“After fumbled warnings about prolonged power outages, Austin mayor promises changes” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
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Austin Mayor Kirk Watson has promised to revamp the city’s emergency communications after officials fumbled warnings about this week’s ice storm and the subsequent power outages that will last days for many residents.
At the city’s first press conference about the emergency — which came more than a day after tens of thousands of Austin Energy customers lost power — Watson said he shares the frustration of many residents who have criticized delayed warnings.
“I will admit that I deferred to folks so that they could be doing the jobs that they needed to do and [are] experts in the area, but I am frustrated and I know others are frustrated,” he said.
More than 150,000 Austin-area households and businesses remained without power as Watson spoke. Austin Energy said electricity won’t be fully restored until 6 p.m. Friday.
Watson acknowledged that the city should have had a press conference before Thursday to answer questions about the prolonged local power outages. He noted that the city is committed to doing a similar event, likely Thursday afternoon or evening, to keep residents updated.
Watson said the city will revisit its communication protocols once it fully addresses the current outages.
“I want people to know, though, that we intend to ensure that lack of communication does not happen, and the protocols of communication in disaster will be reassessed and re-created,” he said.
At the press conference, Watson was joined by several county and city officials, including Austin Energy general manager Jackie Sargent.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/02/02/austin-ice-storm-power-outages/.
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