Texas ice storm: More crews join Austin Energy effort to restore power

More crews from other utilities joined Austin Energy's efforts to restore power to residents following the recent ice storm in Central Texas, says the city.

Crews from MP Technologies and Tempest Energy join mutual aid crews from New Braunfels Utilities, CenterPoint Energy, Bird Electric, Renegade and CPS Energy in restoration efforts. More than 600 workers worked through the night to restore power to more than 34,000 customers since 1 p.m. Saturday.

According to Austin Energy's outage map, as of 2:23 p.m. Feb. 5, 38,940 customers are still without power, thanks to 1,548 active outages.

The utility says that restoring power to remaining customers will likely be "more difficult and take longer" because their outages are likely due to more heavily damaged equipment that will require complex repairs. 

What do I do if I'm experiencing an outage?

Customers without power can check Austin Energy's outage map and report their outage online or by texting 287846. Customers who receive a text that an outage in their area has been restored should reply OUT if they still have an outage. Smaller outages can continue after a major circuit has been repaired when secondary power lines or equipment have also been damaged.

Residents should stay away from downed power lines in or near their yards and should instead call 512-322-9100 to report a downed power line; if the line is sparking, call 911. Never touch a power line or any items in contact with a power line.

Residents whose property has experienced damage to electrical equipment are advised to call an electrician because individual repairs must be made before Austin Energy can reenergize power. This may also affect power restoration to your neighbors. Austin Energy’s Electric Service Planning Application form can be found here.
More information about permitting can be found here: https://www.austintexas.gov/emergency-permits.

Crews may knock on residents’ doors to gain access to Austin Energy equipment, such as power lines in a utility easement located on a resident’s property. Austin Energy personnel will be clearly identifiable with badges and in Austin Energy vehicles. Residents are asked to work with them on allowing access as needed.

Residents out driving on Austin roads are asked to remember to slow down and move over for any utility crews working in the field to restore power.

READ MORE: Drivers should move over, slow down for crews restoring power: PEC

How do I avoid "cold load pickup"?

Austin Energy says as crews work to restore power, circuits can become overloaded because of lights, electronics, and thermostats left on before the outage. The utility says this is called "cold load pickup" and it may cause a second outage. 

Customers without power currently can help avoid "cold load pickup" by doing the following:

  • Turning off their thermostats.
  • Turning off or unplugging any fixtures or appliances.
  • Only leaving on one light to indicate when the power is back on.

What repairs to my home require permits?

The City says its Development Services Department will work retroactively with homeowners, business owners and contractors to permit and inspect emergency repairs to ensure work was completed safely. That means that work can begin quickly on repairs. 

Types of repairs that will require permits include:

  • Ruptured or damaged water lines
  • Main electrical service
  • Structural damage

Learn more about emergency repairs and permits here.

READ MORE: How to navigate repairs, insurance claims after Central Texas winter storm

Storm debris management and repairs 

Staff from the Texas Forest Service are assisting in debris gathering and ensuring the right of way is clear. Austin Public Works has also divided the City of Austin into sections to complete this assessment and will continue work throughout the week, scaling up citywide on Monday, says the city. 

The city says that if you're dealing with downed tree limbs, call 3-1-1 to request a collection of down tree limbs due to the storm. Residents should have the limbs at the curb ready for collection at no charge to the customer. 

Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) crews are working to collect storm debris and has enlisted the help of three contract crews to expedite the collection of storm debris materials. Because the damage is widespread throughout the entire City, collections will take some time. Here are some guidelines for storm debris set out correctly and collected as soon as possible.

Austin Water has also extended hours at Hornsby Bend Biosolids Treatment Plant on 2210 S FM 973 on Sunday for brush drop-off until 4:30 p.m. Material will also be accepted during regular business hours, Monday–Saturday. The material will be composted and made into Dillo Dirt. Learn more here.

Residents with physical limitations or financial needs requiring help cleaning up winter storm debris can request volunteer assistance through the Austin Disaster Relief Network through this form.

Austin Transportation working to reset dark traffic signals

As of Sunday morning, 54 traffic signals remain dark; two traffic signals are in flash mode. Drivers are reminded to approach all intersections with caution and treat all dark traffic signals as an all-way stop.

Crews are spending today testing and resetting school zone beacons. However, there is concern several of those systems sustained damage during the storm. Drivers are asked to treat all school zones as active when school resumes.

Texas Gov. Abbott issues disaster declaration

Abbott has issued a disaster declaration for counties impacted by the recent ice storm. 

The declaration includes Denton, Hays, Henderson, Milam, Smith, Travis, and Williamson counties. Additional counties may be added to the declaration as damage assessments are completed.

Read the Governor’s disaster declaration.

Texans are urged to report ice storm damage to homes and businesses using the Individual State of Texas Assessment Tool (iSTAT). The iSTAT damage survey can be filled out in English and Spanish online by clicking on "Ice Storm/Winter Weather January 29 - Ongoing."

READ MORE: Texas ice storm: Disaster declaration issued for Travis County

The details and photos provided in the iSTAT damage reports help emergency management officials determine if the state meets federal requirements for additional disaster assistance, says the governor's office. The submitted information also aids officials in identifying resource needs. Reporting damage through the iSTAT survey is a voluntary activity and is not a substitute for reporting damage to your insurance agency. It does not guarantee disaster relief assistance.