As historic winter storm approaches, go through Austin Energy's preparedness checklist now

Staff reports

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The first wave of Artic weather left tens of thousands of Central Texans in the dark. With a second unprecedented winter storm system approaching, Austin's electric utility has these suggestions on preparing for a possible power loss:

Outage preparedness checklist

• Sign up to receive outage alerts by texting REGISTER (or REG) to 287846 (AUSTIN on a phone keypad). Once you are signed up, you will be able to report an outage and receive outage alerts and updates via text messaging. (Message and data rates may apply.)

• Update the phone number associated with your city of Austin utilities account. Call 512-494-9400 to verify and update, or visit to update your account profile online.

• Gather all relevant paperwork and keep it in a safe, waterproof, accessible place, including your Austin Energy account number, other emergency numbers, and family and neighbor contact information.

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• Assemble a storm kit. It should include a flashlight, extra batteries and glow sticks (no candles — they could start a fire). Other items include blankets; a first-aid kit; a portable, battery-operated radio; bottled water; and canned or dried food along with a hand-operated can opener. Store your storm kit in a convenient place where it is readily available if your power goes out. Be sure everyone in your family or business knows where the storm kit is kept.

• Have critical supplies on hand. Gather additional items, such as prescriptions and specialty items for infants, seniors or people with disabilities.

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• Charge portable power banks for your electronics. Electronic devices such as mobile phones and laptops can quickly run out of power when Wi-Fi is down because of an outage. External power banks use batteries to extend usage time. 

• Back up your computer. It's a good idea to back up your computer’s hard drive on a regular basis. A lightning strike can damage the hard drive, and you can lose valuable electronic records.

• Plan how to pass the time. In extreme situations, such as ice storms or extended flooding, the outage might last quite a while, and you might be housebound. A battery-operated AM/FM radio can keep you informed of the news and help pass the time. Cards, dominoes and board games can help stave off boredom — especially with children.

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Frequently asked questions

If a storm is approaching and a limb is touching a power line, should I trim the limb before the storm hits?

No, the time to trim limbs is not just before a storm hits. Call Austin Energy 512-494-9400 to request tree pruning. Never prune or even touch a limb that is in contact with a power line. 

If a storm is approaching, what appliances or electrical equipment should I unplug?

Power surges associated with lightning strikes or outages can damage a wide range of appliances. It’s a good idea to unplug televisions, computers and game consoles.

The weight of ice on cables snapped a pole carrying utility lines across Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360) during a storm in December. Austin Energy says it's hard to know just when a power outage will occur, so it's best to have a plan for when it happens.