Travis County sees surge of 911 calls, emergencies during winter storm

Photo of cars driving in the snow
Travis County Dispatch received 7,015 911 calls during the winter storm. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Travis County Dispatch received 7,015 911 calls during the winter storm. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Travis County saw a surge in 911 calls and requests for help during this week’s winter storm, along with other calls for emergency assistance.

Maj. Craig Smith of the Travis County Sheriff’s Office said at a Feb. 19 Travis County Commissioners Court meeting that Travis County Emergency Dispatch received 7,015 emergency 911 calls while the severe winter weather conditions persisted, compared to 3,700 calls during the same dates in January. Dispatch also received 4,460 calls to its nonemergency line.

Smith did not specify the exact dates he was using as a time frame.

Due to heightened need, Smith said the sheriff's office redeployed all its units to patrol duty to respond to calls for service—including regular patrol staff, traffic staff, the stray-livestock unit and even some of the county’s SWAT team.

“We were able to double up our numbers on patrol to take care of calls for service. That’s been going on since this weather event started and will continue probably throughout the weekend,” Smith said.


To serve residents that had lost phone service, the sheriff's office kept a number of law enforcement buildings open and staffed so people could walk or drive up to seek help for emergencies. That option will continue for the time being, he said.

“That did work out well for us because we did have some people that completely lost power, lost water, phones died, so they drove to the nearest police station. Then we helped them with transport to cold-weather shelters,” Smith said.

Other types of service calls also increased during the week’s inclement weather: According to Smith, sheriff's office staff responded to 210 road collisions, compared to fewer than 100 during the same time frame in January. That number does not include a number of minor collisions without any resulting injuries, Smith said. Additionally, the sheriff's office responded to 191 traffic hazards and 262 “assist motorist” calls.

The sheriff's office also answered 65 calls relating to cruelty to animals—which can include leaving pets outside in freezing weather.
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


MOST RECENT

Q2 Stadium in North Austin
U.S. women’s national soccer team to debut Q2 Stadium next month

The USWNT takes on the Nigerian national team at Q2 Stadium ahead of the summer Olympic Games.

Juneau was adopted at Austin Animal Center in November 2019. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Animal Center reaches critical capacity, opens doors to all adopters for first time since May 2020

Austin and Travis County’s animal shelter, Austin Animal Center, reached negative kennel space May 4, meaning there are more dogs than available kennels, according to a release from the city of Austin.

Residential appraisal valuations have been sent to Travis County property owners. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Travis Central Appraisal Districts says hot housing market is reflected in 2021 appraisals

Property owners have until May 17 to file a protest of their home's appraisal.

Photo of the exterior of La Barbecue
La Barbecue opens new space, plus six more new Austin restaurants

Downtown Italian and Greek eateries are among those joining the Austin restaurant scene this spring.

The Austin City Council is set to meet May 6 to go over a 70-item agenda. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Hall notebook: Votes on revamped APD cadet academy, possible shift in homeless strategy on tap May 6

Council may look to the possibility of establishing designated campgrounds for the Austin's homeless this spring, with a citywide public camping ban set to go into effect May 11.

Austin City Council will vote on whether to reboot the police department's training academy May 6. (Courtesy Austin Police Department)
Benchmarks for 'reimagined' APD cadet academy on track ahead of City Council commencement vote

Training of the Austin Police Department's 144th cadet class could get underway next month following an overhaul of the academy's instructional process and curriculum.

Ryan Companies will be building 350 homes near the Mueller control tower. (Rendering courtesy Lake Flato Architects)
Coming soon to Austin: Vaquero Taquero adding a downtown location, Komé opening at the airport, Mueller to add 350 homes and more

A new ice cream shop is also opening in East Austin and an apartment project is being built near House Park.

Photo of a gloved hand holding a vaccine vial with the words "vaccine news" superimposed
Austin-area health officials prep for vaccines to open to kids 12 and up

Austin-Travis County interim Health Authority Mark Escott said he expects the FDA to authorize Pfizer's vaccine for kids 12 and up within a week.

New penalties for camping and several other activities will be enforced after the May 1 election is certified and Proposition B's homeless ordinances are in effect. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
With Proposition B's passage, Austin City Council looks to solidify homelessness summit goals, may consider designated campgrounds

The city may look to the concept of temporary designated campsites to house individuals experiencing homelessness after a new camping ban enacted through Proposition B goes into effect.

Photo of hands in purple gloves prepared a vaccine vial
As Travis County receives fewer vaccines this week, state asks for 'one more big push' in distribution

The Texas Department of State Health Services is shifting its distribution model for vaccines moving forward.