Hays Informed for more information on the staging areas.