Nearly one week after a deadly winter storm swept through Texas, toppling trees and bringing down power lines, about 20,000 residents of the state capital of Austin were still without power.
Temperatures were approaching the mid-70s on Monday afternoon, but wind and rain forecast for later in the week could throw another wrench in restoration efforts.
Austin Energy now says that all residents won’t have their power back until Feb. 12, frustrating city leaders who called for a meeting on Thursday to evaluate Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk’s employment.
“I added the emergency item to the agenda this morning because the management of this situation and the lack of clear and timely and accurate communication has left our community in the dark. It is unacceptable. The City of Austin can and will do better,” Austin Mayor Kirk Watson, who took office last month, said in a statement on Monday.
TEXAS WINTER STORM: FREEZING RAIN AND ICY CONDITIONS BRING DOWN TREES, POWER LINES
Cronk, who essentially serves as the chief executive of the city government and manages a staff of about 14,000 people, told reporters on Monday that he is “laser-focused on getting power restored to all of our customers and to ensure that we’re getting through this weather event successfully.”
“I serve at the pleasure of this new mayor and council, and I’ll be having that conversation with them on Thursday,” Cronk said at a news conference. “I’m here to make sure that we are responding directly to this weather event. So that’s been my sole focus. I’m very grateful of our incredible city staff that have been doing the same.”
Cronk did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Upwards of 150,000 Austin residents were without power at the peak of the outages last week, while about 439,000 Texans lost power statewide.
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Councilwoman Mackenzie Kelly called for an audit of Austin Energy’s response to the storm to investigate the adequacy of the city’s vegetation management plan, the utility’s operational practices, and other issues.
“As elected representatives, it is our duty to take charge when challenging times in our community happen,” Kelly said on Feb. 3. “During the February 2023 freeze, our community needed answers and didn’t receive them. This is why it’s important that we make an effort as a step forward to answer the call of so many Austinites.”