Austin’s Top News – February 23, 2021

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

Austin Water update

More Austin Water customers again have pressure and services. That’s as Austin Water officials say they have surpassed their goal of refilling and retaining at least 100 million gallons of water in their systems. Tweeting out as of last night, they added more than 122 million gallons. The utility’s Greg Meszaros says there’s more good news. 

“We’ve also rescinded the boil water notice for the majority of our customer base,” says Meszaros.

He says waters in the far northwest in southwest parts of town will soon be tested and hopefully cleared. 

Broken pipes

The storm aftermath is keeping local plumbers very busy. Tyler Blanchard, with Radiant Plumbing and Air Conditioning, talked to KVUE and says they’ve been slammed with calls. 

“I know we had a pretty hard freeze in 2011. But most of these units made it through. I think the main thing that got everybody on this one was the loss of the power. The power going out was a big deal, you know? No heat keeping these pipes warm,” says Blanchard.

Austin Fire has responded to more than 2,500 calls about broken pipes in the past week and a half. Austin Water says there have been more than 100 water main breaks, which is 10 to 20 times what’s normal for this time of year.

Mayors sign letter to ERCOT

Some Texas mayors have banded together to pen a letter to ERCOT, demanding it address the root causes behind last week’s days long power outages during the sub freezing temperatures. Austin Mayor Steve Adler is one of them. 

“I personally think it’s a question of a deregulated market that provides no market incentives for people to actually weatherize,” says Adler.

A total of 15 mayors have signed including small and large cities in the state. The letter says the people of Texas deserve answers and reliable energy for their homes.

So putting an end to soaring energy bills in the wake of the storms is now the focus of state lawmakers. 

“We are going to protect the public on this,” says Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson.

She is referring to those Texans have signed up for wholesale, variable rate energy deals that are now seeing astronomical bills. 

“A guy in Arlington got a bill at $19,000 taken out of his bank account,” Nelson says.

They hope to have the solution for price gouging sometime this week. State Senator John Whitmire’s anger is focused on the gougers.

“A reliable person called me last night and said that the wellhead gas and oil producers at the Country Club high fiving it because they’re gouging,” says Whitmire.

HEB restocking

Finding much of anything you might need in the wake of the storm has been difficult as stores continue dealing with empty shelves. Mabrie Jackson with HEB says their stores are working to restock as quickly as possible.

“Milk is obviously a high commodity item right now; a highly sought after commodity item. Our dairy plant is moving just as quickly as it can and many of our distributors have started delivering a lot of dairy products,” says Jackson.

1,500 trailers filled with groceries have been dispatched to stores this week, but for now, limits will remain on purchases for things like milk, bread, eggs and water.

Austin teachers on campus

Some Austin School District teachers are upset that they were told to report to campus yesterday and today. Those who can’t were asked to fill out a form explaining why. Ken Zarifis with the group Education Austin tells CBS Austin that’s too much to ask of teachers right now.

“We don’t know what trauma people have been through and to ask them to have to divulge what problem or struggles they are in at this moment, I don’t think that that’s meeting the needs of people,” says Zarifis.

The district says the on campus work days are needed to prepare for remote learning, which begins tomorrow. 

COVID-19 vaccine update

Austin Public Health will continue second dose vaccine appointments today, but officials are not making those locations public. APH also hopes to be able to give up to 6,500 doses per day to catch up for time lost last week. People with appointments will be contacted about the time and the specific location. COVID vaccines are resuming all around Central Texas

In Williamson County, Jen Stratton with Family Hospital Systems tells FOX 7 they also have a lot of catching up to do. 

“It simply wasn’t safe for us to vaccinate last week, so it is going to be a very busy handful of days while we get caught up,” says Stratton.

Family Hospital Systems is the county state approved vaccine hub, and Stratton says roughly 12,000 appointments were missed last week.

This news and more on News Radio KLBJ:


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