Sarah Asch | Austin American-Statesman
Residents in western Travis County are bundled up in their homes and many have had no power, no water or both for a number of days. Many cannot get their cars out of their garages or driveways because of power outages and icy conditions. Some are worried about pets, drinkable water and refilling medication.
Nell Penridge, who lives on Hamilton Pool Road in Bee Cave, had no power at home for over 50 hours this week. Her electricity came on very early Wednesday morning before shutting off again around midday. She said the blackout has been isolating.
“We all felt a bit on our own,” she said. “I was nervous about the house continuing to get down to 32 degrees, and then the chance of pipes breaking would be really significant. How long could we actually stay in a house that cold? That was a big concern.”
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Pendridge is one of the lucky ones: she has a wood-burning fireplace that kept the living room warm. She and her husband set up an air mattress in front of the flames and camped out during the outage, she said. With the fireplace, her house dipped only to 47 degrees, she said.
Paula Priour, who lives further down Hamilton Pool Road in unincorporated Travis County, has been without power since Tuesday night and without water since Monday. She said she saw and heard the water line break and turned off the water to her home. She said her pipes will have to be replaced but her house was not flooded.
Priour and her 34-year-old son live with two cats and a dog. They are also huddled around the fireplace. She said her biggest concern is repairing the pipes and her ability to get medication refills she needs. She said she cannot leave the house by car since she lives on a hill that is iced over. Like many, she has been using her car to keep her phone charged.
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Terri Mitchell, a resident of the Homestead neighborhood in Bee Cave, has power but no running water. However, she said she and her husband plan to get water out of their rainwater tank manually. The house has a wood stove that is functioning as a fireplace and she has been spending the night in a sleeping bag in the living room. Her house was 46 degrees as of Wednesday afternoon, she said.
“The Homestead has a lot of cedar and oak trees and the limbs are heavy and falling and blocking driveways and garages and it’s dangerous,” she said. “We cannot get out of our driveway. And you can’t open the electric garage door to get the car out.”
Penridge said the roads by her house are unsafe to drive on and she has nowhere to go.
“Who else has power who won’t lose it?” she said.
She said this week’s weather event has left her with some questions about the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the nonprofit corporation that runs the state power grid.
“Right now I need to know more about ERCOT and why it has been so dysfunctional. I just don’t have all the facts,” she said. “It’s very concerning. Policies have to change so this doesn’t ever, ever happen again. This is ridiculous.”