Austin weekly roundup: This energy and water disaster won't be soon forgotten

Trees were covered in ice throughout Austin after freezing rain fell the night of Feb. 16. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Trees were covered in ice throughout Austin after freezing rain fell the night of Feb. 16. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Trees were covered in ice throughout Austin after freezing rain fell the night of Feb. 16. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Good morning, Austin.

Temperatures were in the 70s on Sunday in the city. Today, the sun is coming out again, and it will warm up to the 60s. It's almost like the Texas weather is making fun of us. "Look at this beautiful day. Forget about that little interruption last week. We're past that now."

But Texans aren't going to move on from last week's winter storms, power outages and loss of water so quickly. It wasn't a blip or a passing news story that will be forgotten once all the lights are turned back on and all the faucets are working again.

What I'm going to remember from this disaster was the anger and fear from our readers who reached out to us desperate for answers. Yes, they wanted to know when their power and water would come back. But in addition to that frustration, they also wanted an outlet for their anger. They wanted to know how this possibly could have happened.

During the crisis, community closed around itself. People checked on their neighbors and even put their own safety at risk to make sure others were safe. I hope our paper helped foster those connections and continues to be a resource to build those strong communities. When the crisis ends and power and water are fully restored, we have another role as journalists: to continue searching for answers.


I firmly believe this crisis will change our state forever. It will never be forgotten by the people who lived through it, and it should not be forgotten by those with the power to make policy. As we follow up with future reporting, ask questions of leaders and ask for accountability, we are not going to let the gravity of this story fade to memory. We are going to remember that fear, anger and desperation we heard from our readers and bring that to our future reporting.

—Jack Flagler, editor, Central Austin and Southwest Austin/Dripping Springs editions

Here are the latest updates to know:

—Austin Water said as of Sunday afternoon, it has built its reserves to 90 million gallons of water in storage, approaching the needed 100 million gallons to help build water pressure throughout its system. Most of the area Austin Water covers was still experiencing low water pressure as of Sunday, with outages remaining concentrated in Southwest and Northwest Austin. The boil-water notice was lifted for some customers the morning of Feb. 22. You can see Austin Water's map here to find out if you are still under the boil notice.

—Austin Energy customers should not expect to see massive bills this month as a result of the price spikes in the wholesale energy market. The local utility provider's base rates are fixed, and any changes have to be approved by Austin City Council. Customers who lost power will not have any charges during the outage. Customers who did not lose power and used more energy than usual to heat their homes and apartments through the cold snap could expect to see bills that are higher than normal based on that increased usage.

—The city and county distributed water at 10 different sites Sunday for those in need and are planning to do the same today. If you have the ability to boil water at home, you are asked to continue doing so. If you can't, volunteers at 16 sites will provide you with one case of water.

—Austin ISD is providing free meals to children and caregivers from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today at 33 different schools. The sites will also be open again on Thursday.

Editor's Note: This story was updated to reflect that Austin's boil water notice was partially lifted the morning of Feb. 22.
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


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