Feb 1, 2023 - News

More than a quarter of Austin Energy customers lose power amid freeze

Texas Division of Emergency Management chief Nim Kidd (left) and Gov. Greg Abbott observe weather patterns during a briefing on Jan. 31, 2023 in Austin. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Freezing rain left thousands without power on Wednesday morning and emergency officials scrambled to respond to dozens of wrecks and downed power lines and tree limbs.

Driving the news: The National Weather Service extended its winter storm warning through early Thursday, with freezing rain expected across Texas.

  • As of 11am, Austin Energy reported that more than 25% of its customers were without power — nearly 150,000 — across the area because of the ice weighing down power lines and snapping tree limbs.
  • Nearly 300,000 customers lacked power statewide, most along a swath from San Antonio northeast to Paris.

Zoom in: Local and state officials continue to urge residents to avoid the roads, and Central Texas school districts announced Wednesday closures, a second day of shuttered campuses.

  • Austin fire officials responded to more than 90 incidents on the road Tuesday, including a 10-vehicle pileup that left one person dead in South Austin.
  • By Wednesday, an increase in calls were related to downed power lines and tree limbs, which hit homes and fell onto roads.
  • Meanwhile, local medics reported an uptick in falls related to ice, carbon monoxide exposure and injured pedestrians and drivers involved in wrecks across the area.
  • More than 540 flights were delayed or canceled as ice closed airport parking ramps.

What they're saying: The Texas Department of Transportation estimated that the ice had created hazardous driving conditions for 1,600 roads across the state.

  • "The conditions right now are dangerous, and they are likely to get worse," Marc Williams, the department's executive director, warned in a Tuesday press conference.

Of note: The extended freeze again raised questions about the Texas electric grid's ability to continue powering homes, but grid officials said they remain confident in its ability to power the state.

  • Public Utility Commission chairman Peter Lake told reporters there is "some icing on the wind generators," but the grid has "adequate reserves" to meet demand.
  • Most outages caused by the storm likely would be due to ice accumulation on power lines, officials said.

Be smart: If you have to drive, check drivetexas.org for up-to-date road conditions.

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