Swirling winds roll into Austin

Victor Hernandez-Jayme

Strong winds caused several thousand residents to experience power outages Monday and passengers to deal with canceled flights from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

The outage left nearly 18,000 Austin Energy customers without power. Several streetlights were also down in the areas of North Lamar Boulevard, West Howard Lane, Highway 71, Mopac, Wells Branch, Red River Street, 26th Street and Airport Boulevard. 

According to Austin Energy spokesman Ed Clark, repairs in the areas would be completed “by mid-evening at the latest barring any additional difficulties due to windy conditions, which continue.”

About 150 areas needed repairs and more than 20 Austin Energy crews were restoring power through the city. By 6:00 p.m Monday, power had been restored to all but 5,000 households and businesses.
Undeclared sophomore Henry Anderson was one of those waiting for their power to be restored.

“I’ve been waiting for a while,” Anderson said. “This really messed up my schedule. I was watching a movie for one of my communication classes and I have to write a report due today at 12:00. But I know how these things go. The wind was a surprise to all, me included.”

None of the University facilities lost power, primarily because the University has its own power source, the Hal C. Weaver Power Plant.

“It is unusual for the University to have power outages,” university operations spokeswoman Rhonda Weldon said. “The original planners for the power plant built it with a lot of forethought. The utility is delivered underground instead of above ground.”

The first power plant was commissioned in 1928 and had additions in 1966 and 2003.

The last power outages UT experienced happened in the 2009-2010 school year, Weldon said.

“It was a situation that involved rodents,” Weldon said. “This is a very complete plan. It has both heating and cooling services and provides energy, chilling water, ionized water, steam and compressed air for some of the labs and even emergency power.”

The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning due to the strong winds for all of South Central Texas until 10 p.m, stating that any fires that developed would likely spread rapidly.

Printed on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 as: Blustery day bad news for power lines, flights