NOTICE: This live blog for Thursday is no longer being updated. To see the latest information on the power outages and other winter storm information, go to our new live blog.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Power crews continue to turn the power back on hour after hour for thousands of Texans as the energy grid generation returns closer to pre-winter storm levels. Nearly 100,000 people just in Austin had the lights come back on in the past 24 hours.
Roads are also improving, and the worst of the latest winter storm that could have brought up to two inches of snow to the Austin area has moved farther south.
Top 3 biggest stories right now
- Austin Water: Be prepared to be without water for days, not hours
- What to expect once your pipes start to thaw out, steps to take if you have broken pipes
- No ‘firm answer’ on when power will be back, Austin Energy says
A Winter Storm Warning remains in effect for Gillespie and Blanco counties. Other counties in our viewing area remain in a Winter Storm Advisory.
- KXAN First Warning Weather forecast updates
- School closures/delays
- Stay connected. Download the KXAN Weather App. (Apple | Android)
- Winter storm tips and resources
President Joe Biden spoke with Gov. Greg Abbott Thursday night to talk about ways the federal government can help with the state’s recovery.
“I made clear to the Governor that I’ll work relentlessly to get his state what they need,” Biden wrote on Twitter.
Two trucks of bottled water are scheduled to arrive in Central Texas on Friday morning to help people in need, according to Travis County Judge Andy Brown.
Manville WSC said repairs have been completed for all customers in its service area and should have water restored, but with low pressure.
Fuel experts say there is no shortage of gasoline in the state, but there are disruptions in the supply chain from the hazardous winter weather.
Interstate 35 southbound is shut down at RM 1431/University Boulevard in Round Rock due to a wreck involving an 18-wheeler, Round Rock Police said.
Officers are responding to multiple wrecks.
Some Austin area hospitals are battling water issues, including hospitals in the St. David’s and Ascension networks.
Austin Energy said there is no firm answer on when power will be fully restored during a press conference Thursday. The general manager said the biggest factor crews are battling is ice covering equipment and wires.
Texas Gas Service is asking customers to continue conserving gas while they try to mitigate outages in east Austin.
Plumbers in the Austin area are experiencing high call volumes due to broken pipes at homes and apartments.
The winter weather this week is not only causing delays on grocery and fuel shipments, it’s also causing problems for COVID-19 shipments, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Chelsea Timmons was delivering her final Favor order of the day Sunday when road conditions worsened earlier than she expected. An Austin couple she delivered for took her in the past few days.
About 145,000 Oncor customers across its service area are without power as of 7 p.m., the company said:
- 63,000 are from cold weather, lack of generation impacts
- 82,000 are as a result of the later Wednesday, Thursday winter storm in the Palestine, Lufkin and Nacogdoches areas
It expects a lot of customers to be restored by Friday evening. Enough generation has occurred to prevent the need for rotating outages Thursday, Oncor said.
Report today’s outages by calling (888) 313-4747, texting OUT to 66267, using the MyOncor app or visiting Oncor.com.
ERCOT said it has been able to balance generation and load on the electric system without issuing any more outages during the day. The generators have remained online from this morning.
It warned some outages could occur later Thursday evening or Friday morning to keep the grid stable, as load increases during these times.
Those without power likely fall into these categories:
- Ice storm damage
- Taken out of service due to energy emergency load shed
- Large industrial facilities that went offline voluntarily
36,000 megawatts of generation remains on forced outage. About 21,400 megawatts of that number is thermal generation, and the rest is wind and solar.
The Austin Fire Department is seeing a ‘sudden uptick’ in traffic accidents Thursday night. It said crews are reporting major roadways are starting to ice again.
Right now, AFD said crews are responding to the 3500 block of Interstate 35 southbound after reports of several vehicles and 18 wheelers involved in a crash.
The Village of San Leanna – Issued a boil water notice Thursday evening due to a drop in water pressure Wednesday night. Travis County is asking all San Leanna Water Customers to cease non-essential water use, including faucet dripping, until tank levels can be replenished.
