AUSTIN, Texas — It may seem a little unbelievable, but there are only a few weeks left of 2022.
It was another busy year. From the deadliest school shooting in state history to tornadoes that devastated Central Texas neighborhoods, a high-profile governor's race to an Austin murder that led to an international manhunt, there was no shortage of big stories, and it was our duty to keep you informed.
As we reach the finish line of 2022, we are reflecting on the top stories that made headlines this year.
Here's a roundup of the top 10 Austin-area stories you clicked on, based on data from Google Analytics.
The biggest story in Texas this year was the deadly shooting in Uvalde. On May 24, an 18-year-old gunman entered Robb Elementary School and killed 19 students and two teachers.
For months, state and local leaders did not release footage from inside the school on the day of the shooting.
That video was obtained by Austin American-Statesman and KVUE Senior Reporter Tony Plohetski, and both media outlets elected to release that footage on July 12 to provide transparency to the community, showing what happened as officials waited to enter the classroom. The article housing the full video was KVUE's top story for the year.
The full, edited video can be viewed below:
On Nov. 11, KVUE reported that a video featuring an "inappropriate conversation" between a Pflugerville ISD teacher and Bohls Middle School students had begun circulating around social media.
It's not clear how the conversation started but, in the video, the teacher was captured saying, "Deep down in my heart, I'm ethnocentric, which means I think my race is the superior one."
By Nov. 14, the teacher was let go by the school district.
In late March, multiple tornadoes were confirmed in Central Texas as severe weather rolled through the area. KVUE viewers sent in photos and video as the storms moved through Round Rock, Elgin and other areas.
No lives were lost in the storms, but some neighborhoods suffered major damages. Several Central Texans also experienced close calls, including a woman whose neighbors pulled her from underneath her home, and an Elgin teen whose truck was swept away in a tornado.
While coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic slowed this year compared to 2020 and 2021, confusion over local versus state guidance made it into the top 10 stories of the year.
On Jan. 13, Austin-Travis County leaders announced new COVID-19 orders that would go into effect the following week. The orders said businesses would be required to post signage that informed employees and customers of health and safety recommendations related to the local COVID-19 risk-based stages, and that businesses could choose whether they wanted to require mask-wearing, a negative COVID-19 test to enter or proof of vaccination.
However, some business owners felt that they could be entering shaky ground considering that the previous July, Gov. Greg Abbott had issued an executive order banning mask and vaccine mandates.
Right at the start of the year, Round Rock ISD's Board of Trustees voted to place Superintendent Dr. Hafedh Azaiez on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation regarding "the underlying conduct found in a protective order issued by the Travis County District Court."
Azaiez was reportedly facing accusations of assault and of using school board police, both in RRISD and in his former position at Donna ISD, to silence his critics.
Later in January, the board voted to move forward with the district's investigation of Azaiez. In early March, the board voted against a proposed separation agreement with Azaiez and later that month, he was reinstated.
As mentioned earlier, the tornados that tore through Central Texas in March left some residents feeling lucky to be alive. Among them was 16-year-old Elgin teen Riley Leon.
Video captured by storm chaser Brian Emfinger showed Leon's truck getting swept up in a tornado and driving away. The experience shocked Leon, but thankfully, he only sustained a few minor cuts.
A few days after the video went viral on Twitter, Leon received a new truck and $15,000 from a Fort Worth-based Chevrolet dealership. In May, Leon joined the Texas Department of Transportation's "Click It or Ticket" enforcement campaign, saying that wearing his seatbelt saved his life when he was caught up in the tornado.
While footage from inside Robb Elementary School wasn't released until July 12, in June, KVUE and the Austin American-Statesman exclusively obtained an interior image from the day of the shooting.
The footage showed that multiple officers were inside the building with rifles and at least one ballistic shield, 19 minutes after the gunman arrived. They didn't enter the classroom the shooter was inside for nearly another hour.
In November, the high-profile race for Texas governor came to an end when Republican incumbent Greg Abbott defeated Democrat Beto O'Rourke.
The race was a heated one. Abbott’s campaign focused on conservative wins for border security and the economy, while O’Rourke’s campaign targeted Abbott’s response to the Uvalde school shooting and the February 2021 power grid failure, as well as the state’s abortion law.
Abbott's third term as Texas governor will begin in January 2023.
In January, a wildfire that started as a prescribed burn just north of State Highway 71 and south of State Highway 21 in Bastrop County began to spread. About 250 families were asked to evacuate as a precaution.
There were no reports of injuries or damage to residential structures, but the Rolling Pines Fire ultimately burned more than 800 acres.
Shortly after the fire was 100% contained, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department announced the selection of an independent panel to review the circumstances and cause of the escape of the fire. In March, the department announced it would be implementing new procedures for future prescribed burns after the independent review.
All throughout the year, we continued our Boomtown series covering the explosive growth in Central Texas. Among the many topics we covered was Austin's continuously changing housing market.
Our top Boomtown story of the year, which aired in October, focused on how the changing market was causing some homebuyers who bought their homes earlier in the year to find themselves in confusing contracts with builders. One Realtor said the market had changed so much in just a couple of months that some of his clients also found themselves paying significantly more for a home.
Check out the playlist below for more Boomtown stories:
There you have it: the top 10 local stories of the year. To make sure you're in the know about Austin's latest news and weather updates for the rest of 2022, all of 2023 and beyond, download the KVUE app.