City officials announce opening of resource centers to help residents affected by ice storm
AUSTIN, Texas - Wednesday night, less than 1,000 Austin Energy customers remained without power, as frustration continues to grow over the city’s response to last week’s ice storm.
Earlier Wednesday, City Manager Spencer Cronk and other city officials announced the opening of new resource centers to help affected residents with just hours until City Council takes action to possibly fire him.
"I'm happy to report that more than 99.5% of customers now have power," said Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk Wednesday afternoon.
Cronk says Austin Energy and its out-of-state partners continue working around the clock to restore power, but that many remaining outages are very complex.
- Austin Energy expects to restore power to 'nearly all' customers by Feb. 12
- Austin City Council to evaluate employment of City Manager Cronk in wake of ice storm
- Austin City Council to discuss Austin Energy's performance during winter storm
"In some cases, broken equipment is under piles of debris, and we've had poles that snap from the weight of ice or the force of a falling tree. And those projects can take an entire crew a full day to repair," said Cronk.
Cronk was joined by other city leaders for a press conference at the Montopolis Recreation and Community Center on Montopolis Drive Wednesday afternoon. The center was the first of four resource hubs that have been set up to assist those dealing with the storm’s impact.
"These resource centers are designed to be a one-stop shop to help people get access to essential resources like food, water, shelter," said Austin Public Health Director Adrienne Stirrup.
The city did provide emergency shelter for nearly 1,900 homeless people at the height of the storm, but many are wondering why it took so long to get resources up and running for other residents.
"We were having to wait for make sure that the roads were clear, make sure that debris was not going to get in the way, make sure that it was not a hazardous condition for our citizens to come to a multi-agency resource center," said Austin Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Juan Ortiz,
Despite the slow restoration of power and rollout of resources, Cronk argued the response to the storm was actually the result of lessons learned from Winter Storm Uri in 2021.
"You'll be able to see from how we have looked at the after action report from winter storm Uri and how ice and energy in particular has really adopted and implemented many of those recommendations, if not all," said Cronk.
Dr. Brian Smith, a political science professor at St. Edward’s University, says Cronk putting himself front and center now is no accident.
"I think he understands now that if I want to keep this job, I'm going to have to be a lot more visible to people in Austin," said Smith.
City council is set to take up an emergency item Thursday morning to "evaluate" Cronk’s employment in light of the outage response.
"You're just looking at a vote from council and the city manager's done," said Smith.
Smith says the combination of the botched city response two years ago, plus the current debacle, could mean Cronk is out.
"This is about a multitude of incidents," said Smith. "And for Spencer Cronk, people look and say, ‘you're making all this money. Why isn't the sun shining?’"
The remaining Multi-Agency Resource Centers (MARCs) are as follows:
- Date: Thursday, February 9Times: 3:00 – 8:00 pmLocation: North Austin YMCA: 1000 W Rundberg Ln, Austin, TX 78758
- Times: 3:00 – 8:00 pmLocation: North Austin YMCA: 1000 W Rundberg Ln, Austin, TX 78758
- Location: North Austin YMCA: 1000 W Rundberg Ln, Austin, TX 78758
- Dates: Friday, February 10Times: 9:00 am – 7:00 pmLocation: Austin Convention Center: 500 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78701
- Times: 9:00 am – 7:00 pmLocation: Austin Convention Center: 500 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78701
- Location: Austin Convention Center: 500 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78701
- Dates: Saturday, February 11Times: 10:00 am – 4:00 pmLocation: Austin Community College Riverside, 1020 Grove Blvd, Austin, TX 78741
- Times: 10:00 am – 4:00 pmLocation: Austin Community College Riverside, 1020 Grove Blvd, Austin, TX 78741
- Location: Austin Community College Riverside, 1020 Grove Blvd, Austin, TX 78741
The City of Austin and its partner agencies have also opened a crisis hotline to help those dealing with mental health issues related to the storm and its aftermath. The number is (512) 472-HELP.
For an overview of the resources available to Austinites, click here.
Additional details about recovery resources, click here.