The city of San Marcos and a local brewery, Meanwhile Brewery, both worked to distribute water to those in need Thursday.
Marble Falls shared the following information about water distribution:
Water distribution centers have been established at Marble Falls Fire Rescue located at 700 Avenue N during the hours of 8am to 8pm and Trinity Episcopal Church located at 909 Avenue D during the hours of 9:30am to 8:00pm.
Please bring containers for drinking water.
There is also a limited supply of 5 gallon buckets with lids, however this water cannot be used for cooking or drinking unless you boil it. It can be used for flushing toilets, washing dishes, etc.
Please travel safely as some roadways still have ice.
If you have any question please call Marble Falls City Hall at 830-693-3615.
The Central Texas Food Bank has canceled its food distributions for Friday, but does plan to hold its mass distribution event Saturday in Del Valle from noon to 3 p.m. The mobile food pantry scheduled for Saturday in Kyle has been canceled as well.
The Friday cancelations include:
- Mobile Food Pantry in Dale, TX
- Mobile Food Pantry in Lott, TX
- Mobile Food Pantry in Waldeck, TX
- Mobile Food Pantry at the Austin VA
- Children’s Meal distribution at Montopolis Recreation Center in Austin
“The Food Bank’s fleet, equipment, facilities, and operations have been adversely impacted by the extremely low temperatures, and hazardous road conditions have hindered our staff and volunteers from getting to our building safely. These conditions have also kept us from prepping and distributing food safely,” the Food Bank said.
The Saturday distribution is designed to be a drive-through event (and people should make space in their trunks) but if people arrive by walking or bus they should bring containers to carry the food and can look for a designated walk-up area.
All Austin Public Health (APH) COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites will remain closed Friday, Feb. 19 due to inclement weather.
Gov. Abbott and other state leaders provided an update on the situation in Texas. Here are the highlights:
- Since Wednesday, Abbott said 2 million people have had power restored, leaving 325,000 people in the state still without power as of Thursday afternoon. He said most of those remaining issues are because of issues caused by the storm
- Abbott he’s adding more emergency items for the legislature, asking lawmakers to mandate winterization of generators and the power system and whatever funding is needed to make sure it happens.
- Of the more than 7,000 water systems across Texas, 797 are reporting some kind of issue due to a lack of power or frozen and broken pipes. A total of 725 have issued boil water notices, affecting 13 million Texans, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
- Texas Department of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd said Texas is working with FEMA, local and private partners to provide emergency drinking water to every county in Texas.
- So far there are a total of 331 warming centers for people across the state, with more being added. People can look up warming centers near them using a map from the Texas Department of Emergency Management.
Capital Metro said it has resumed limited service Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is reserving these services for ‘critical trips’ like getting to a warming center. Fares are waived at this time. COVID-19 precautions are still in place, including mask-wearing.
CapMetro said it is also providing trips for dialysis patients during this time. Almost 60 trips for those patients were done Thursday. Staff is also working with Dell Seton Medical Center to transport health care workers to the hospital, as well as Meals on Wheels to deliver food.
Throughout the weekend: Friday service is expected to last from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and for Saturday and Sunday, service will run from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., if road conditions allow. They are hoping for regular service on Monday.
For more information on routes, visit this website. You may also call (512) 474-1200.
Austin Water said in a news conference Thursday afternoon that restoring water fully will be a ‘multi-day’ process. People should prepare to be days without water and the boil water notice continues citywide.
Austin Energy said at the news conference there’s no firm answer on when power will be fully restored.
A hearing has been set for the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence related to ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
Update from St. David’s HealthCare:
Across the healthcare system, we have been able to maintain our inventories of food, linens, medications and other supplies, and we continue to get deliveries and source those items, benefitted by our relationship with our national partner, HCA Healthcare.
