What you need to know about Austin weather Tuesday: Winter storm warning in effect until Thursday

Roberto Villalpando
Austin American-Statesman

Editor's note: The Statesman is making this story about Austin winter weather free for everyone to read as a public service. If you don't already, please subscribe today at statesman.com/subscribenow.

Austin power outage updates: Thousands still without power throughout Central Texas

Friday:Live Austin weather updates Friday: Winter storm warning in effect for Central Texas through the weekend

Saturday:What you need to know about Austin weather Saturday: Brace for the worst on Sunday, forecaster says

Sunday:What you need to know about Austin weather Sunday: Snow makes 2nd visit to Austin this year

Monday:What you need to know about Austin weather Monday: Day 5 of freeze, no rain until Wednesday

Wednesday live updates:Winter storm warning, more wintry mix overnight

Freezing drizzle in I-35 corridor

11:30 p.m. update: National Weather Service meteorologists say freezing rain and sleet are starting to fall in parts of South and North Austin. 

Meteorologists said people should avoid travel, as roads are freezing over.

The National Weather Service reported freezing drizzle in the Interstate 35 corridor shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Doppler radar images at 9:45 p.m. showed a large band of precipitation stretching from Burnet to Fredericksburg heading into western Williamson and Travis counties.   

Winter storm warning in effect

A winter storm warning is in effect for the Austin metro area and neighboring parts of the Hill Country until 6 a.m. Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Hays counties could see freezing rain and some sleet, forecasters said.

"Travel will remain difficult tonight as ice and snow persist on some roads and water on other roads refreezes tonight," the weather service said in a Tuesday afternoon bulletin. "Scattered power outages are also occurring."

The second of two rounds of winter precipitation is expected Wednesday night into Thursday.

Ice accumulations from freezing rain Tuesday night into Wednesday morning could range from a tenth to a quarter-inch across the storm warning area, leading to slick roads and bridges.

"Light additional accumulations of ice and and snow will be possible from the second disturbance Wednesday night and for Thursday," the weather service said.

Austin's forecast for Tuesday night calls for a 70% chance of freezing rain possibly mixed with sleet, then becoming all freezing rain after 3 a.m. Temperatures will drop to as low as 20 degrees. East wind around 5 mph becoming calm after midnight. Chance of precipitation is 70%.

Wednesday has a slight chance of freezing rain before 9 a.m., so drivers should continue to stay off the roads. Temperatures could climb above freezing for the first time in almost a week with a high near 37.

Wednesday night has a slight chance of snow, freezing rain, and sleet after midnight, when temperatures could sink to as low as 25.

Essential personnel at Fort Hood

U.S. Army officials have determined that only mission essential personnel will report to work on Fort Hood on Wednesday because road conditions are likely to continue to be hazardous.

Contracted personnel should coordinate with their supervisors for guidance.

All primary access gates will be open but these limited-access gates will remain closed:

  • Santa Fe Gate (currently closed due to construction)
  • Tank Destroyer and New Railhead Gate
  • 79th Street Gate
  • Mohawk Gate
  • SH Hwy 195 Gate
  • Warrior Way Gate

Meadows Child Development Center will be available for use only by mission-essential personnel. The Clear Creek commissary will be open with limited supplies while the Warrior Way commissary will continue to be closed. The Main Post Exchange will be closed.

Hundreds lining up outside Austin H-E-B stores amid freeze, power outages

Hundreds of South Austin residents on Tuesday were waiting in a line stretching down South Congress Avenue to get supplies at a newly reopened H-E-B, with similar lines being reported at the grocery chain's locations across Austin. 

Shortly after the 2400 S. Congress Ave. location opened at noon on Tuesday, an H-E-B employee stepped outside into the cold to greet the crowd of shoppers, saying the store had not received shipments in two days. As a result, bread, eggs, tortillas and other food would be limited, she said.

Hours at some H-E-B locations on Tuesday were supposed to be from noon until 5 p.m., according to Google. However, an employee at H-E-B on South Congress said they could close earlier.

Full story:H-E-B closes Austin stores amid severe winter weather

ERCOT asks Austin Energy to shed more power, could mean outages for emergency services

The state corporation in control of Texas' electric grid asked Austin Energy and other providers Tuesday morning to shed more power, underscoring the gravity of the on-going electricity situation, but local officials warned that doing so could mean pulling the plug on circuits used to power critical infrastructure such as hospitals and emergency response stations.

