Guymon Daily Herald
Frustrated Texans endure winter storm with no electricity, heat
AUSTIN, Texas — Thousands of frustrated Texans shivered in their homes Thursday after more than a day without power, including many in the state capital, as an icy winter storm that has been blamed for at least 10 traffic deaths lingered across much of the southern U.S.
Even as temperatures finally pushed above freezing in Austin — and were expected to climb past 50 degrees (10 Celsius) on Friday — the relief will be just in time for an Arctic front to drop from Canada and threaten northern states. New England in particular is forecast to see the coldest weather in decades, with wind chills that could dive lower than minus 50.
Across Texas, 430,000 customers lacked power Thursday, according to PowerOutage.us. But the failures were most widespread in Austin, where frustration mounted among more than 156,000 customers over 24 hours after their electricity went out, which for many also meant their heat. Power failures have affected about 30% of customers in the city of nearly a million at any given time since Wednesday.
Allison Rizzolo, who lost power in Austin, told KEYE-TV that she wished there were more clarity from the city on what to do or expect.
“I get that there’s a fine line between preparedness and panic, but I wish they’d been more aggressive in their communications,” Rizzolo said.
For many Texans, it was the second time in three years that a February freeze — temperatures were in the 30s Thursday with wind chills below freezing — caused prolonged outages and uncertainty over when the lights would come back on.
As outages dragged on, city officials came under mounting criticism for not providing estimates of when power would be restored and for neglecting to hold a news conference until Thursday. Mayor Kirk Watson said Thursday the city would review communication protocols for future disasters.
Austin Energy at one point estimated that all power would be restored by Friday evening, then later stated Thursday that full restoration would now take “longer than initially anticipated.” Soon after, Watson tweeted, “This is a dynamic situation and change is inevitable but Austin Energy must give folks clear and accurate info so they can plan accordingly.”
Unlike the 2021 blackouts in Texas, when hundreds of people died after the state’s grid was pushed to the brink of total failure because of a lack of generation, the outages in Austin this time were largely the result of frozen equipment and ice-burdened trees and limbs falling on power lines. The city’s utility warned all power may not be restored until Friday as ice continued causing outages even as repairs were finished elsewhere.
“It feels like two steps forward and three steps back,” said Jackie Sargent, general manager of Austin Energy.