Thousands in Austin remained without power Monday as repair crews began making headway against the outages caused by extended rains and high winds from Hurricane Harvey.
Austin Energy has restored power to 59,000 customers, spokesman Robert Cullick said. Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative has fixed outages affecting about 10,000, spokesman Will Holford said. Still, Austin Energy and Bluebonnet respectively had 3,027 and 614 customers without power at about 4 p.m. Monday, according to their websites. Oncor had less than 20 customers without power in Round Rock and Georgetown, according its website.
Fixing power outages in the wake of a tropical storm that hovered in place for about 24 hours was like playing Whack-A-Mole, officials said. New outages would pop up just as crews working round the clock fixed others.
“You had it piling up and piling up and piling up,” Cullick said. “Instead of a number of peak outages, you had a continuous roll out of outages over a two-day event.”
It all began on Friday in Hyde Park, when a monk parakeets’ nest toppled into a power line, causing the first in a string of outages for Austin Energy repair crews and tree removal crews. At its peak Saturday night, the city saw nearly 19,000 customers without power as wind gusts topping 50 mph snapped tree limbs and downed power lines, while trees toppled over in the ground softened by hours of rain.
East of Austin in the 14-county, 3,800-square-mile service area of Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, it was much the same. Holford said the worst he heard was an outage caused by an oak tree crashing into another oak, and both falling into nearby power lines.
At its worst, Bluebonnet had 104 concurrent outages affecting 1,250 customers at 7 a.m. Sunday.
“Almost all of the outages we saw were caused by wind,” Holford said.
Both utilities started turning the corner on Sunday. With the winds easing up and rains becoming more sporadic, crews were able to repair more damaged lines.
East Austin resident Paul Smith said he was without power for about seven hours at his home on Navasota Street. Smith’s daughter was out of town and he had planned to do a little clean up in the home where he has lived for nine months.
“It was raining like hell and I said ‘This is a good day to get things done,’” Smith said Monday. “Then the power turned off and I was tripping over power tools. After that, flashlights and candles.”