Wendi Thompson, 58, woke up Saturday morning to her fourth day in Austin without electricity.
Thompson said she misses hot showers and being able to refrigerate food. However, her biggest concern is that her cellphone, which has an app for diabetics that monitors her glucose levels, needs to be available to her at all times so it can alert her if her blood sugar is too high or low.
Thompson, who is a security guard, said she’s managed to keep her phone on all week by charging it in her vehicle while she’s working.
“Luckily, I have a warm truck I can drive around in,” she said.
Power restoration efforts ongoing
Thompson is one of roughly 68,000 Austinites who still did not have power Saturday afternoon as crews continued to repair power lines brought down by an ice storm last week.
Austin Energy said its crews made significant progress overnight from Friday into Saturday, for a total of 256,307 customers restored since the beginning of the historic weather event.
“In large part, this progress was possible because as temperatures climbed, fewer trees and limbs fell on power lines,” the city of Austin said in a statement Saturday. “However, as crews continue their work, the outage restoration process will become even more complex.”
Earlier in the week, when ice was still on the roads, some crew members stayed at sites overnight because of the dangerous travel conditions, Austin Energy General Manager Jackie Sargent said.
Restoring power to a single circuit can be a multiday effort, the utility’s statement said. Some equipment is in hard-to-reach areas, such as a greenbelt, or buried under extremely heavy debris. For example, a 500-foot steel communications tower in Westlake crashed on a distribution line, four spans of wires and five power poles, city officials said.
“Repairing this site alone will take several days,” the statement said.
Central Texas Food Bank begins emergency food distribution
Thompson was among more than 1,000 households the Central Texas Food Bank estimated it served Saturday to get food and water to those in need. The food bank used Austin Energy’s outage map to determine which parts of the community would likely need it the most, food bank CEO Sari Vatske said.
“There were people struggling even prior to the ice storm,” Vatske said. “It’s unfortunate that there’s a need, but we’re glad to step up and do what we can to help.”
Anyone in need of food or water can find food bank resources at http://centraltexasfoodbank.org/findfood.
The Austin City Council will vote Thursday on a resolution that would direct the city auditor to examine vegetation management and Austin Energy’s response to the ice storm.
“As elected representatives, it is our duty to take charge when challenging times in our community happen,” said Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, who is one of several members sponsoring the resolution. “During the February 2023 freeze, our community needed answers and didn’t receive them.”
Mayor Kirk Watson expects to preside over this week’s council meeting and work session remotely after testing positive for COVID-19, he said in a tweet Saturday morning. Watson said he’ll be isolating at home according to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols.
“This situation is far from ideal, but I’m still in contact with staff and will continue to work and receive storm recovery briefings,” the mayor said.
As Austin Energy continues to repair lines, crews will be knocking on some residents’ doors to access energy equipment in a backyard or in a utility easement on a resident’s property. Austin Energy personnel will be clearly identifiable with badges and in Austin Energy vehicles.
People in Austin with downed tree limbs can call 311 to request a collection at no charge. Customers must have the limbs at the curb, ready for collection. Austin Resource Recovery has enlisted the help of three contract crews that will be working alongside city staff to expedite the collection of storm debris materials, officials said.
Item limits will be temporarily waived for storm debris collection.
Most Austin district schools to open on Monday
The Austin Independent School District announced Saturday that most campuses will reopen for classes on Monday. A few schools remain without power, including:
- St. Elmo
The district will provide an update regarding those schools by noon Sunday.