Austin’s Top News – February 22, 2021

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

Electric utility moratorium

The Public Utilities Commission has issued a moratorium barring Texas electric companies from disconnecting service for nonpayment in the wake of the storms. Governor Greg Abbott says addressing reports of skyrocketing electric bills is now a top priority. 

“This pause will give them time to address the electric and power building challenges the Texans are seeing,” Abbott says. 

The moratorium also restricts all electric providers from sending any invoices to customers at this time. And this moratorium is on top of the COVID-19 deferrals that have already been granted to many Texas Electric customers.

Electric bills

Austin Energy is weighing in on the possibility of those multi-thousand dollar electric bills. Austin Energy’s Stuart Riley says that will not be something Austin Energy customers will ever have to worry about 

“The stories about people getting electric bills that air $10,000 more than normal. Those types of things do not apply to Austin Energy customers. Everyone will be charged only for the energy they used, and they will be charged at existing rates they’ve been paying,” says Riley.

For those outside Austin Energy’s customer base or similar situations, Governor Greg Abbott says lawmakers are working up legislation that would protect Texans from what he says are unreasonable bills. 

Austin recovers from freeze

There are more signs of recovery beginning to be seen as Central Texas has thawed out from last week’s deep freeze. At the height of Austin Energy’s power outages, more than 200,000 people were in the dark and cold. But today, utility says it has restored power to 100% of customers that have been impacted in one way or another by the storm.

Water distribution will continue today at 10 locations around Austin, and Travis County. Mayor Steve Adler says finding enough water to hand out has not been easy. 

“We couldn’t find water to buy here in the state so we actually had to go to Florida and Mississippi and Alabama to get it,” says Adler.

Adler says he is frustrated with the fact that other big cities like Houston and Dallas had been able to start providing bottled water days earlier than Austin. About 3.5 million bottles of water have arrived in the state, according to the governor. Austin Water customers remain under a boil water order.

As that boil order for the Austin water continues and will likely stay in effect for much of the week. utility is hopeful it can get water restored by today to all customers who were still without. Officials estimate thousands of people are still impacted. Austin Water says 100 million gallons is what’s needed for robust storage in the reservoir, and as of last night, that number had topped about 90 million.

Price gouging

Travis County Attorney’s Office now has an online portal on the county’s website to help report price gouging. County Attorney Delia Garza tells county commissioners they’ve already heard some rumors. 

“We’ve heard of hotels that normally charge $100 a night charging $1,000 a night and I’ve actually gotten a couple of already complaints on social media about water. A case of water normally selling for $4 now selling for $100,” says Garza.

The county is praising this effort as another way to better protect residents.

Canceled school list

School is canceled for most districts in Central Texas today. Georgetown and San Marcos are holding all classes as normal. Jarrell will conduct most of its schedule as normal. Manor and Elgin will hold all classes virtually. But as for districts that have canceled include Austin, Bastrop, Del Valle, Dripping Springs, Eanes, Florence, Hays, Hutto, Lake Travis Leander, Liberty Hill, Pflugerville, Round Rock and Taylor. 

Cap Metro shuttles water distribution

Capital Metro has resumed normal operations this week, but fares will remain suspended through the rest of the month. Cap Metro is also making some of its shuttles available today that carry people to and from water distribution sites at Roy G. Guerrero Park and Walnut Creek Park.

Trash pickups resume

Like many others, you likely have a lot of trash that’s accumulated over the past week. Since the city didn’t do collection last week. Austin Resource Recovery will resume curbside collection today. However the city says they are not collecting bulk trash at this time, and, if customers have a need for a special large brush collection as a result of the storm, they can call 311 to enter a storm service request.

COVID-19 update

So as our focus largely shifted to the storm last week, Travis County’s COVID numbers continue to fall to much lower levels. Hospitalizations way down now stand at 340 in total, but the biggest decline, active cases. On Friday, prior to the storm, 3,506 cases reported as active but today that number is at 971,

Austin Public Health is resuming COVID testing and vaccines today following the week-long delay. Austin Public Health says the storm set operations back significantly, and it may take some time to get things back up to speed. More than 3,300 people were due for a second shot prior to the storm. Those appointments are now being prioritized for rescheduling.

This news and more on News Radio KLBJ:


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