Four St. David’s HealthCare hospitals―St. David’s Medical Center, St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, St. David’s North Austin Medical Center and Heart Hospital of Austin―are located within the area of the City of Austin boil water notice. We are working with our supply chain to provide water for our patients, staff and hospital operations. We began supplementing our onsite water inventory last week, and supplies are continuing to arrive.
Specifically related to the challenges we have experienced at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center with the water outage and heating issues, despite the heating system being boiler-, and therefore water-driven, we were able to get a water truck in to alleviate the issues on the heating system. With the water truck and the recirculation of water in the chillers, we were able to create a closed-loop system in the hospital to keep it warm. At this time, the hospital is no longer experiencing heating issues.
We have deployed both local and out-of-state water trucks to that facility, which should enable us to connect to recharge the water pressure at the hospital that would allow the use of toilets and other non-potable water needs. We have plenty of water resources in terms of bottled water for use with patients and potable needs. Out of caution, yesterday we transported approximately 30 patients who were either vulnerable or could easily be cared for at another facility. We continue to work with the City of Austin in an effort to resolve the water outage, but they have been unsuccessful in resolving the water system issue affecting service and water pressure to our hospital.
Due to the ongoing water system issue affecting service and water pressure to much of the city, we have now lost water pressure at St. David’s Medical Center and continue to experience low-water pressure at Heart Hospital of Austin. We don’t have any heat issues at those facilities, and so far, have been successful in maintaining regular operations. We are deploying water tank trucks onsite at three hospitals—St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, St. David’s Medical Center and Heart Hospital of Austin—to connect and pressurize their systems due to water outages and/or low-pressure. While the duration of this issue remains unknown at this time, all St. David’s HealthCare facilities are prepared to handle the situation and have a sufficient supply of water to help ensure that we can continue to provide our patients with exceptional care.
All hospitals have maintained power throughout the weather event, and we have not had to go on emergency power generation because we were exempted from any mandated power blackouts.
One of our biggest challenges has been the inability to discharge patients due to mobility and transportation issues, as well as power and water outages at their homes, and limited access to shelters in the area. Fortunately, so far, we have been able to manage through that, and things should get better over the next couple of days.
We have sheltered hundreds of employees in our hospitals so they did not have to travel to and from the facilities while the roadways were unsafe and could remain onsite to continue to care for patients. They have been rotating working and sleeping, which made it possible for us to maintain staffing and coverage. Our employees have been nothing short of phenomenal. They are tired, but spirits are good, and it is their resiliency and tenacity that has helped us weather this storm and remain focused on keeping the needs of our patients first.
Austin Public Works crews are continuing to clear streets and sidewalks of snow, ice and fallen tree branches. Residents can report obstructions by calling 3-1-1. It says crews have also treated 26 bridges and elevated roads multiple times over the past few days to help with freezing. It says crews have cleared or inspected more than 117 lane miles around town and have more than 1,500 tons of sanding material on hand.
“Given the dangerous road conditions, our priority throughout this event has been to support our emergency services providers so they can safely access people who needed help,” said Public Works Director Richard Mendoza. “We are clearing as many priority routes throughout the city, and will be working around the clock to make sure as many streets as possible are addressed.”
Below are tips they’re sharing about travel:
- Travel during the day, before sundown; use larger and more-traveled roadways (such as major arterial.)
- Avoid overpasses and use extreme caution on elevated roadways and bridges.
- If you have access to a vehicle with four wheel drive, or a heavier SUV or truck, use that instead of small cars.
- Traffic signals continue to be impacted by ongoing outages ordered by ERCOT. Treat all flashing or dark signals as four-way-stops no matter which direction or road you’re traveling on.
- Use extreme caution when walking on sidewalks and other paved surfaces.
Below is an update from Austin Energy on current outages:
There has been some relief on The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid, and Austin Energy has been able to restore power to thousands of customers.
