CENTRAL TEXAS (KXAN) — One year after an unprecedented multiday winter storm left millions without power, heat and running water in Texas, KXAN takes a look back at the events that transpired and the legacy this storm leaves behind.
Here is the major news broken down by day from KXAN’s live blogs during the storm.
THURSDAY, FEB. 11, 2021
Roads get messy
Austin-Travis County EMS crews responded to a 26-car pileup on the overpass on eastbound North State Highway 45 near Farm to Market 620. Officials transported one person to the hospital as a designated “trauma alert,” while no other significant injuries were reported.
Later in the night, one person was killed in a three-vehicle crash on the U.S. 290 flyover near MoPac Expressway in south Austin.
20,000 without power Thursday night
Around 8:00 p.m. Thursday night KXAN was reporting that thousands were without power. This was our break down by service provider:
- Oncor: More than 15,840 customers without power in Williamson County
- Pedernales Electric Cooperative: More than 8,700 meters out in coverage areas
- Bluebonnet Electric Co-op: More than 860 customers affected near where Bastrop, Fayette and Lee County lines meet
FRIDAY, FEB. 12, 2021
Power outages increase
As of 5:15 a.m. Friday, Feb. 12, KXAN was reporting that more than 30,000 people in Austin were left without power. This was our break down by service provider:
- Austin Energy: More than 22,000 customers without power
- Oncor: More than 5,200 outages
- Pedernales Electric Cooperative: 3,200 customers without power
Texas Department of Transportation maintenance crews begin 24-hour shifts
Maintenance crews from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) told KXAN at this point in the storm they were working 24-hour shifts in the Austin region to deal with icy conditions on the roads.
Gov. Greg Abbott issues disaster declaration
“Texas should heed the guidance of their local leaders and stay alert to changing weather conditions in their area,” Abbott said in the press release. “These resources will help us respond to this severe winter weather and keep our communities safe. The State of Texas remains in close contact with officials on the ground and will provide any additional resources and support that are needed.”
City of Austin enters emergency operations
The City of Austin and Travis County officially entered emergency operations at this point — meaning they began preparing for the anticipated winter storms that was coming over the weekend into the next week.
Cold weather shelters were activated for the first time during this storm Friday night, and they were operating 24 hours a day for several days.
SATURDAY, FEB. 13, 2021
Grocery stores impacted
H-E-B was one of the major grocery stores to shift hours to deal with the winter conditions, they were not alone.
Gov. Greg Abbott requests federal emergency declaration from the White House
The request came as Abbott began activating and deploying state resources to assist in winter storm mitigation and recovery efforts.
SUNDAY, FEB. 14, 2021
Area colleges cancel classes
Austin Community College announced early Sunday, Feb. 14 it would be cancelling in-person and remote classes and work on Monday, Feb. 15 and Tuesday, Feb. 16.
The University of Texas at Austin later announced its campus would close at 4 p.m. Sunday and remain closed through at least 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
St. Edward’s University canceled its on-campus, virtual and remote classes, events and activities through 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
Texas State University announced it would remain closed until Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 8 a.m.
Williamson County issues declaration of disaster
The county also activated its emergency operations center, adding it will remain active until the weather was no longer a threat.
Roads become impassable
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority posted a travel alert on social media, saying that due to icy conditions, the Mobility Authority in coordination with TxDOT and local police, would be closing all Mobility authority toll facilities.
ERCOT urges energy conservation
This was the first time during this storm that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), who manages the state’s power grid, urged Texans to help conserve energy across the system to maintain the reliability of the electric system. ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said ERCOT was seeing record-breaking electric demand due to extremely cold temperatures in Texas.
White House issues a federal emergency declaration
Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that the White House issued a federal emergency declaration for the entire state pf Texas in order to respond to ongoing severe winter weather.
MONDAY, FEB. 15, 2021
First-ever wind chill warning issued by Austin/San Antonio National Weather Service
This update came as the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning through at least noon on Monday.
ERCOT declares energy emergency alert; statewide conservation needed
Just after midnight on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, ERCOT declared an Energy Emergency Alert 1 for the state of Texas, noting that energy conservation was needed statewide. ERCOT, who manages the state’s power grid, said Monday there were no rotating power outages at this time.
That alert was later moved to a level three, the highest alert level for the state due to record electric demand.
Rolling blackouts; nearly 500K Central Texans without power
Rolling blackouts began on Monday across the state due to record energy demands. Originally expected to last 40 minutes or less, the blackouts were later extended. More than 460,000 people in Central Texas were reported without power.
All arrival, departure flights canceled at AUS
“It is critical that passengers with scheduled flights throughout this week check in directly with their airlines before traveling to the airport. AUS personnel remain onsite and are working around the clock to remove snow and ice from the airport campus,” a statement from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport read.
Monarch Utilities, City of Taylor issues boil water notice
The city of Taylor announced it was under a boil water notice due to a “prolonged power outage at the water treatment plant,” it said.
Monarch Utilities later announced a boil water notice for customers in the Plum Creek water system in eastern Hays County.
“Due to repeated power outages, the system is unable to keep up with demand,” a press release from the utility company said. That notice affected more than 2,400 customers.
TUESDAY, FEB. 16, 2021
Gov. Greg Abbott calls for investigation into ERCOT
Texas Governor Greg Abbott called on the state legislature to investigate the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) after millions of Texans were left with no power for days during record-breaking cold temperatures.
