Central Texas Cleaning Up After High Winds (Update)
Update (6:58 a.m.): About 1,200 Austin Energy customers remain without power this morning. High winds yesterday broke tree limbs and brought down power lines.
At one point yesterday afternoon, around 18,000 Austin Energy customers were without power.
Right now, Austin Energy repair and tree trimming crews are working to fix harder-to-reach problems. An Austin Energy spokesperson tells KUT News that power should be restored to most customers by early this afternoon.
Customers should report outages by calling (512) 322-9100.
Capital Metro says crews were able to remove a tree from the MetroRail tracks, but rail service is running about 45 minutes behind schedule. .
Update (6:17 p.m.): Austin Energy says power has been restored to thousands of customers. They now say about 5,000 homes and businesses have no electricity.
"The largest outages affect about 1,860 customers in the W. Howard Lane/Wells Branch area; 1,300 customers in the Red River/26th Street area; and 1,000 customers in the N. Lamar/Airport Blvd area," Austin Energy spokesperson Ed Clark said in an email.
Clark says they expect crews to have repairs done in those areas "by mid-evening," depending on the weather. You can always check the situation on Austin Energy's outage map.
Our sister station KUTX 98.9 FM has been knocked off the air. You can still stream them online at kutx.org.
Capital Metro says MetroRail service is delayed about 15 to 20 minutes because of a tree that fell on the tracks. Passengers are being moved from stations by bus.
Austin police are asking people to avoid calling 9-1-1 to report power outages. Contact your electric utility instead. If it's Austin Energy, the number is 512-322-9100.
Update (5:02 p.m.): Austin Energy says 18,000 customers are without power. The utility says it has 20 crews working to repair lines knocked down by high winds and falling tree limbs, but it isn't estimating when specific outages will be fixed.
Meantime, Austin firefighters are on the scene of a fire in East Austin near the airport.
The fire is at an Austin Water Utility composting facility. Austin Water spokesman Jason Hill says the chemical reaction that happens in composting piles as the material breaks down creates a lot of heat. And he says some of the piles ignited in the high winds.
“Without question the high winds are creating challenge for the firefighters to keep the piles and fires within those piles contained," he said.
Hill says the fires are still contained to the piles, but they are making a lot of smoke. Drivers in the area are being urged to use caution.
Update (3:25 p.m.): Austin Energy is currently responding to more than 100 locations that need repairs, according to utility spokesperson Ed Clark.
Austin Energy crews working to restore service to about 10,000 customers with wind-related outages in up to 150 locations.
— Austin Energy (@austinenergy) February 25, 2013
Clark says high winds are responsible for downed tree limbs and tilted power lines, causing outages for many customers. View an online map of reported AE outages.
High winds also carry the potential for wildfires. City council member Mike Martinez says the Austin Fire Department "is currently responding to 10 different calls at the same time for wires down/arcing and fire alarms and a small grass fire." View AFD's Active Fire Incident Page for the latest.
Update (2:30 p.m.): The blizzard in North Texas and high local winds are affecting flights into and out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport today and tonight. American Airlines is cancelling flights that go through its hub at D/FW International.
Best advice: check flight times on the ABIA website or with your carrier before heading to the airport.
Update (12:13 p.m.): The strong Pacific cold front responsible for the "crippling" blizzard in the Panhandle has also brought high winds and a “red flag warning” to Central Texas.
The warning is due to the critical fire conditions expected today from high winds; outdoor burning is strongly discouraged.
Original post (9:02 a.m): The Texas Panhandle is seeing heavy snow this morning.
The National Weather Service has extended its blizzard warning in the panhandle until 3 a.m. Tuesday. Eight to fourteen inches of snow is forecast for Amarillo, along with 40 to 60 mph winds.
Four to six inches of snow, and 45 mph winds, have already been reported in the area.
School districts across the panhandle have closed its doors today including Texas Tech University in Lubbock and West Texas A&M University in Amarillo.
Texas Department of Transportation calls it a blizzard of “historic proportions” and says many roads in the area are impassable. The agency is recommending people stay off the roads if possible.
The blizzard is expected to last until early Tuesday morning.