Austin Energy employees receiving threats, being harassed as crews work to restore power

Austin Energy crews are responding to downed tree limbs and impacted power lines across the city of Austin. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Energy crews are responding to downed tree limbs and impacted power lines across the city of Austin. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin Energy crews are responding to downed tree limbs and impacted power lines across the city of Austin. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)

As local line crews work to restore power to parts of the Austin community after an ice storm hit the region Feb. 17, Austin Energy General Manager Jackie Sargent said some workers have reported threats from residents angry about losing power.

Sargent said incidents have ranged from residents distracting crews to verbally harassing employees and throwing things, such as snowballs and rocks, at individuals as they work to restore power.

“Our crews are located across this community right now,” she said during a Feb. 17 news conference. “They are working to restore power for customers. They have been working around the clock and out in the elements and in dangerous conditions. These are essential workers, risking their lives to respond to an emergency, and they are there to help you.”

Sargent said Austin Energy continues to deal with two critical situations: the ongoing outages mandated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to maintain the state’s power grid and the effects of the recent ice storm, including downed trees, icy roads and impacted power lines.

According to Austin Energy, 160,408 customers were without power as of 4:30 p.m. Feb. 17, or about 31% of its customer base. That number has decreased since 10 a.m., when more than 186,000 customers did not have electricity in their homes.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he understands the community’s anger and frustration regarding the lack of power as well as water service in Austin. He asked the community to come together, to conserve energy and water when possible, and to allow Austin Energy professionals to continue working.

“I know we have big issues that we're going to have to deal with. I know the anger and the frustration,” he said Feb. 17. “These workers in the water department, workers in energy and operations, are working 24/7 to try to take this calamity and make sure that we can keep our community safe.”
By Nicholas Cicale
Nick has been with Community Impact Newspaper since 2016, working with the Lake Travis-Westlake and Southwest Austin-Dripping Springs editions. He previously worked as a reporter in Minnesota and earned a degree from Florida State University.


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