“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” said Governor Abbott. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable. Reviewing the preparations and decisions by ERCOT is an emergency item so we can get a full picture of what caused this problem and find long-term solutions. I thank my partners in the House and Senate for acting quickly on this challenge, and I will work with them to enhance Texas’ electric grid and ensure that our state never experiences power outages like this again.”
ABIA cancels flights for 2nd consecutive day
Flights at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport were canceled for a second consecutive day due to icy conditions left behind from Monday’s winter storm.
Downtown Austin Alliance asks owners of largest downtown buildings to turn off lights, conserve
Downtown Austin Alliance contacted the owners or operators of more than 50 of the largest downtown buildings and construction sites Tuesday, asking them to conserve power.
More than 800 property owners were on the list to be contacted to scale back their nonessential electricity use to help out.
ATCEMS says Feb. 16 was ‘record-breaking day’ for service
Austin-Travis County EMS said Tuesday Feb. 16 was a “record breaking day” for calls for service.
In a tweet, ATCEMS said medics and staff responded to 1,323 calls that day — including 31 traffic crashes with five rollovers, 38 carbon monoxide poisonings, 69 environmental exposures and 104 falls on ice.
City of Georgetown issues boil water notice
Residents on city-run water were asked to bring tap water to a rolling boil for a minimum of two minutes and allow it to cool prior to consuming it.
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 17, 2021
City officials seek staffing, transportation help for warming centers
The city housed hundreds of people in warming centers and began seeking additional transportation and resource help. Capital Metro buses were used for transportation, but requested volunteers join to help drive people to facilities.
Pedernales Electric Cooperative website crashes amid outages
As thousands of Texans in Austin and the surrounding areas await warmth and light, several utility websites are down, including Pedernales Electric Cooperative.
As of Wednesday, the PEC Outage Map is unavailable, with the company delivering a statement on its website, reading: “In an effort to more accurately reflect power outages, we are performing a system update to the outage map. Follow us on PEC social media platforms. We will post a notice when the map has been restored.”
ERCOT: 2.7 million Texas homes still without power
ERCOT sent an update via Twitter that 600,000 homes had the power turned back on as more generation returned to the power grid. They said there are still 2.7 million homes in Texas still in the dark.
Leaders ask people to conserve power, shut of lights at government buildings
Lights around the Texas Capitol were out on Wednesday night after energy officials called for large buildings and residents alike to conserve power.
The ground lights were on for safety purposes, Texas state Rep. Donna Howard said.
THURSDAY, FEB. 18, 2021
Updates given on boil water notice
Austin Mayor Steve Adler told KXAN during a live interview Thursday that the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant was back online and has power at this point. Austin moved to a citywide boil water notice Wednesday night after the water treatment plant lost power.
The mayor still urged Austin residents to conserve water as much as they possibly can.
Meanwhile Austin Water said in a news conference later that day 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, they said at that point.
Llano suffers boil water notice
The City of Llano let residents know they were also under a boil water notice after a water main break caused the system to lose pressure.
ERCOT says controlled outages are done
ERCOT says all controlled outages were done Thursday. This means utility companies, including Austin Energy, Oncor, and others, could bring back all power online as each utility sees fit.
But Austin Energy said at the news conference there’s no firm answer on when power will be fully restored.
Pres. Biden gets involved
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.
FRIDAY, FEB. 19, 2021
On Friday, Feb. 19, Williamson County confirmed the death of a 64-year-old man that occurred during the winter storm.
“Unfortunately, we can attribute at least one loss of life to this weather event,” said Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell in a press release.
Update from Pres. Biden
The White House released this from Communications Director Jen Psaki:
The President, as you know, spoke late in the evening with Texas Governor Greg Abbott — we put out that readout late last night — about the severe storms facing central and southern parts of the United States, including Texas. He reiterated that the federal government will continue to work hand in hand with state and local authorities in Texas to bring relief and address the critical needs of the families affected.
As you heard him convey this morning, he will have a call with the Acting FEMA Administrator later this afternoon, which we will provide you all a readout of. He has asked his team to expedite the request made by the leaders in Texas.
The process — how it works is that they send that request to FEMA, FEMA does an assessment; it then goes to our team in the White House under Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall. He’s asked for that to be expedited, and we will look to approve that and get them the relief and resources as quickly as possible.
We expect that the initial focus will be on the counties that are most impacted and prioritized by FEMA, but we will see as it goes through and is expedited through the process.
Power and water updates
Austin Water said at this point they were making “good progress” to restore water pressure throughout Austin. Director Greg Meszaros said in a news conference he felt confident most homes without water would get it in the next 48 hours.
ERCOT at this point had officially gone back to operations as normal and grid reserves had been replenished, they said in an email. Local outages were still being reported in the thousands.
SATURDAY, FEB. 20, 2021
Austin residents still under boil water notice
Austin’s boil water notice remained in effect Saturday. The City of Austin also issued emergency water use restrictions as Austin Water works to build up its reservoir.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality reported at this point more than 14 million Texans were under a boil water notice.
Meanwhile, the City of San Marcos lifted the boil water advisory for all water customers this day, so did the City of Georgetown in many areas.
Gov. Abbott discusses costly energy bills
On Sunday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott addressed the state from San Antonio to give the latest on relief efforts for residents in the wake of the devastating winter storms.
The Sunday afternoon briefing came a day after Abbott met with other state officials to discuss concerns over possibly costly energy bills for residents after the weather. Abbott provided an update on emergency efforts to get all Texans power, water and food.
Safe drinking water and water service, in general, remains the biggest issue affecting Texans. Abbott says “water is being restored to communities across the state.”