AUSTIN, Texas — About 1,000 workers from Austin Energy and other utilities are working around-the-clock to restore power to thousands of customers after announcing full restoration will not occur until Feb. 12.
Austin Energy will assess the goal of full restoration by Sunday and provide another update midweek.
City of Austin officials spoke at a second press conference this weekend to provide residents in the dark with more updates on recovery efforts. On Monday afternoon, leaders again provided an update on outages.
More than 96% of Austin Energy customers have power restored as of Monday afternoon, but there are still four traffic signals that are not working and 38% of school zone signals that may not function properly Monday. Drivers are advised to drive with extra caution if they approach a traffic light that's not working – treat it like an all-way stop.
Some school zone signals may not be working Monday, so drivers should continue to slow down while driving through school zones, even if the lights don't flash.
Full restoration is at the top of mind for City leaders, but the storm left a lot of damage in its wake.
"We're still dealing with hurricane-level devastation," Austin Energy General Manager Jackie Sargent said. "I really wish that we could give you an estimated time of restoration. This is frustrating for everyone."
Sargent said one state leader likened this storm to an "ice hurricane," with thousands of Austin Energy customers still left in the dark without power. Sargent said the biggest outages have been restored.
"Those are where the ice and vegetation damaged whole or entire circuits. We're now focusing on the most complicated restoration efforts, the smaller outages with unique damage," Sargent said.
Depending on this week's weather, restoration efforts could also get more complicated.
"As early as Tuesday, forecasts call for rain, thunderstorms and wind gusts and they're expected to reach up to 35 mph. The trees are compromised and high winds could pose new issues," Sargent said.
Trees are still vulnerable after the winter storm. With strong winds anticipated in the forecast, additional limbs could fall, possibly creating more damage or power outages.
As mutual aid agreements have helped bring in line workers from neighboring communities, Austin Energy said some of those workers have had to return home to prepare for inclement weather in their own service areas. Workers have already been brought in from Louisiana's Tempest Energy to replace them.
Sargent said while Sunday is the estimate for restoring all outages, "many customers will be restored well, well before Sunday."
Austin Energy officials said some line workers have faced verbal threats from angry and frustrated customers, as well as from homeowners upset with crews on their property. The Austin Police Department had to be called over one incident, according to Austin Energy Director of Operations Craig Brooks.
Customers are asked to allow line workers to work so restoration efforts can continue.
"We want to remind residents to be aware of your surroundings and [when] walking around, avoid parking under trees and please do not leave pets or children unsupervised under trees," City Manager Cronk said.
Despite the clear skies and warm sun we experienced Sunday, it's a timely reminder we're not quite out of the "storm" just yet.
"We're at [a] full-blown war right now," said Elton Richards, Austin Energy's vice president of field operations.
"For those of you still without power, my heart goes out to you and I'm sorry for how long this is taking. Our restorations will continue until every customer, every single customer is back online," Sargent said. "I want you to know we have not forgotten you."