Updated Feb. 1, 8 p.m.

At 8 p.m. more than 165,000 Austin Energy customers were without power on Feb. 2 as AE crews continued to work to restore power to areas with downed power lines.

“We've got an outage map that shows more people still without power. So we're going to be restoring power throughout the night,” Public Information Officer Matt Mitchell said. “Some crews will change shifts and new crews will go out and then come back tomorrow and do more work.”

Mitchell said that AE prioritizes critical infrastructure such as hospitals, essential government buildings, and vulnerable populations, such as nursing homes.

“Our next priority is attending to the outages that have the most customers affected,” Mitchell said.

Outages continued to happen throughout the day with more tree limbs falling with the weight of the frozen rain.

“We're kind of playing Whack a Mole—we get one restored, another one will pop up,” he said. “Until we see warmer temperatures which are expected to arrive tomorrow morning, that's going to continue.

Weather conditions are expected to worsen tonight in the Austin/San Antonio area.

“Additional freezing rain will be possible tonight into early Thursday morning across portions of the warning area,” National Weather Service said on its website. City of Austin Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management asked residents to find a place to stay if they had a power outage before 5 p.m. after which weather conditions would worsen.

While AE was prepared for the expected precipitation, the amount of ice was much more than expected, Mitchell said. As the situation changed, AE asked for mutual aid from New Braunfels Utility and CenterPoint Energy which are providing help.

When asked why Austin Energy customers were the most hit, Mitchell said, “We are in the unfortunate sweet spot between mother nature and tree canopy and in this case mother nature decided to deposit ice right down in our service area.”

AE expects all its customers to have power restored by mid-day Feb. 3.

Posted Feb. 1, 11 a.m

More than 50 Austin Energy crews are on the ground trying to repair power lines and restore power to thousands of AE customers on Feb. 1, as Austin remains in the grip of a heavy ice load from overnight winter storm precipitation.

“The entire Austin Energy is right now mobilized,” AE Public Information Officer Matt Mitchell said. “We are very much in an emergency response posture. All of our crews are already in the field.”

At 7:30 a.m. Austin Energy had 28 circuit lockouts, Mitchell said. That means when a power line is damaged for any reason, the circuit it is connected to closes or locks out for safety so there are no live wires on the ground. Customers who receive power through those circuits experience outages, Mitchell said.

An outage map showed more than 145,000 customers were without power in the greater Austin area at 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 1. The number of outages has more than quadrupled since 5 a.m. when 20,000 customers were without power, Mitchell said.

Mitchell said most of the damage is caused by tree limbs falling on power lines.

“Heavy weight added to brittle tree limbs in freezing weather can crack and break [them], and when they come into contact with those wires [it can] cause outages. That is the primary reason why we're seeing hundreds of outages across our service area this morning,” Mitchell said.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning in effect through Feb. 2 with significant ice accumulation impacts in Austin and San Antonio.

“Thankfully, we have low wind, because high winds, even moderate winds can cause a lot more breakages,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said customers should remain indoors and let the crews do their work. He urged people to avoid being on the road as car accidents can cause power outages as well. Customers experiencing outages are encouraged to unplug heavy appliances in their homes so when AE re-energizes circuits slowly, the breakers do not trip again.

“We hope that we've seen the worst of it, but we just can't predict when we're going to see our peak number of outages; I hope we've reached it,” Mitchell said.

Austin Energy reached out to its customers through AE’s Twitter feed to report specific addresses where wires are down as that can cause fire to a home.