| Austin American-Statesman
Austin water outage: Director updates city on service restoration
Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros gives an update on water outages on Feb. 18, 2021. A citywide boil water notice was issued on Feb. 17,
City of Austin via Facebook
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After Austin’s power crisis evolved into a water crisis, with thousands across the city remained without running water Saturday.
City officials have not provided a timeline for when full water service will be restored. A water boil notice is in effect for Austin and surrounding suburbs and many remain without power, with restoration efforts ongoing, according to the city’s water and power utilities.
We rounded up answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
When will my water be restored?
Austin Water says their crews are continuing to repair freeze damaged infrastructure.
Austin Water reports they need a minimum of 100 million gallons in storage to help build pressure system-wide. As of Saturday morning the company was more than halfway there.
The company is asking customers to conserve water so they can fill storage tanks as quickly as possible.
As the system stabilizes, water pressure will be low and eventually return to normal. When the system fills, Austin Water reports it will improve its ability to find and repair areas that remain out of service.
The company has asked that you continue to report leaks in your area using the online issue report form.
How long do you boil water for drinking?
The Center for Disease Control recommends using bottled or boiled water for drinking, preparing food and cooking.
If bottled water is not available, local officials say water should be brought to a full rolling boil and then continue to be boiled for two minutes. Allow the water to cool before use.
Can you wash dishes during a boil water advisory?
Household dishwashers are generally safe for use if the dishwasher has a sanitizing cycle or the water reaches a final rinse temperature of at least 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
To wash dishes by hand:
- Wash and rinse the dishes as you normally would using hot water.
- In a separate basin, add 1 teaspoon of unscented household liquid bleach for each gallon of warm water. Soak the rinsed dishes in the water for at least one minute.
- Let the dishes air dry completely before using again.
More: Can I use my dishwasher during a boil-water notice? And other frequently asked questions
Can you shower under a boil water notice?
You can shower or bath during the notice, but the CDC recommends being extra careful to not swallow any water while doing so.
The CDC recommends using caution when bathing young children and babies and to consider giving them a sponge bath to reduce the chance of them swallowing water.
When will it be safe to stop boiling water?
When it is no longer necessary to boil the water, utility officials will notify their customers that the water is safe for human consumption.
If it’s determined that water contamination did occur, you should flush household pipes, ice makers, water fountains, etc. prior to using for drinking or cooking. Flushing simply means letting the water run to ensure that no contaminated water remains in your pipes. Follow the following guidelines for flushing:
- Run all cold water faucets in your home for one minute.
- To flush automatic ice makers, make three batches of ice and discard.
- Run water softeners through a regeneration cycle.
How to unfreeze pipes?
If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
Here’s how to unfreeze pipes:
- Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
- Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove or other open flame device.
- Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
- Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
For those with frozen pipe damage, the Texas Division of Emergency Management asked residents across the state to fill out a survey, which will be shared with other disaster agencies.
Can people use large appliances for cooking or should they still try to conserve energy?
Austin Energy issued a statement Friday asking those with power to try to conserve as much as possible to help with restoration efforts. You can help by:
- Keeping your thermostat at 68 degrees or lower, if possible.
- Keeping doors and windows closed to minimize hot air from escaping the home.
- Unplugging nonessential electronics as they still draw current.
- Avoiding use of large appliances.
What percentage of Texas energy is renewable?Breaking down the state’s power sources from gas to wind.
When power is restored, how do I know what food to throw out?
Some home freezers can keep food cold enough for a day or two without power, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Certain food items in the freezer can be safely refrozen, but not all items can be. Please keep in mind that food in your refrigerator operate under different guidelines.
The USDA recommends discarding perishable food such as leftovers, eggs, fish, poultry and meat kept in the refrigerator after four hours without power.
The USDA warns to never taste food to determine if it needs to be thrown out.
For a full guide on what to keep and throw out visit the USDA’s breakdown here.
How can I help those without power and water in Texas?
As Texas continues to experience fallout from an unprecedented freeze and statewide power outages, here are ways to help your fellow community members.
- The Austin Area Urban League has launched an emergency donation drive, called the #LoveThyNeighborTX campaign, to help house, feed and care for those in need of resources or experiencing homelessness during the unprecedented weather conditions.
- If you want to donate a warm blanket to someone who could benefit from one in Austin this week, nonprofit Front Steps is accepting blankets at their downtown location, or you can order the blanket online and have it shipped directly to the shelter.
- If you have power, help the state of Texas by reducing your energy use. Small changes like keeping your thermostat below 68 degrees and holding off on laundry can all help.
- You can help make sure those experiencing homelessness have access to a home-cooked meal by donating to Austin’s Free Lunch program. Free Lunch is a business that cooks and delivers meals four days a week to the Esperanza Community, a state-created campsite off of U.S. 183 near Montopolis Drive. Free Lunch successfully delivered soup to residents Sunday.
- Help Austin’s shelter animals stay warm by donating items like blankets, towels, tarps, animal crates, space heaters, dog houses and dog beds. The Austin Humane Society, 124 W. Anderson Lane, is asking for towels. Austin Pets Alive is also accepting monetary donations to help purchase necessary items and volunteer assistance in picking up and distributing supplies.
How to help: Here’s how you can help those in need in Texas, and what to do if you need help
Have more questions? Send us a text
American-Statesman editors and reporters have been providing updates via text message to those with limited power or service and answering questions from readers.
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