With more freezing rain coming to Austin, road conditions not expected to improve any time soon

Traffic backed up on 51st Street in East Austin after a car was unable to pass through icy conditions. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Traffic backed up on 51st Street in East Austin after a car was unable to pass through icy conditions. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Traffic backed up on 51st Street in East Austin after a car was unable to pass through icy conditions. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

As more than 170,000 Austin Energy customers remain without power, a difficult choice has been presented to many Austin residents: Stay at home and stay as warm as possible in homes with no electricity and consistently falling temperatures, or brave icy and unsafe roads to get to a friend or family member's house or to one of the city's warming centers.

Unfortunately, the dangerous condition of the roads is not likely to get any better for at least a few days. According to the National Weather Service, freezing rain and sleet will drop a tenth to a quarter of an inch of ice from the night of Feb. 16 into the morning of Feb. 17, which will make travel conditions even more dangerous.

Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk said crews from the city and other organizations have been working nonstop to get roads into the best shape possible, but the situation is going to get worse before it gets better.

"We won’t likely see this snow melt until the weekend. For the next several days, the road conditions are going to be very challenging," Cronk said.

If individuals do have to make emergency trips on the roads, officials are strongly pushing for them to do so during daylight hours, before temperatures drop and conditions worsen at night.


The work Austin Public Works crews have been performing since winter weather started affecting the area includes treating roads; clearing snow and ice around hospitals, fire stations, emergency medical service stations and the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport; and providing sanding escorts to Capital Metro vehicles supporting the city's emergency response.

Capital Metro shut down service Feb. 16 and will continue that suspension through the entire day Feb. 17. However, the public transportation agency is assisting the city by providing transportation for individuals who need a place to sleep to shelters and for those needing life-saving trips.

Capital Metro COO Dottie Watkins said she is not sure when the agency will resume service, but with conditions not improving—and likely getting worse—there was no way to do so Feb. 17.

President and CEO Randy Clarke said fares are not being collected until further notice, even when service does resume, in an effort to get travelers out of the cold quickly and minimize the economic impact of the crisis.

"Our city is just not set up, infrastructure-wise, for this once-in-70-year event," Clarke said.
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at jflagler@communityimpact.com


MOST RECENT

Photo from inside a movie theater
Alamo Drafthouse files for bankruptcy, closes theaters in downtown Austin and New Braunfels

Most theaters will remain open under an asset purchase agreement to the company's senior lending partners.

Winter Storm Uri ice
Winter storm closures deepen financial woes for Austin’s pandemic-battered restaurant scene

Some restaurants in Austin lost thousands of dollars in lost business due to business closures during Winter Storm Uri.

Photo of a SpaceX sign
Elon Musk's SpaceX is coming to Austin

Job postings on the SpaceX website say the company is breaking ground on a "state of the art" manufacturing facility in Ausin.

Austin ISD and other districts in Central Texas are waiting for further TEA guidance on mask requirements. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
UPDATE: Most Central Texas school district say they will continue requiring students, staff to wear masks; updated TEA guidelines expected later this week

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced March 2 that mask mandates and business capacity restrictions will be lifted in Texas.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced March 2 that mask mandates and business capacity restrictions will be lifted in Texas. (Courtesy Office of the Texas Governor)
Gov. Greg Abbott lifts statewide mask mandate, business restrictions in Texas

With vaccine distribution increasing, Gov. Greg Abbott said "people and businesses don't need the state telling them how to operate." Some local officials are pushing back, saying the relaxed restrictions are coming too early.

Photo of a woman receiving a vaccine
Travis County vaccine providers receive 46,540 doses week of March 1

Seton Medical Center in Austin received the largest allocation this week, with over 14,000 doses.

Matthew McConaughey, see, here at SXSW 2019, will be one of this year's virtual SXSW speakers. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW)
SXSW's virtual festival, the PGA Tour returns and more events in Austin this month

From Amplify Austin Day beginning 6 p.m. on March 4 to Bill Gates discussing his new book, "How to Avoid a Climate Disaster," here are eight events happening this month in the Austin area, including both in-person and virtual options.




Ice covered utility lines across Austin. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
SHARE YOUR STORY: How did you survive the Texas freeze?

We want to hear how the winter storms affected you.

Q2 Stadium
Austin FC preseason scrimmages planned for late March start

Preseason matches for Austin FC will be held in South Austin ahead of the team's inaugural MLS season.

Lawmakers began hearings Feb. 25 to hear from energy executives about what led to dayslong power outages following a Feb. 14 winter storm. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin weekly roundup: The storm is over, but the questions are just beginning

In hearings last week, a state senator from the Houston area called the power and water outages in Texas "the largest trainwreck in the history of degregulated electricity."

Crawfish season,  from mid-January through June, is the busiest time at Shoal Creek Saloon. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
Shoal Creek Saloon brings a piece of New Orleans to Austin

COVID-19 has dealt the Shoal Creek Saloon a blow, but owner Ray Canfield is hanging in there and said he was prepared for a disaster. He just thought it would be another flood, not a virus.