ERCOT — the Texas grid manager — has allowed us to restore numerous circuits, and we’ve been working to safely restore as many customers as we can, prioritizing the customers that have been out the longest, those on critical loads, and areas with large groupings of outages.
As long as conditions on the grid and ERCOT can support these efforts, power and restoration will continue.
Austin Energy is working around the clock to restore power. If you don’t see your outage reflected on the Outage Map, this may be an instance where the original outage has been resolved, but other issues exist, preventing restoration. If a customer would like to be sure their address is listed as still having no power, they can call 512-322-9100.
It’s a process to get power restored. Circuits serving fewer customers may come online easier than heavily loaded circuits. For the heavily loaded circuits, we bring them up in sections to test their ability to handle the amount of demand on the line. This can take time and reveal other issues that need to be addressed before a full restoration, including:
- Ice bringing down vegetation into equipment.
- Ice bringing down power lines.
- Ice causing equipment to malfunction.
If you are currently without power, you can help us avoid overloaded circuits and additional outages when power comes back on by:
- Turning off your thermostats.
- Turning off light fixtures and unplugging any appliances.
- Only leaving on one light to indicate when the power is back on.
If you have power, please use as little as possible to assist us in getting the electricity back on for others. You can help by:
- Keeping your thermostat at 68 degrees or lower.
- Keeping your doors and windows closed to minimize warm air escaping your home.
- Unplug all nonessential electronics.
- Avoid using large appliances like dryers.
A number of local businesses are sponsoring meals at local restaurants in Austin. Here’s a list:
- The Well at 440 W 2nd St.: 600 free bowls of pho beginning at noon (sponsored by 2nd St District, Sway Spa and private sponsors). After these sell out, sister restaurant TenTen will serve 200 free chicken rice bowls out of their location on 501 w. 6th st.
- Sip Pho at 512 W 29th St.: 300 bowls of pho (sponsored by Austin Winter Storm Relief Fund)
- Veracruz at The Line Hotel at 111 E. Cesar Chavez St.: 300 free tacos beginning at 5 p.m. (sponsored by Austin Winter Storm Relief Fund)
- Vaquero Taquero at 104 E. 31 St.: 125 meals from 11 a.m. – 3p.m. (sponsored by Red Bull USA)
- Hestia at 607 West 3rd Street #105: 1,200 total meals from 2-5 p.m. (sponsored by Spa Sway, Austin Winter Storm Relief Fund and others)
- Maggiore’s at 1420 Cypress Creek Road #1000: 115 meals starting at 11:30 a.m. (sponsored by Affinipay)
- Tommy Want Wingy at 121 Pickle Road: 125 meals starting at 11 a.m. until it runs out (sponsored by Red Bull USA)
- Dipping Springs Tenders at 979 Springdale Road: 50 meals from 1-5 p.m. (sponsored by Austin East Ciders)
- Thai Fresh Sponsor at 909 W Mary St.: 200 meals beginning at 1:30 p.m. Text curbside 512-200-7423 and mention 365austin for one free meal per person (sponsored by Austin Winter Storm Relief Fund)
- CM Smokehouse @ Bouldin Acres at 2027 South Lamar: 275 meals starting at 3 p.m. (sponsored by Samantha Ushiro)
- Uncle Nicky’s at 1123 East 11th and 4222 Duval Street: 200 meals at each location from 2-6 p.m. (sponsored by Affinipay)
- Flyrite Chicken at 2129 East 7th St.: 150 meals from noon to when it sells out (sponsored by Karbach Brewing and Bev Wine)
- Rebel Cheese at 2200 Aldrich St.: 25 meals starting at noon (sponsored by Austin Eastciders)
Texas Gas Service says it’s working to “mitigate the outage in east Austin and hope to soon begin relighting the customers impacted.” It says it’ll share updates on its social media pages when the process begins. Here’s a link to its Facebook page and here’s one for its Twitter.
It says once it begins, the process could take a couple days to get everyone’s gas back on.
