Austin, Travis County release reports following Winter Storm Uri, recommend heightened preparations for future events

Photo of people waiting in line outside Dollar General in the snow
Austin residents wait in line to buy supplies during the February winter storms. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin residents wait in line to buy supplies during the February winter storms. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

The city of Austin and Travis County on Nov. 4 released reports analyzing their preparation and response to February's winter storms along with recommendations for how the area can better prepare for future severe weather situations.

The published findings, called "The Winter Storm Uri After-Action Reports", are an analysis of 100-plus documents, plans, surveys and staff interviews, and contain 132 recommendations to improve preparations for future weather emergencies and prevent many of the impacts seen during Winter Storm Uri.

According to the reports, the storms caused $195 billion in damages across Texas with 2,449 calls to Austin Fire Department reporting broken pipes, 1,500 emergency water shutoffs for city water customers and 739 traffic crashed responded to the AFD. The city's Utility Customer Care Center received more than 100,000 calls regarding power outages while the state's electric grid struggled to meet electric demand, and a boil-water notice persisted for seven days as Austin Water's distribution system lost pressure.

“Both county and city staff worked tirelessly during the storm. Still, there are many lessons to learn so, in the future, we better recognize, support and institutionalize the important and necessary grassroots aspect of our community’s emergency response," Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in a statement.

The city and county also identified a list of "key recommendations" to focus on moving forward. They include but are not limited to:

  • revamping emergency planning to anticipate "multiple hazard events with cascading impacts and infrastructure failure";

  • considering the possibility of adding "resilient water infrastructure" for hospitals and local government facilities;

  • identifying durable emergency shelters with adequate heating, water and other utilities;

  • developing an emergency feeding plan to distribute shelf-stable food to community members in need; and

  • upgrading the city and county's emergency transportation fleet, providing access to emergency transportation and improving roadway safety during icy conditions.


Austin Energy and Austin Water published their own internal assessments as well, identifying areas for improvement in communication with customers, winterization of water and wastewater treatment plants and other utility resources, and bolstering storage resources of chemicals and other supplies for which procurement could be hindered by supply chain issues, among other concerns. According to the utilities, some of the improvements named in their reports are already underway.


"City and county staff responded to hundreds of traffic crashes, distributed food and water, and mobilized temporary and longer-term shelter for hundreds of people seeking safe haven from the storm. Our community partners also played an important role during these critical events to help people in need, and we are thankful for their efforts," City Manager Spencer Cronk said in a news release.

With winter coming soon, the city and county also urged residents to make their own preparations by building emergency kits with enough food, water, batteries and first aid supplies to last at least a week. Residents can also reference www.readycentraltexas.org for more recommendations.

The after-action reports will be discussed in greater detail at a City Council meeting Nov. 4 and at a Travis County Commissioners Court meeting in the future. Community Impact Newspaper will update this story following the meetings.
By Olivia Aldridge

Reporter, Central Austin

Olivia joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in March 2019. She covers public health, business, development and Travis County government. A graduate of Presbyterian College in South Carolina, Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas. Her work has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times.



MOST RECENT

Crust Pizza Co. is opening soon in Montgomery and Willis. (Courtesy Crust Pizza Co.)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: 5 businesses coming to McKinney; Crust Pizza Co. to open two locations in Montgomery, Willis and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Nov. 30.

Assistant City Manager Rodney Gonzalez answered commissioners' and board members' questions at a Nov. 29 meeting. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
South Austin public engagement threatened by land use commissions moving meeting place, commissioners say

Land use commissions are being asked to move meetings from City Hall to a new space in North Austin, but they say the move raises safety issues.

I Live Here I Give Here encourages individuals to donate to nonprofit organizations in their community. (Courtesy I Live Here I Give Here)
I Live Here I Give Here encourages Austinites to donate to local organizations Nov. 30

The nonprofit is encouraging the community to donate for Giving Tuesday on Nov. 30.

The median home price in the Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto area has risen considerably since last October. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Home sales, costs in Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto remain hotter than Greater Austin; Halal Guys opens in Pearland and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Nov. 29.

The Austin Trail of Lights will open nighly from Nov. 28 through Dec. 31. (Courtesy Trail of Lights Foundation)
PHOTOS: Austin Trail of Lights returns to Zilker Park this week

The traditional holiday light show is open from Nov. 28 through New Year's Eve.

Commissioners on Nov. 22 voted to approve a density change to preliminary plans for The Preserve, a neighborhood that city documents said could include 565 single-family homes at the northeast corner of Teel and Panther Creek Parkways. (Courtesy city of Frisco)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Neighborhood near PGA Frisco could see larger lots; ERCOT says Texas power grid ready for expected winter demand and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Nov. 24.

Local and state officials have made statements welcoming Samsung to Taylor following the announcement that the city will be home to its new $17 billion semiconductor fabrication plant. (Courtesy KXAN)
State, local officials react to Texas governor, Samsung joint announcement

Local and state officials have made statements welcoming Samsung to Taylor following the announcement that the city will be home to its new $17 billion semiconductor fabrication plant. 

Austin City Council will meet for a work session dedicated to housing affordability discussions Nov. 30. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Austin City Hall notebook: Council set for dive into housing, development after Thanksgiving break

A Nov. 30 work session could see city leaders work through a range of adjustments to city development code, rules and processes.

The new initiative will build the communities capacity to address homelessness along with collecting data from people who have increased access to those in need. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
ECHO, St. David's Foundation launch new program to build a community approach to homelessness

The program aims to address inequities in traditional homelessness response.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sits beside Samsung CEO Dr. Kinam Kim as he announces the company is brining a $17 billion facility to Taylor. (Screnshot via KXAN)
Samsung makes it official: Announcement from Governor's Mansion confirms $17B facility coming to Taylor

Nearly a year after Williamson County officials began pitching Samsung to bring a megafacility to the area, the electronics giant has made it official.

Bill Curci is a chief operating partner for Shuck Me, a seafood restaurant in Fort Worth. (Bailey Lewis/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Fort Worth restaurant Shuck Me is fishing- and family-centric; a guide to Houston's 2021 Thanksgiving Day Parade and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Nov. 23.