Austin Energy crew joins Hurricane Beryl recovery effort

President Biden granted a request for a federal emergency disaster declaration in response to Hurricane Beryl. That action will help pay for some debris removal and the installation of protective measures in areas hit hard by the storm.

Assistance is also rolling to Southeast Texas from several local agencies, including Austin Energy.

Twenty Austin Energy employees gathered at the agency's St. Elmo Service Center on Tuesday afternoon. They loaded up 17 vehicles and 7 pieces of specialized equipment that will be used to repair power lines damaged by Hurricane Beryl. 

For some, like journeyman line-worker Harold Reyes, it’s a quick turn-around. He was part of the team Austin Energy sent to Houston following a big storm event there in May. Reyes said every storm may be different, but they know what's waiting for them now.

"I'm sure heat is going to be the issue. Downed trees, maybe some irritated customers, but that's probably about it. Other than the wildlife, snakes, stuff like that, which is no concern," said Reyes.

The Austin Energy convoy joins a larger deployment of 11,000 linemen from across Texas and the country that CenterPoint Energy has called in. 

During an afternoon briefing in Dickinson, a question came up regarding how prepared the Houston power provider actually was. Reportedly, the hurricane's pivot into the Houston area caught officials with CenterPoint by surprise. That claim, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told the reporter who asked him, surprised him.

"If they made mistakes, we don't know if they did or not. If they made mistakes beforehand, then that will be addressed by the PUC. That's their job and by the state legislature. That's our job. But today, Jeremy, I'm not looking at what they didn't do or should have done on Thursday or Friday or Saturday. I'm looking at what they are going to do now," said Patrick.


Lt. Gov Patrick did defend the state's pre-storm planning. Earlier in the day, he toured a staging area and command center located on the Texas A&M Rellis campus.

"These people come from all over the state...we have a few state employees here, but this is how the system works," said Lt. Gov. Patrick.

Part of that system includes help from the federal government. It was announced on Tuesday that some federal aid will be provided.

"So the emergency declaration that Governor Patrick worked on with the president will grant 75% reimbursement for debris cleanup, and that is for all 121 impacted counties at this point. We will be working to make sure that the debris is picked up as fast as possible," said Chief Nim Kidd with TDEM.

That kind of cleanup work is getting underway in Galveston. The beaches there reopened Tuesday but city leaders urged tourists to hold off on visiting.

"Right now. We need to wait and see until we get everything back to normal, get the debris cleaned up, get our power back on those types of things. Then we'll welcome the tourists back. I can't give you an exact time. On what that when that will be, won't be, too far off. But, and a lot of it depends on when CenterPoint can get everybody hot on this electricity," said Galveston Mayor Craig Brown. 

Austin Energy will now play a role in storm recovery.