After winter storm, Austin puts together a plan for better temporary shelters

Snow and ice cover the pond on the southeastern side of the Mueller development in East Austin in February. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Snow and ice cover the pond on the southeastern side of the Mueller development in East Austin in February. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Snow and ice cover the pond on the southeastern side of the Mueller development in East Austin in February. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

The winter storm that hit Texas in February left millions—including hundreds of thousands of Austin Energy customers—without power for days amid sub-freezing temperatures.

While the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate are moving forward with legislation that would reform the way the state's power grid is managed, Austin City Council is focusing on creating better community spaces to help local residents recover from a disaster.

On April 8, City Council passed a resolution introduced by District 9 Council Member Kathie Tovo that directs City Manager Spencer Cronk to look into what the city is calling "resilience hubs"—a phrase that comes from a 2020 Pew Charitable Trust report analyzing similar venues in Baltimore and Minneapolis.

These hubs are neighborhood centers that could provide safe places for temporary shelter during extreme heat or disasters, and during non-emergencies, they could provide space for programming and community-building. According to the resolution, potential locations could be schools, recreation centers, libraries or other "trusted, well-known, community-managed facilities."

The resolution said the facilities should be equipped with "redundant power and water" so that they would be disconnected from traditional infrastructure and be able to sustain operations even if the city were to experience widespread power or water outages.


Cronk has been directed to return to City Council in June with a budget and recommendations on how to equip the locations for disasters.