Texas ice storm: Outages continue as crews work to restore power

Officials with Austin Energy say crews are working to get power back on, but they're not sure when the work will be done.

Many are still without power in the Austin area after a winter storm in Central Texas. As of 5:50 p.m. on February 3, 110,321 Austin Energy customers were without power. You can check for power outages in your area here.

Initially, Austin Energy had predicted that all power would be restored by February 3 at 6 p.m. but by the afternoon of February 2, officials took back that prediction and said that it was unclear when power would be fully restored.

During a 3 p.m. press conference, Travis County Judge Andy Brown issued a disaster declaration for the area. The county is required to do assessments before that decision can be made.


Austin Energy says its crews worked throughout the night and that since 5 p.m. on February 2, it has been able to restore power to an additional 31,585 customers for a total of 172,339 customers restored since the beginning of the ice event.

400 lineworkers from Austin Energy and neighboring utilities, including New Braunfels Utilities, CenterPoint Energy and Renegade, are working to get customers online, officials say.

Crews may be knocking on residents’ doors in order to access Austin Energy equipment, such as energy equipment in a backyard or a utility easement located on a resident’s property. Austin Energy personnel will be clearly identifiable with badges and in Austin Energy vehicles. People are asked to work with them on allowing access as needed.

Austin Water "not impacted" by winter weather event 

Austin Water says the weather event has not impacted it and that it has continued to meet production rates. 

Water storage levels also remain healthy in the distribution system. Austin Water has continued to work closely with Austin Energy to restore power to pumps and lift stations throughout our service area.

Due to two isolated pump station power outages, Austin Water notified 14 customers in the Glenlake subdivision and 24 in the Mount Larson area of the isolated outages. Customers were asked to boil water as a precaution. 

Austin Water had crews on the ground to contact customers directly and deliver multiple cases of water. 

These were isolated events that did not extend to a city-wide boil notice.

What to do to 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.

Why did the ice storm cause so many people to lose power?

Circuit breaks lit up the night sky during the ice storm as an estimated 265,000 Austin Energy customers lost power.

During the Thursday morning thaw, more tree limbs fell, triggering more outages after initially 113,000 were reconnected. 

At a briefing, Jackie Sargent, the General Manager of Austin Energy, was asked why line breaks from trees are a recurring problem for Austin considering the utility has a tree trimming program. She blamed city environmental policies and property owners.

Sargent also blamed weather forecasts, claiming it was their understanding ice accumulation would not be this bad. Austin Energy also defended how they pick areas to get back online first. Locations are determined by the size of the outage.

Austin Mayor Kirk Watson, during the briefing, did indicate mistakes were made in how the crisis was managed.