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    More than 170,000 Austin Energy customers lost power as a winter storm hits Central Texas

    February 2, 2023 - KUT News


      More than 170,000 Austin Energy customers lost power as a winter storm hits Central Texas

      Thursday, February 2, 2023 by KUT News

      More than 30 percent of Austin Energy customers didn't have power Wednesday as a winter storm continued to roll through Central Texas, causing ice to accumulate on power lines, utility poles and tree limbs.

      The electric utility says crews are working to fix the outages – which have grown throughout the day – but icy roadways and frozen equipment are slowing things down.

      "It is not possible to provide estimated restoration times," Austin Energy said in a tweet at 11:30 a.m. "It's possible some customers may be without power for 12-24 hours."

      The utility company advised customers to make emergency plans and prepare to relocate, if needed, before 5 p.m.

      The outages, which have affected more than 170,000 residential and commercial electricity users, are being caused by local issues and are not the result of a statewide electric grid problem. Williamson and Hays counties are also seeing outages.

      Austin Energy customers can report a power outage by calling 512-322-9100 or by texting "OUT" to 287846. They can also report and check on the status of outages on Austin Energy's outage map.

      Downed power lines have also caused problems for drivers. Just before 3 p.m., Interstate 35 in North Austin was shut down in both directions from Wells Branch to Grand Avenue Parkway because of fallen lines, the Travis County Sheriff's Office tweeted. The southbound frontage road at Grand Avenue was also closed. The Texas Department of Transportation said all lanes had reopened around 4 p.m.

      TxDOT continues to urge people to stay off the roads if they can. Here's what to know if you do need to drive. The power outages are also affecting Austin traffic signals. If you come across a traffic light that is not working or is flashing red, treat it as a four-way stop.

      Residents in Travis County Water District 10, around West Lake Hills, have been asked to conserve water because of a power outage at the McConnel Pump Station. The county said Austin Energy is working to restore service.

      Michael Minasi/KUT. Trees have fallen in Austin neighborhoods as ice forms on branches from freezing rain.

      The power went out for Northwest Austin resident India Gail this morning around 9. A couple of hours into the outage, she started walking in the cold with her twin daughters and their dog to get to a friend's house that had power to wait out the outage.

      "They want to watch TV," Gail said, referring to her 5-year-old daughters. "If it was just me, I might stick it out longer."

      She wasn't sure when they would get it back on, so she and her family packed some food and crafts, and put their dog Mango into a sweater, and set out.

      "We're going to go hang over there and keep warm and store our food," she said, carrying a bag of yogurt, lunch meat and cheese.

      Closures and cancellations

      Many Central Texas school districts and businesses remained closed Wednesday. The National Weather Service is expecting freezing rain to continue through Thursday morning, so more closures are ahead.

      Austin ISD, Del Valle ISD, Pflugerville ISD and Round Rock ISD have announced closures for Thursday. (Visit your local school district's website for the latest information.) UT Austin will also remain closed Thursday.

      Capital Metro services were suspended Wednesday. The agency said it plans to resume bus service Thursday, but it won't be on a normal schedule: Buses won't get on the road until 10 a.m. and they'll be on a reduced schedule. MetroRail will not run Thursday.

      Most local government offices and facilities are closed, including in the cities of Austin, San Marcos and Georgetown, as well as Travis, Hays and Williamson counties.

      Some Austin-area HEB stores are closed, and others have adjusted hours. Many will close at 6 p.m. Wednesday. See a full list here.

      Austin-Bergstrom International Airport's runways and roads are open, said Sam Haynes, an airport spokesperson.

      "The airport is really quiet right now. We haven't had to de-ice anything on the airfield but the north side of the property with the roadways and parking structures have had some ice pop up," Haynes said. "Some walkways and stairwells are closed but all roadways are open."

      The airport has had more than 300 canceled flights in the last 24 hours, according to Flight Aware.

      This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor's reporting partnership with KUT.

      The Austin Monitor's work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here.

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