“We ask customers to continue conserving for the next few days. The actions individuals and businesses are taking, such as lowering thermostats, turning down hot water heaters and sealing leaks round doors and windows, are making a big difference,” a spokesperson said.
Downed power lines out in Bastrop charred the ground underneath snow and ice, and it’s just another example of why you should call a utility company to fix the issue.
Here’s an updated look at power outages in the area. We’re miles ahead from where we were Wednesday, but there are still plenty of folks without power.
- Austin Energy: 49,518 (9.66% customers without power)
- Oncor: 24,626 (13.6%)
- Bluebonnet: 106 (less than 1%)
- Pedernales: 8,800 (latest update since 8 a.m., 3.1%)
- CTEC: 12,579 (37%)
Stunning images from above the Earth show the effect of power outages across Texas this week, which at one point left more than 4 million people without power.
The NOAA-20 satellite’s images show bright city lights across Texas before the storm on Jan. 31, 2021 and the significantly dimmer image during the storm and outages Feb, 16, 2021.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is warning of a fake phone number being shared for Texans looking to get hotel costs covered.
Inaccurate posts floating around the internet and social media encourage people needing a warm place to stay to call an 800 number and provide personal information including your address, social security number, and income.
“This is a scam,” FEMA said.
The City of Llano is under a boil water notice after a water main break caused the system to lose pressure.
People should boil water at least two minutes before using it to cook, drink or make ice.
The Austin airport says the roads around the terminal are cleared, but asks people to be careful and plan for extra driving time for those headed there Thursday.
Former University of Texas football star Michael Huff said he paid for 1,000 tacos in advance at Juan in a Million for people who need a hot meal an can get there safely.
“Let’s feed as many people as we can,” he tweeted, “and only take what you need.”
Huff played seven season in the NFL for three teams, and was an All-American defensive back and Jim Thorpe Award winner for the Longhorns in 2005.
As of 11 a.m., 112,829 people remain without power in Central Texas. That represents 9.96% of these utilities’ Central Texas power customers.
Austin Energy – 63,919 customers without power as of 11 a.m. Thursday
Oncor – 27,305 customers without power in Central Texas
Pedernales Electric Cooperative – 8,800 customers without power in Central Texas (as of 8 a.m.)
Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative – 115 customers without power in Central Texas
Central Texas Electric Cooperative – 12,829 customers without power in Central Texas
Grocery store chain H-E-B announced new temporary hours of noon to 5 p.m. Thursday as well as which of its stores will be closed entirely Thursday. Those stores that will be closed include:
H-E-B also announced hours of operation for its Central Market stores in Central Texas.
The warming center at Palmer Events Center is at capacity and cannot take anymore people, according to Austin City Council Member Mackenzie Kelly.
Kelly is urging people to seek shelter at one of the city’s other shelters, including Del Valle High School, Mendez Middle School, or Reilly Elementary School.
Austin Water says its treatment plants are stable but they also face “significant challenges” getting water back throughout the entire system. The boil water notice remains in place.
In a tweet thread Thursday, the utility said they know some people don’t have water service, and returning service to those customer is a top priority.
They do not know when they’ll be able to get water back to all their customers.
The Austin Fire Department wants to remind people to turn appliances like ovens and ranges off while the power is out.
Firefighters put out a house fire at 2025 E. Seventh Street on Thursday and said it was caused by an oven that was left on while the power was out. Once the power was turned back on, the fire started, AFD said in a tweet.
Thankfully, no one was injured in the blaze.
The City of Buda says they will keep boil water notices into next week for some areas.
In a tweet, city officials say area east of Onion Creek will have to boil water before consumption into early next week as crews work to restore proper water pressure to the systems. The areas east of Onion Creek that the notice covers are:
- Old Town/Downtown Buda
- Bonita Vista
- Bradfield Village
- Ashford Park
- Commercial area along Interstate 35
KXAN photojournalist Julie Karam was out in the field and noticed a pipe gushing water outside the Texas Association of Community Colleges building on Rio Grande Street in Austin.