The request to the city to shed more power came as nearly 220,000 Austin homes were without energy. That's about 43% of the utilities' customer base.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he is frustrated and demanding answers from ERCOT.

"ERCOT has to explain how millions of Texans are without power," he said. "Rolling outages are not that. There have to be systemic changes. This is happening every 10 years and there's got to be a better plan."

ERCOT said Tuesday it expects to restore power to some customers in the afternoon, due to additional wind and solar output. ERCOT warned, however, that the number of controlled outages statewide remains high. 

Full story:ERCOT asks Austin Energy to shed more power, could mean outages for emergency services

Firefighters on Monday answered nearly 1,900 service calls after historic snowfall in Austin

Austin firefighters on Monday answered nearly 1,900 requests for service in Travis County, including calls involving vehicle crashes, downed power lines and broken pipes, after a dangerous winter storm dumped more than half a foot of snow across parts of Central Texas. 

Firefighters respond to an average of 500 calls for service in a 24-hour period, Austin Fire Department officials said. But after the historic snowfall in Austin late Sunday, firefighters on Monday — just in the 12 hours from noon until midnight — responded to 1,890 calls.

Full story:Firefighters on Monday answered nearly 1,900 service calls after historic snowfall

More than 4.3 million Texans without power, according to utility tracker

More than 4.3 million Texans are without power Tuesday morning, according to a site that tracks outages. 

The blackouts, now in their second day, have left Texans cold, hungry and desperate, as they struggle to keep warm amid plunging temperatures. Bowls of water for pets have iced over and doors to running ovens being left open as many are reporting below-freezing temperatures inside their homes. Many Texans have taken to their cars to heat themselves up or trooped through snow to take cover at a friend's or relative's home.

Full story:More than 4.3 million Texans without power, according to utility tracker

More:Gov. Abbott makes ERCOT reform emergency legislative item amid blackouts

More:Gov. Abbott, lawmakers demand accountability from state electric grid operator

Tuesday forecast for Austin

More winter precipitation starting Tuesday night and again on Wednesday could compromise road travel and further delay restoration of power to thousands of Central Texas residents.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for the Hill Country counties of Burnet, Blanco, Llano and Gillespie west of Austin, as well as the metro area counties of Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell — starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Thursday.

As of 7 a.m. Tuesday, temperatures at Austin's main weather station at Camp Mabry reached 9 degrees, with calm winds keeping wind chills to a minimum. But forecasters warn that any melting brought on by sunny skies during the day will turn into black ice by on roadways nightfall.

The first of two rounds of winter precipitation in the next 48 hours will bring freezing rain to Central Texas on Tuesday night, the weather service says.

"This will bring renewed accumulation of ice on roads, especially those that continue to have ice from earlier systems," the weather service said in a Tuesday morning bulletin. "Through Wednesday morning, expect additional ice accumulations of 1/10 inch over the warning areas with localized accumulations of 1/4 inch possible."

The second dose of precipitation is expected to arrive Wednesday night and Thursday morning, bringing a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain.

In Austin, a wind chill warning remains in effect until noon, when the city should see mostly sunny skies. But temperatures will likely stay below 29 degrees. The freezing rain at night should soak Austin mainly after midnight. Overnight temperatures could slip to around 21 degrees.

The weather service's extended forecast calls for a sustained end to freezing temperatures after Friday with highs in the 50s and 60s this weekend:

Wednesday: A chance of rain or freezing rain before noon. Patchy freezing fog before 9am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 40. North wind around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Wednesday Night: A slight chance of snow, freezing rain, and sleet after midnight. Cloudy, with a low around 25. North wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Thursday: A slight chance of snow and sleet before noon. Partly sunny, with a high near 37. North wind around 10 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Thursday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 18. North wind 5 to 10 mph becoming light north northwest after midnight.

Friday: Sunny, with a high near 45. Calm wind becoming south southeast around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Friday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 27. South southeast wind around 5 mph becoming calm after midnight.

Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 55. Light south wind increasing to 5 to 10 mph in the morning. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph.

Saturday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 45.

Sunday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 64.

Sunday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 39.