Update, Saturday PM: Late Saturday evening, the National Weather Service issued a Winter Weather Advisory for Austin and the surrounding area. Light ice accumulation and freezing drizzle are making road conditions hazardous. The Austin Police Department is urging people to stay off the roads as much as they can, and if you must drive, to do so slowly and with caution, avoiding bridges and overpasses. APD is reporting nearly two dozen crashes. The weather advisory is in effect until 6 a.m. Sunday.
- The Austin Independent School District is delaying classes & bus routes by two hours. The district says tardies due to weather will be excused.
- Other area districts on two-hour delays: Manor, Eanes, Del Valle, Round Rock, Pflugerville, Hutto and Leander -- all morning Pre-K has also been canceled at Leander.
- IDEA Allen Academy and College Prep is also on a two-hour weather delay.
- All five Austin Harmony Public School campuses are also on a two-hour delay.
- The Texas School for the Deaf is also operating on a two-hour delay.
- Hays CISD, Bastrop ISD and Lake Travis ISD are operating as normal.
- Chaparral Star Academy has canceled all classes for Friday.
- UT-Austin will open at 10 a.m. today. Classes scheduled for before 10 a.m. today have been rescheduled for the same time on Monday.
- Both of the Concordia University campuses in Austin will be closed until 10 a.m. The San Antonio campus is operating as normal.
- Huston-Tillotson University and Southwestern University will also be closed until 10 a.m.
- Austin Community College Campuses will not open until 10 a.m.
- The City of Austin, Travis County, the State Comptroller's Office, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Railroad Commission are delaying the start of operations for non-emergency personnel until 10 a.m. today.
- Williamson County offices will open as usual today but the Justice of the Peace Office, Precinct 2, will not open until 10 a.m.
TRANSPORTATION: Texas Department of Transportation crews are on the roads this morning spraying de-icer on problem areas.
They’ve seen areas of black ice – especially on overpasses and bridges this morning.
“Right now we’re seeing a lot of issues up in the Williamson County area especially along I-35 and 45 – the toll road up there. But we are aware of it, we’re treating it. We just ask that motorists be patient and that we can go and get these roads treated. We also have a few crashes on 183 that are really slowing down morning commuters. And so we, again, just ask for your patience and if you’re out there driving, look for alternate routes and make sure to slow down – that’s the most important thing," TxDOT Spokesperson Kelli Reyna said.
Reyna says drivers should avoid travel if possible this morning.
- Austin Police are shutting down portions of SH-45 and Highway 620 in Northwest Austin due to icy roadways.
- Some flights to and from Dallas from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport have been canceled this morning. Airport officials say it's best to check the status of flights before heading to the airport.
- Capital Metro will operate its regular weekday service schedule for buses and trains today - though the first trains departing out of Leander were on a delay. UT Shuttle service will begin two hours later than usual. Details about possible route delays will be posted to facebook, twitter and their website.
POWER: The managers of the Texas grid say there should be sufficient power to keep up with demand this weekend. “Basically we’re taking steps to make all generation that can be available, available, in case it’s needed in the next several days," says Robbie Searcy, spokesperson for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which runs the grid that serves much of the state.
After rolling blackouts during a similar extreme cold snap in 2011, Texas electric grid operators took steps to make sure power plants would be online during extreme weather. They’ve also made an effort to increase communication, like creating a smartphone app that sends out notifications of power shortages.
“Generation units that did go offline during that event have taken steps to really develop more robust weatherization plans and be better prepared for winter weather than they have been in the past,” Searcy says.
But while statewide rolling blackouts aren't likely, some localized power outages are occurring. In North Texas, for instance, Oncor was reporting outages in several areas Friday morning affecting as many as 270,000 customers. (Read more at KERA News.) Austin Energy is not currently reporting any outages. Searcy says it's best to keep track of your local utility's status, and report outages when they do happen to them.
Original Story (Dec. 6, 8:24 a.m.): An Arctic Front is bringing wintry weather back to Central Texas.
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for the Austin area and the Hill Country. It goes into effect at midnight and continues until noon on Friday.
Forecasters say there could be freezing rain during that time – which could lead to dangerous driving conditions. Bridges and overpasses may be especially slippery.
The Texas Department of Public Safety warns the cold front could bring up to half an inch of ice to certain areas and lead to power outages. DPS is urging people to avoid unnecessary travel.
“As this winter storm moves into Texas, drivers may encounter freezing rain or sleet that could create extremely dangerous driving conditions,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said in a statement. “We are urging drivers use extra caution in places where winter precipitation or ice are expected, and to monitor the changing weather conditions in their area.”
DPS says Texas Gov. Rick Perry has deployed two teams from the Texas Military Forces to assist with potential problems associated with the winter weather. The teams will be stationed in Wichita Falls and Sherman.
DPS advises people keep the following items in their cars in case of emergency:
- Blanket, sleeping bags and extra clothing
- First-aid kit
- High-calorie, non-perishable food
- Bottled water
- Windshield scraper
- Booster cables
- Tow rope