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'This storm is ungodly' | Austinites still without power as City leaders provide update on winter response

City leaders said many Austinites are on day five of no power and without a timeline of when they'll get it turned back on.

AUSTIN, Texas — Thousands of Austinites are still without power and without a timeline of when they can expect to have their electricity turned on. 

Robert Donathan has made at least four calls to the City of Austin. None of the homes in his southwest Austin subdivision, Woods of Westlake, have any power. 

"I lost a week. I had a ton of work I needed to get done this week – couldn't do anything," Donathan said. 

It's a sentiment shared by Colony Park residents Barbara Scott and Mitzi Wright. Wright's power was restored just Saturday morning. 

"It's a financial strain," Wright said. "If you're already struggling to pay bills, your electricity is off, you're going to need to get these bills paid. I needed to leave here. You're going to have to pay for a hotel. You're going to have to pay for a hotel bill because there's no backup."

Why is it taking so long? Restoring power to a circuit can take several days since equipment may be in hard-to-access areas like a greenbelt or hidden under heavy debris. At a press conference at City Hall on Saturday, City leaders showed a 500-foot communications tower that crashed on a three-phase distribution line with four spans of wires and five power poles. It will require several days to fix. 

"This storm is ungodly. I have never seen it in my life," said Elton Richards, Austin Energy's vice president of field operations. "I understand the frustration. Believe me, my crews are frustrated. They're tired of working in hotels and working 16 hours a day." 

During Winter Storm Uri, Richard McHale with the Austin Resource Recovery said there were 307 service orders within the first three days. During the first three days of this winter storm, crews were faced with 3,000 service orders, giving them a lot of work to do. 

There are currently 29 crews from Public Works, Austin Resource Recovery, Watershed, Parks and Texas Forestry deployed throughout the city that are responding to service requests for clearing the right-of-way of debris for safe travel and are placing the debris to the side. 

Austin Resource Recovery has a webpage that will have information and resources if you need help removing brush from your backyard. There will also be a map on its website to give customers an idea of where they are working. The City expects this will require a long-term recovery. Crews will be busy all of February.

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