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Your guide: Austin American-Statesman's coverage of Texas' winter storm, power crisis

Nate Chute
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.

Hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses in in Austin remain without power due to outages amid a winter storm.

Austin Energy — which serves a 437-square-mile area, including Austin and portions of Travis, Williamson and Hays counties — was required to dramatically reduce the share of its energy usage to ease the strain on a statewide power grid, according to General Manager Jacqueline Sargent.

Other energy providers in the state had to do the same, leaving millions of Texas households without power. The statewide grid is controlled by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, otherwise known as ERCOT.

Temperatures remain in the single digits in Central Texas and more winter precipitation like freezing rain starting Tuesday night and again on Wednesday could further hinder travel and delay restoration of power to thousands of Central Texas residents.

Here's what you need to know:

Water becomes a concern in Austin area

Austin Water on Wednesday asked customers in Southwest Austin and the Lost Creek neighborhood to boil their water before using it for drinking or cooking, until further notice.

The boil water notice went out after 11 a.m., marking the first sign of water trouble following power outages that have left much of the city without electricity since Monday morning.

Austin Water says it has not detected contaminants in its water supply and that the notice is out of precaution. All Austin Water customers -- not just those in the areas with the boil notice -- are being required by the city to limit their water usage to essential needs to avoid a possible citywide boil notice.

Just after 9 p.m. all Austin was put under a citywide boil notice. 

Officials said the boil notice is due to Austin's largest water treatment facility, the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant, losing power. They said water pressure in the city had also dropped below minimum standards. 

Austin, statewide power outages explained

The cold weather is a contributing factor to the widespread power outages affecting millions across the state, as generators fueled by gas, coal, wind and nuclear sources were knocked offline by heavy snow and near-zero temperatures amid spiking demand for power. Nearly half of Texas' installed wind power generation capacity went offline Monday because of frozen wind turbines in West Texas, according to Texas grid operators. 

On Tuesday, Texas' Public Utility Commission gave the state's grid operator the go-ahead "to modify pricing models" after demand for electricity skyrocketed during the winter storm as supply plummeted.

In the Austin area, emergency crews have been flooded with calls out about broken water pipes and roughly 40% of Austin Energy customers are without power due to so-called rolling blackouts. Residents have been asked to conserve their own power usage, too.

ERCOT has asked energy providers, including Austin Energy, to shed even more power, but local officials have warned that doing so could mean pulling the plug on power to critical infrastructure like hospitals and emergency response stations. Gov. Greg Abbott has said the situation millions of Texans are facing is "unacceptable," and has called for reforming ERCOT.

Here's a closer look at how the utility company says it determines rolling blackouts and here's how residents are reacting. Our own Tony Plohetski breaks down how we got here in this two-minute video:

If you're wondering where power outages are (and are not) locally, you can track outages right here. You can help us keep track of outages in your area, too. Also, keep up on the latest power updates in Austin here.

If your power is out, here's how you can stay safe and warm. If you're looking to help or are in need of help, click here

For more information, check out these stories:

Here are some practical tips on dealing with winter weather in Texas

Traveling through Austin? You might be here awhile

All departing and arriving flights at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will be canceled Tuesday in light of the winter storm across Texas. 

Airport officials urged people with scheduled flights this week to check in with their respective airlines before going to the airport. 

Snow in Texas: How much snow fell in Austin?

In Central Texas, reports to the National Weather Service from trained weather watchers showed 7.5 inches of snowfall near Lakeway in western Travis County, 7 inches in Round Rock and 6.5 inches near Sunset Valley in southern Travis County.

If you're trying to get around but your car is frozen, here's some tips on how to de-ice it without damaging it.

Single-digit temperatures are forecast for Tuesday, but the snow and cold won't stick around for that much longer. We are forecast to warm up each day this week and hit a high in the 60s by Sunday.

Outside, residents have grabbed their snowboards and their dogs to take advantage of the elements while they're around.

Catch up on live coverage of the storm in Austin

Friday's live updates:Winter storm warning in effect for Central Texas through the weekend

Saturday's live updates:Brace for the worst on Sunday, forecaster says

Sunday's live updates:Snow makes 2nd visit to Austin this year

Monday's live updates:Day 5 of freeze, no rain until Wednesday

Tuesday's live updates:More freezing rain at night into Wednesday