Emergency crews warn drivers of what could become a historic winter weather weekend

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Emergency crews are on standby all night and will be all weekend as the weather worsens.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration in Texas, preparing state departments for severe weather. The following are the departments and their responsibilities:

  • Texas Department of Transportation: Winter weather roadway preparation equipment and response crews as well as road condition monitoring.
  • Texas Highway Patrol, Texas Department of Public Safety: Courtesy patrols to assist stranded motorists along major travel corridors.
  • Texas Military Department: Winter weather equipment and personnel to support Amarillo, Wichita Falls, Abilene, Fort Worth, and Waco to assist in stranded motorist operations.
  • Texas Parks and Wildlife Department: Four wheel drive vehicles and personnel to assist with stranded motorists along major travel corridors.
  • Texas A&M Forest Service: Motor graders and personnel to assist with snow/ice clearance and saw crews to assist with removal of downed trees.
  • Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, Texas Task Force 1: Search and rescue equipment and teams. 
  • Public Utility Commission of Texas:  Monitoring and reporting of power outages and monitoring of any issues impacting the power generation capability in the state.
  • Texas Animal Health Commission: Response equipment and personnel to address livestock concerns due to frigid temperatures.

Locally, emergency crews are on high alert and have already been put to the test.

From noon on Thursday until noon on Friday, Austin-Travis County EMS crews responded to nearly 650 calls for service. There will be 45 ambulances in service, responding to emergencies on Friday night into Saturday morning.

Between noon on Thursday to around noon on Friday, the Austin Fire Department responded to more than 800 calls for service — that’s around 300 more than the typical 24-hour window.

Brad Wheelis with the Texas Department of Transportation is warning people the roads will be in bad shape, even with the pre-treatments already underway. Wheelis said the chemicals used will slow down the freezing process, but not stop it altogether. There are around 9,000 lane square miles of Austin roadways which TxDOT must treat.

“Help us out, stay home. Because if you stay home you don’t have to worry about defensive driving, you don’t have to worry about slowing down, and you don’t have to worry that you’re not coming home to your family at the end of the day,” Wheelis said.

Wheelis said if you do have to drive, remember these four basic tips:

  1. Slow down. Drive the speed you are comfortable with based on the present conditions.
  2. Put plenty of distance between you and the other drivers around you. This is what is called defensive driving.
  3. Pump the brakes if you are sliding, don’t slam on them.
  4. Buckle Up. C’mon, that should be instinctual by now.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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