AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: Since this article was published Wednesday, Austin Energy has amended its statement, saying Thursday afternoon that it cannot provide a specific system-wide restoration time. See the latest updates.
In an email to Mayor Pro Tem Paige Ellis, Austin Energy General Manager Jackie Sargent said the utility provider expects to have all outages restored by 6 p.m. on Friday.
“However, this situation is fluid and we expect that there will be more icing through tonight,” Sargent said. “Our generation is running smoothly, with only a few minor issues that are being quickly addressed.”
Sargent said Austin Energy has 85 crews in service with an additional 32 crews from other utilities that have begun working. CenterPoint Energy crews will be in the area to assist “as soon as possible,” she said.
According to Sargent, Austin Energy has restored more than 72,000 customers since the storm began early Wednesday morning. As of 9 p.m., there were still more than 160,000 Austin Energy customers without power – around 30% of all customers. As of 5 a.m. Thursday, that number was down to about 157,000.
Restoration efforts have been slow due to consistently freezing temperatures and accumulating ice.
“Additionally, we’re experiencing repeated outages in affected areas as trees and branches continue to topple on our power lines, leading to additional outages,” Sargent told the Austin City Council. “In some cases, entire trees have been uprooted from the weight of the ice.”
Austin Energy is prioritizing power restoration to critical organizations and working on getting the greatest number of customers online in the least amount of time. But more than 70% of outages impact “very small groups of customers,” Sargent said.
“These isolated outages are more complex and take more time to address,” she said.
The email noted that current issues are not because of malfunctioning equipment and crews have encountered only two broken poles and no transformer outages.
One final round of precipitation moves through Wednesday night, and this will bring continued icing potential to parts of Central Texas. This won't be nearly as much ice as what moved through Tuesday night, but it could exacerbate ongoing icing issues in some locations.