If you notice a leaking pipe in your home, business or somewhere else, use this form from Austin Water to report it. If it’s a major leak and causing a loss in water pressure, immediately call Austin Water at 512-972-1000.
ERCOT says all controlled outages have ended. This means utility companies, including Austin Energy, Oncor, and others, can bring back all power online as each utility sees fit.
Pedernales Electric Cooperative says just 8,800 of its customers still do not have power this morning. That means the lights are now back on for more than 96% of Pedernales homes.
The news is similar for other local utilities as they work to slowly turn back on grids as ERCOT allows them to do so:
Austin Energy – 77,610 customers without power as of 7:10 a.m. Thursday
Oncor – 20,639 customers without power in Central Texas
Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative – 367 customers without power in Central Texas
Central Texas Electric Cooperative – 19,113 customers without power in Central Texas
The new numbers for Pedernales mean we can now say that 126,529 people are without power in Central Texas, which represents 11.2% of the customers served by the five electric utilities above.
Austin Energy currently has 86,162 people still without power as of 7:30 a.m. That is down from 220,000 at the peak.
The utility says it can’t turn everyone back on at first because that could overload the system. Instead it will restore power in sections, which it has been doing since Wednesday.
Austin Energy is also prioritizing customers who have been without weather the longest.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler told KXAN during a live interview that the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant is back online and has power. Austin moved to a citywide boil water notice Wednesday night after the water treatment plant lost power.
Adler says he has asked Austin Water what that means for the current boil water notice but has not heard back yet. He anticipates Austin Water will have another update later this morning.
The mayor still urged Austin residents to conserve water as much as they possibly can.
The City of Austin is monitoring an e-mail inbox for people to ask for rides to warming shelters, but they ask to limit rides to the “medically vulnerable.”
They will respond to emails as quickly as possible. If you need a ride and are medically vulnerable, send an email to email@example.com. People can also dial 311.
Austin Police say there is a “significant situation” developing in downtown Austin. A water main break has seven blocks closed on Lavaca Street from 8th Street to 15th Street. Traffic anchor Amanda Dugan reports police tell her the road is icy and cracking the asphalt.
Crews are having trouble locating where the water main break occurred.
Oncor says it has halted controlled outages on its network thanks to the increased power generation, which has helped stabilize the state’s power grid.
Approximately 150,000 Oncor customers still remain without power, but Oncor says these outages are because of damage caused during Wednesday’s winter storm, as well as the previous winter storms that it could not detect until ERCOT allowed it to re-energize those power grids.
We continue to follow what’s happening on the roads. They remain mostly quiet except for a big overnight accident on I-35. Northbound I-35 is closed after RM 620 in Round Rock after a tractor trailer crashed, blocking all lanes.
It’s only been a little more than an hour, but power for another 8,600 customers with Austin Energy came back on in the past 75 minutes:
Austin Energy – 85,729 customers without power as of 7:10 a.m. Thursday
Oncor – 16,612 customers without power in Central Texas
Pedernales Electric Cooperative – UNAVAILABLE
Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative – Just 42 customers without power in Central Texas
Central Texas Electric Cooperative – 18,783 customers without power in Central Texas
Energy crews made significant progress overnight to restore power to customers everywhere except Central Texas Electric Cooperative:
Austin Energy – 94,350 customers without power as of 7:10 a.m. Thursday
Oncor – 16,612 customers without power in Central Texas
Pedernales Electric Cooperative – UNAVAILABLE
Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative – Just 40 customers without power in Central Texas
Central Texas Electric Cooperative – 18,780 customers without power in Central Texas
Here is a look at current outages in our that CTEC serves:
The outage map for Pedernales Electric Coop still does not work as of Thursday morning. In an email exchange Wednesday afternoon, Pedernales said it would try to get KXAN outage numbers but never did. Pedernales also does not provide current outage numbers by phone.