Power restored almost 24 hours after storms

Austin Energy crews working to restore power after severe storms in Austin. Feb. 20, 2017 (KXAN Photo)
Austin Energy crews working to restore power after severe storms in Austin. Feb. 20, 2017 (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After violent storms ripped through Austin, around 30,000 customers reported outages. Austin Energy says all but 12 of their customers now have their lights back on.

It took an estimated 24 hours to restore power after trees fell on power lines and in some cases, electric poles snapped in half.

“Around the airport around 11 o’clock and midnight we had really high with winds in fact we had a 58 mph wind gust,” Robert Cullick, an Austin Energy spokesman says. They report losing an estimated 40 to 50 poles during the overnight storms and most of them happened near the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

“This time we had a lot of wind and a lot of trees and a lot of lightning and I think that kind of concentration really caused a lot of damage,” Cullick says.

Neighbors in the area say they know exactly what Cullick is talking about.

“It was crazy there was stuff flying everywhere,” Alicia Pedrazo, who lives near the airport off State Highway 71, said. “We all of a sudden heard something cracking and we looked out the window and this tree uprooted came sideways.”

Pedrazo says she watched a tree fly in the air and land on her husband’s truck.

“The actual thing that was more scary was actually seeing the thing falling,” Pedrazo said. “My husband was even like, ‘No! No! No!’ I’m like, ‘You can’t hold your hands up and stop the tree!’ so… it was scary.”

Neighbors in the same area reported limbs falling into their homes. “My nieces and brother-in-law and my sister were in their home and since there was so much wind and the [weather] was so ugly, she ran to get her daughter and that’s when a tree fell in the middle of their house,” Ana Romero, another neighbor said.

Romero’s family spent the day rebuilding and cleaning up insulation, while other neighbors were barely getting to their debris after work. “The whole house started shaking and then Boom!” David Treviño said. “[The tree limb] fell and knocked over the railing, it was ugly.”

Treviño says even if the National Weather Service has not confirmed anything, he believes a tornado hit their neighborhood. “In that moment, it was just like a movie scene, it was thunderous and it shook,” Treviño described. “Just imagine, it was like the tail of the whirlwind and everything in sight fell upside down.”

Neighbors have created a GoFundMe page to help pay for the damage.

Austin Energy told us they replace the poles as needed, but they’re designed to last 30 to 40 years.

Underground power lines cost 10 to 14 times more to install and the maintenance is also more costly.

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